I've received many variations on this question: "Shouldn't 'chocolate' be 'xocolate'? What happened to that 'X'?"
The short answer is NO. There was never an "x."
Don't feel bad. I was once fooled, too.
Here we go.
MEXICAN X, PART III: DUDE, WHERE’S THE XOCOLATE? 1/?
Let's head to the 1500s. "Chocolate" enters European languages (via Spanish) as a word describing a drink made from the cacao bean.
In Nahuatl, that bean was called "cacahuatl." Mexican [Americans] may sit up at this point and say, "Uh, wait a minute. Isn't that 'peanut'?" 2/
Sorry, fellow cacahuateros. Yes, Mexican Spanish uses “cacahuate” for peanut, but in Nahuatl that nut was a “tlālcacahuatl” (“earth cacao bean”). Drop its absolutive suffix (-tl) and its root/combining form becomes "cacahua-," whence "cacao" (& "cocoa," its confused variant). 3/
I often read this question: "Why is Mexico spelled 'México' in Spanish, especially if in Nahuatl Mēxihco was pronounced [me: SHIʔ ko]? What's up with that 'x'?"
The answers given are usually partially right or totally wrong.
Guess what? I'm going to explain it to you. 1/???
For starters, Spanish (& other Romance languages) evolved not from Classical Latin (the erudite, literary language) but from the more streamlined and working-class Vulgar Latin ("vulgar" as in of the "vulgus" or common folk ... not "nasty"). In Iberia, Medieval Spanish arose. 2/
Unlike modern Spanish, Medieval Spanish had sounds like [ž] or /ʒ/ (English "vision" or "azure") and [š] or /ʃ/ (English "ship"), among many others. The name "Jimena," for example, was pronounced [žimena], and "xabón" (soap) was [šabon]. 3/
Whenever possible, I try to avoid referring to the Nahuas (whether Mexica-Tenochca, Tlaxcalteca, Texcoca, etc.) as "Aztecs." There's good reason for this. They themselves abandoned the name after leaving Aztlan, their legends say. 1/5
Here's how the Codex Chimalpahin narrates the episode: "Auh ca niman oncān ōquincuēpilli in īntōcā in Aztēcah. Ōquimiliuh, 'In āxcān aocmo amotōcā: ye anmexihtin.' Oncān nō ōquinacazpotōniqueh inic ōcuiqueh in īntōcā Mexihtin. Inic āxcān ye mihtoa Mēxihcah." 2/5
"And it was then and there that he [Huitzilopochtli] changed their name from 'Azteca.' He said, "Now your name is no longer Azteca: it is Mexihtin.' There also they dangled feathers from their ears as they took the name Mexihtin. Therefore they are now called Mexica." 3/5
1/ A thread on #ownvoices and #representation as well as allyship, guests, holding babies, writing the other, and assorted issues dealing with POC characters/stories being written by white folks. Nothing super new, just bringing nuanced notions together, reflecting on my views.
2/ America desperately needs a LOT more #ownvoices books. That should be our priority. I've even advocated for a sort of #affirmativeAction in publishing. Agents and editors should be ACTIVELY seeking out POC talent, recruiting, nurturing, publishing.
3/ Especially in kids lit. Only 25% of books for kids feature protags of color. Only 6% are actually written by authors of color. Both of those numbers MUST CHANGE, but the second is the biggest problem. Writers of color need to be the main folks writing these stories.