If you look at the history of cartridge development, the .36 Special was, when it came out, the new, high performance replacement for .38 short and .38 long rounds from both Colt and S&W. Around that time, Special was a common term for a race car, which may have been the reason they used it. I don't think it was loaded to higher pressure, as the .357 magnum is, as revolvers for the .38 S&W were commonly rechambered for the longer Special.
The .32 Winchester Special was a rather ordinary rifle cartridge not derived from anything else. I once passed up a great deal on a woods gun because I was unfamiliar with the round.
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