La Lengua

Dura lex, sed lex



Tabú se denomina a los vocablos que resultan desagradables para los hablantes, y que por ello los sustituyen por otros, que llamamos eufemismos. Unos botones de muestra (los ejemplos siguen la forma de presentación tabú-eufemismo):

-Guerra-conflicto armado
-Orina-aguas menores
-Vejez-tercera edad

Hay un caso que siempre me ha llamado la atención, y que según comenta nuestro amigo José C. aquí citando a Coseriu, no sólo se produce en castellano, cosa que yo no sabía, sino en muchas otras lenguas. Es el caso de siniestra-izquierda.

En latín, el vocablo correspondiente a DEXTRA ("diestra") era SINISTRA ("siniestra"). Significaba, simplemente, "izquierda". Queda algún residuo en nuestra lengua: repartir a diestra y siniestra. Según creencia popular, las aves que aparecían volando por la izquierda eran de mal agüero. Y la palabra siniestra se fue convirtiendo en tabú. Una lengua es un sistema perfectamente engranado, como una máquina (la explicación es infinitamente más complicada, pero para el caso que nos ocupa, esto basta), y cuando eliminas una pieza has de sustituirla por otra para que siga funcionando. Es decir, ya que no se podía decir siniestra, había que adoptar otra voz para expresar lo que aquella palabra significaba. Y en este caso se recurrió al vascuence ezquerra, que ha dado en castellano izquierda.


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