Words common to different languages with different meanings

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:40 am UTC

Continuant dissimilation. Lots of languages have it so deeply ingrained that it probably wouldn't even be noticeable without spelling.

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Apparently Anonymous » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:24 pm UTC

Norwegian and Danish are really similar, so we can typically communicate without too much trouble, but there are a few things here and there that can cause confusion, such as the use of modal verbs.

In Norwegian, "må" means "must/have to", while in Danish it basically means "be allowed to". This can make a sentence mean "May I join you?" or "Do I have to join you?" depending on the language, which can be kind of confusing in danish-norwegian conversations. I'm not actually sure if most Danes are aware of this (normally, Norwegians know more about Danish and Swedish than the other way around), so I always use the Danish version when in Denmark.

Similarily, "skal" means "will/shall" in Norwegian and "must" in Danish.

Then of course there are a lot of other common words with different meanings, such as "tøs" being a neutral word meaning girl in Danish and being something close to slut in Norwegian (although it's not really used anymore).

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Suzaku » Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:41 am UTC

Quite a lot of words borrowed into Japanese from other languages have evolved, or been appropriated for, new meanings, producing false friends.

A few off the top of my head:

German arbeit (sp?) becomes アルバイト <arubaito>, meaning part-time or casual work (only)
Rinse -> リンス <rinsu>: (hair) conditioner
One-piece (swimsuit) -> ワンピース <wan pi-su>: a dress (i.e. as opposed to a skirt and blouse)
Mansion -> マンション <manshon>: a condo (although I believe this is used this way in the UK, from watching Rumpole)
Stove -> ストーブ <suto-bu>: heater, not used for a cooking stove
Cider -> サイダー <saida->: fizzy pop, specifically what I, as an Australian, would call lemonade
Diet -> ダイエット <daietto>: only used in the sense of attempting to lose weight, not as 'food eaten by a person/people'
Half -> ハーフ <ha-fu>: A person of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese (specifically Caucasian or African) descent. From 'half-blood' or 'half-caste' originally, and retaining those meanings without any of the other possible meanings of 'half, and Arguably also without the negative connotations.
Portuguese capa (cape) -> 合羽 <kappa>: raincoat

Also, one similar one in reverse:
The Japanese word 'sake' (酒) means alcoholic beverages in general, not just Japanese Rice Wine (Nihonshu, 日本酒), although it has exclusively the specific meaning in English.

This leads to wonderful conversations like:
"Do you like to drink?" 「お酒が好きですか。」 <Osake ga suki desuka?>
"No, but I love beer." 「いいえ。でもビールは大好きです。」 <Iie. Demo bi-ru wa daisuki desu.>

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Tribunzio » Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:58 am UTC

Italian and Spanish have a few surprising false friends. My favorites are
Italian (English) Spanish (English)
largo (wide) largo (long)
aceto (vinegar) aceite (oil)
narice (nostril) nariz (nose)
pelo (fur/body hair) pelo (head hair)
rostro (beak) rostro (face)

Also strange for corresponding words to have the opposite gender, e.g. sangue(m)/sangre(f) blood or aria(f)/aire(m) air.

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Eugo » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:26 am UTC

It is expected to have false friends among related languages. I was amazed at the amount I found at False Friends of the Slavist. I knew some of these, but even for those I knew I found they had even more different meanings than I thought.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Rethki » Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:59 pm UTC

My favourite: the Portuguese word for "pull" is "puxe", pronounced really similar to "push".

You know what is like to pull a door that is supposed to be pushed? Well, I get that a LOT!

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby wwjd_kilden » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:04 pm UTC

Dutch "hek" = fence
Norwegian "hekk" (pronounced the same way) = hedge
and to make matters worse it sound similar to a English swear word :/

A very confusing one the first time I read it:
Norwegian "bord" = table
Dutch "bord" (pronounced slightly differently) = plate

Also, in Dutch "mes" (sound like "mess") means knife

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Derek » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:26 am UTC

Rethki wrote:My favourite: the Portuguese word for "pull" is "puxe", pronounced really similar to "push".

You know what is like to pull a door that is supposed to be pushed? Well, I get that a LOT!

I was in Switzerland recently and all the doors had pull handles on both sides. I tried to pull every door I came across, regardless of what any signs said (most of which I couldn't read anyways).

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby haumovie » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:03 am UTC

English "smell" is very close in sound to the danish "smæld" which means crack (sound) or lash (action) - but isn't onomatopoeic.
The danish word "piskesmæld" thus means "whiplash" (as in the injury to the neck).


There's a very large number of both true and false friends in danish/norwegian and english, particularly in the north of England. The Broad Yorkshire dialect of West Riding is documented in a small booklet written by my father-in-law and he cleverly authored it exclusively in the dialect it describes.:)

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:20 am UTC

wwjd_kilden wrote:Dutch "hek" = fence
Norwegian "hekk" (pronounced the same way) = hedge
Given that hedges function pretty well as fences, I suspect those are closely related cognates.

and to make matters worse it sound similar to a English swear word
Which word? "Heck" isn't a swear word. In fact, it's what people who consider "hell" a swear word say *instead* of "hell" in order to avoid swearing.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby ThirdParty » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:43 am UTC

Have y'all heard the classic joke about an American tourist in Berlin who sees a German man urinating in public? She points and says, "Ew, gross!" He replies: "Danke!"

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Alexius » Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:04 pm UTC

Eugo wrote:It is expected to have false friends among related languages. I was amazed at the amount I found at False Friends of the Slavist. I knew some of these, but even for those I knew I found they had even more different meanings than I thought.

Those are great!
I speak some Russian, and on a recent trip to Serbia I was able to puzzle out the meanings of a lot of signs, and figured out the meanings of words from bilingual ones.
живот (life in Serbian, stomach in Russian) and завод (institute in Serbian, factory in Russian) were entertaining.

My favourite I've found so far on that website is that the neutral and insulting words for Jew are switched between Polish and Russian...

EDIT- or that kvass (a common drink in Russia) is the Polish for "acid"!

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby f1g2h311 » Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:32 pm UTC

Random one I picked up:
Korean word for blood is 피 (pronounced like 'pee').
Maybe not one that would ever come up, but if so could cause some confusion.

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Envelope Generator » Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:27 am UTC

I once confused a Swede with the expression "canine teeth". As "kanin" means "rabbit" in Swedish, he thought I was talking about people's rabbit teeth.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Tide » Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:36 pm UTC

Oh, I always get super confused when people say "canine" in English and thinks they talk about rabbits, sound pretty weird... But that's just one of few examples of false friends in English/Swedish. For example, we have the word "fack", pronounced as "fuck". I can't really translate it exactly, but before it was often used for shipping addresses. So basically it would sound like"Send it to fuck 132 48". Now, with so much international contacts, these addresses has been changed to be "box 132 48" instead, which sound much better... Also, there's the famous story of the swedish cashier who asked a foreign customer (who was buying cigarettes or something) to "Please show your leg". Of course she didn't want him to show his leg, but rather his id (leg being short for legitimation). Also it's worth mentioning that bra in means good, though most swedes are aware that's not what it means in English.
As for false friends within the language, just like in German we have the sex/six confusion, only with the difference that here it's both spelled and pronounced completely identically (sex/sex). Then there's the word sats which have pretty many meanings, among them both "cum" and "theorem". So things like "Pythagoras sats" sounds a bit weird. But you're kind of used to it as you hear stuff like "I have sex" when a student is asked for what answer (s)he got on a math problem (I don't know about English but here it's pretty common to say that you have an answer). I mean, nobody would even react to you saying that.

I'm pretty sure there's more of these, actually we got a whole sheet of these kind of words in English class some weeks ago, will try to find it and post some more of them here :)

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby zel » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:42 pm UTC

First post here, saw the thread and had to respond :mrgreen:

There are a lot of false cognates in Russian. Many years ago, in one of my Russian courses, a student was describing some architecture and was trying to describe a minaret that was part of the building he was describing. Well, he used his hand and made a motion up and down and described it as a minet (минет). Минет means BJ in Russian. The teacher (a 65 year old Russian woman) almost fainted! :lol:

The other false cognate that I've come across was Pollutsiya (поллюция). The guy tried to say that there was a lot of pollution in the Ocean and mistakenly stated that there was a lot of semen in the ocean. Of course, the Navy was nowhere nearby. :oops:

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby bachaddict » Fri May 10, 2013 7:50 am UTC

Our bilingual family has collected a whole Excel spreadsheet full of German-English ones. The most famous is 'Gift' (poison).
Some others that have identical spelling and pronunciation in both languages:

German = English

Mist = manure
doll = very, strongly
Rock = skirt
elf = eleven

only spelling identical:

tot = dead
Hose = trousers
fern = far away
Bad = bath
Bank = bench
Regal = shelf
Tag = day
gut = good
Fabrik = factory
Kind = child
Grab = grave
Laden = store
Rat = advice
fast = almost
Taste = piano key
Boot = boat
Tier = animal
Last = burden (pronounced lust)
dies = this
die = the (feminine), they
war = was
Tore = gates
Wand = wall
Stern = star
Dose = tin
Latte = paling
Roman = a novel
Held = hero

Want more? Say so!
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby goofy » Fri May 10, 2013 12:34 pm UTC

German and English gift are related, as are German and English mist. The difference in meanings illustrates how semantic change can take unexpected turns.

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 10, 2013 2:22 pm UTC

"Hose" for trousers isn't actually that different from the English usage as in hosiery. It's only the more common garden hose sense that makes it seem otherwise.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Derek » Fri May 10, 2013 4:07 pm UTC

I suppose I understand how Gift can come to mean poison, but how does Mist come to mean manure, when all the other cognates seem to mean either "fog" or "drizzle"? It seems like an unlikely euphemism.

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby wwjd_kilden » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:43 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
wwjd_kilden wrote:Dutch "hek" = fence
Norwegian "hekk" (pronounced the same way) = hedge
Given that hedges function pretty well as fences, I suspect those are closely related cognates.

and to make matters worse it sound similar to a English swear word
Which word? "Heck" isn't a swear word. In fact, it's what people who consider "hell" a swear word say *instead* of "hell" in order to avoid swearing.


Matter of definition I guess. If you say heck but mean hell, everyone will know you were thinking heck, and will think it themselves, so, in my opinion it's pretty much the same. Then again, I am strange :D

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby eSOANEM » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:58 pm UTC

To be fair, I don't know anyone who'd consider hell a swear words anyway (even if they might not use it themselves).
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:10 pm UTC

wwjd_kilden wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
wwjd_kilden wrote:Dutch "hek" = fence
Norwegian "hekk" (pronounced the same way) = hedge
Given that hedges function pretty well as fences, I suspect those are closely related cognates.

and to make matters worse it sound similar to a English swear word
Which word? "Heck" isn't a swear word. In fact, it's what people who consider "hell" a swear word say *instead* of "hell" in order to avoid swearing.


Matter of definition I guess. If you say heck but mean hell, everyone will know you were thinking heck, and will think it themselves, so, in my opinion it's pretty much the same. Then again, I am strange :D
You are indeed strange, as by your logic all euphemisms are pretty much the same as every other word for their referents. So "use the restroom" is for all intents and purposes the same as "take a big smelly shit".

And yet, pretty much any other speaker would acknowledge a rather significant difference between "shoot" and "shit", "fudge" and "fuck", "baloney" and "bullshit", "gosh darnit" and "God damn it", and "heck" and "hell".

The important difference is not in what the words refer to, but in what their use says about your concern for propriety. We as a speech community have deemed some words as more taboo than others, and you communicate a wealth of nonverbal information by your choice of which ones to say or refrain from saying.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:46 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:To be fair, I don't know anyone who'd consider hell a swear words anyway (even if they might not use it themselves).


The INSP cable network regularly censors the word hell.

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:50 pm UTC

I am not remotely offended when I hear people say "hell", but at the same time I would prefer a young child of mine not to say it.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby wwjd_kilden » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:56 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
wwjd_kilden wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
wwjd_kilden wrote:Dutch "hek" = fence
Norwegian "hekk" (pronounced the same way) = hedge
Given that hedges function pretty well as fences, I suspect those are closely related cognates.

and to make matters worse it sound similar to a English swear word
Which word? "Heck" isn't a swear word. In fact, it's what people who consider "hell" a swear word say *instead* of "hell" in order to avoid swearing.


Matter of definition I guess. If you say heck but mean hell, everyone will know you were thinking heck, and will think it themselves, so, in my opinion it's pretty much the same. Then again, I am strange :D
You are indeed strange, as by your logic all euphemisms are pretty much the same as every other word for their referents. So "use the restroom" is for all intents and purposes the same as "take a big smelly shit".

And yet, pretty much any other speaker would acknowledge a rather significant difference between "shoot" and "shit", "fudge" and "fuck", "baloney" and "bullshit", "gosh darnit" and "God damn it", and "heck" and "hell".

The important difference is not in what the words refer to, but in what their use says about your concern for propriety. We as a speech community have deemed some words as more taboo than others, and you communicate a wealth of nonverbal information by your choice of which ones to say or refrain from saying.



And you just managed to judge and criticise a stranger for not wanting to use cussowrds. ;)

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:57 pm UTC

No, I judged and criticised a stranger for being wrong on the internet. Desire to use or avoid certain words never entered into it.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby wwjd_kilden » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:20 pm UTC

Good to know you are always right on the internet then. That way I can put you on ignore and avoid making your life a misery by disagreeing with you


actually, I just realized you are a mod

if mods behave this way, this is not a forum for me,
bye. Please delete my account

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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:34 pm UTC

I am not always right, on the Internet or anywhere else. And I fully expect to be contradicted when I am wrong. It should never result in hard feelings from either party.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
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Re: Words common to different languages with different meani

Postby P13808 » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:33 pm UTC

Someone missed a joke somewhere in there.


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