Of Cabbages and Kings
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Virtuella

…and other linguistic idiosyncrasies.

I thought it might be fun to talk about those little quirks of language that sometimes trip us up, or that have simply amused us. Odd spelling conventions, awkward confusions of meaning etc.

For those who operate in more than one language, a thing sometimes encountered is thefalse friend. False friends are words in a foreign language that seem to be the same as a similar word in your own language, but in fact they're not. Here are some examples from English/German.

sensible: rational

sensibel: touchy, sensitive, "emo"

irritating: annoying

irritierend: confusing

gallant: brave

galant: courteous, chivalrous, polite

brave: gallant

brav: well-behaved

map: scale bird-eye drawing of terrain

Mappe: folder (and to make this more confusing, Karte can be either a map or a card, and either could be put into a Mappe…)

Crab: crustacean of the order Brachyura

Krabbe: crustacean of the order Dendrobranchiata (prawn)

bugger: (a disrespectable word which members of the public would not expect from the lips of small children)

Bagger (same pronunciation): digger or JCB, i.e. a word that German-speaking small children might utter rather loudly in an anglophone environment…

1/5/2011 . Edited 5/31/2011 #1
Olorime

Oh, false cognates! There are tons of those between English and Spanish and for what I am seeing their meanings are the same in German than they are in Spanish. Funny...

sensible: rational

sensible: sensitive

gallant: brave

galante: chivalrous, corteous, polite

complexion: skin color

complexión: body type (as if thin, thick), general appearance of someone or something.

library: a library! Place where people go to borrow books.

librería: a book store (the name for a library in Spanish is "biblioteca")

archive: file

archivo: collection of files (if you want to refer to a file then you would use the word "récord")

There are many more, but it's far too early to remember them all. Also "mapa" means map, but "carta" can mean "letter" or "map." "Cartografía" is cartography or mapping.

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #2
Just a Wili

Something that used to hinder me is having to use the adjetive always before the noun in English. And the position of the adverbs in a sentence. And the prepositions... ah, the prepositions! I have an old edition of the B. B. I. (dictionary of collocations and word combinations), but still...

There is, of course, the matter of the false cognates.

I also associate "s" with plural, so from time to time I still trip on this (it doesn't seem "normal" to me when I have to use "s" in the singular, like in "does", "talks", "writes", etc).

1/5/2011 #3
Virtuella

As far as I know, archive in English also means a collection of files.

Like Spanish, German has Bibliothek for library. So German and Spanish take it from the Greek biblios, while English takes it from the Latin liber. This is interesting, one would have expected the Latin root in Spanish.

A book shop is Buchhandlung. The suffix -handlung seems reserved for the more genteel type of merchandise, for example Weinhandlung and Antiquitätenhandlung. The more ordinary goods are sold in a -geschäft: Fischgeschäft.

1/5/2011 #4
Just a Wili

Like Spanish, German has Bibliothek for library. So German and Spanish take it from the Greek biblios, while English takes it from the Latin liber. This is interesting, one would have expected the Latin root in Spanish.

Portuguese:

Biblioteca = library

Livraria = book shop

1/5/2011 #5
Virtuella

And the prepositions... ah, the prepositions!

Without a doubt one of the most tricky things in learning English. You learn that a particular preposition translates into a German one, but then it is not used in connection with the same verbs or in the same phrases as the German one. Example:

English at = German bei,

but you have the phrase good at drawing, where in German you would say gut im Zeichnen, never gut beim Zeichnen.

Another is

English: from = German: von

but you suffer from in English, whereas in German it is leiden unter, never leiden von.

1/5/2011 #6
Just a Wili

Irregular verbs!

I remember that I had a list in alphabetical order that I should know by heart:

arise, arose, arisen

awake, awoke, awaken

be, was/were, been

bear, bore, borne...

And sometimes I still get confuse with past and past participle, so I have to think in Portuguese and translate into English accordingly.

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #7
Virtuella

I remember that I had a list in alphabetical order that I should know by heart

Same here. And my favourite was "put, put, put" which allegedly is what German farmers use to call their chickens.

1/5/2011 #8
Just a Wili

Same here. And my favourite was "put, put, put" which allegedly is what German farmers use to call their chickens.

I liked the ones that changed vowels:

drink, drank, drunk

ring, rang, rung

swan, swin, swun

1/5/2011 #9
Virtuella

swan, swin, swun

What does that mean?

1/5/2011 #10
Virtuella

The patterns of vowel changes are called Ablautreihe in German grammar, and you need to learn them too for medieval German.

1/5/2011 #11
Just a Wili

What does that mean?

It means that I don't know my verbs my heart. Hehehe

to swim, swam, swum

Which reminds me of another problem: in Portuguese, there's no difference when we pronunciate words that end with "m" and "n". So, words like "gum" and "gun" sound the same to me.

1/5/2011 #12
Virtuella

in Portuguese, there's no difference when we pronunciate words that end with "m" and "n".

Fascinating! In German, we tend to swallow endings.

1/5/2011 #13
Olorime

Prepositions still give me a hard time and homophones or near homophones.

Like curb/curve.

1/5/2011 #14
AltearazCreator

but you suffer from in English, whereas in German it is leiden unter, never leiden von.

You can suffer under in English as well. Usually to do with a circumstance rather than a condition, mind you. "We suffered under so-and-so as Prime Minister" or something like that. When I took German, I found that a lot of the ways you would regularly say something in German can be done in English as well, but it's just a less common way of saying things.

1/5/2011 #15
Morthoron

Prepositions still give me a hard time and homophones or near homophones.

You are so right! Homophones are so ignorant! Imagine, hating someone just because of their sexual persuasion. Homophones are just as bad as racists in my book.

Prepositions? Are they like Presbyterians?

1/5/2011 #16
Olorime

You are so right! Homophones are so ignorant! Imagine, hating someone just because of their sexual persuasion. Homophones are just as bad as racists in my book.

Prepositions? Are they like Presbyterians?

*sticks tongue out*

1/5/2011 #17
Morthoron

*sticks tongue out*

Hmmm...how can I make innuendo about this without Virtuella calling me peurile? I must refrain from overt references.

*considers*

Ummm...hey, nice tongue.

*frowns*

Drat. Never mind.

1/5/2011 #18
Just a Wili

The "th"sound (like in "this", "that", "these", "those"): it ends up sounding like a "d."

I know that I have to put my tongue between my teeth to pronounce them, but I don't have the opportunity of speaking English, so if I don't pay attention all the time (and it's a pain to think in another language and think how to make the sounds) I always pronounce them like "d". *sighs*

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #19
Virtuella

A potentially embarrassing one is this:

Prägnant does not mean pregnant, but striking or memorable.

Also, the German word Präservativ means condom, which once caused my father to cast a very puzzled look at a British jam jar where he found preservatives on the list of ingredients.

1/5/2011 #20
Just a Wili

Also, the German word Präservativ means condom, which once caused my father to cast a very puzzled look at a British jam jar where he found preservatives on the list of ingredients.

durex = in Brazilian Portuguese means "adhesive tape."

1/5/2011 #21
Olorime

Also, the German word Präservativ means condom, which once caused my father to cast a very puzzled look at a British jam jar where he found preservatives on the list of ingredients.

It's the same in Spanish (preservativo). Always a source of hilarity when my mother and I read ingredients out loud. Also, a profiláctico (prophylactic) is a condom, but people seldom use it in that sense here, but it's very common use in Latin America.

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #22
Just a Wili

Also, a profiláctico (prophylactic) is also a condom, but people seldom use it in that sense here, but it's very common use in Latin America.

But not in Brazil. We never use the word "profilático" to refer to condoms. The most common term for condoms here is "camisinha".

Edited because I just used a false cognate! hehehe

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #23
Virtuella

Something I find very entertaining is all these expression in English, the isn't it? and doesn't she? and won't we? and haven't you? and can't I? etc In German one single phrase suffices: Nicht wahr? which means "(is it) not true?" Or if you live in the South of Germany, you can just say Gell?

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #24
Olorime

The most common term for condoms here is "camisinha"

Little shirt?

LOL!

1/5/2011 #25
Morthoron

It's the same in Spanish (preservativo). Always a source of hilarity when my mother and I read ingredients out loud. Also, a profiláctico (prophylactic) is also a condom, but people seldom use it in that sense here, but it's very common use in Latin America.

But condominiums do not dispense condoms.

1/5/2011 #26
Just a Wili

Little shirt?

LOL!

The complete name is "camisa de Vênus". :) Called lovingly "camisinha".

1/5/2011 #27
Virtuella

The complete name is "camisa de Vênus". :) Called lovingly "camisinha".

That is rather sweet.

1/5/2011 #28
Olorime

The complete name is "camisa de Vênus". :) Called lovingly "camisinha".

Você pode imaginar se eu vou a Brazil, Vivi?

" Gostaría uma camisinha para meu filho?"

Mas eu estou falando sobre uma camisa, não um condom.

1/5/2011 . Edited 1/5/2011 #29
Just a Wili

Você pode imaginar se eu vou a Brazil, Vivi?

" Gostaría uma camisinha para meu filho?"

Mas eu estou falando sobre uma camisa, não um condom.

LOL

Mas, veja, a gente NUNCA pede uma camisa usando diminutivo; porque há esse sentido de se estar falando de preservativo. Uma camisa de criança, seria "camisa tamanho P" (tamanho pequeno), por exemplo, ou, então, "camisa tamanho 12" ou qual quer que seja o número.

E isso me faz lembrar de um comercial de TV super antigo e de um sketch humorístico, feito para fazer gozação com o tal comercial. O comercial era assim: tem vários caras sentados à mesa, em uma reunião de negócios, e o chefe vira para um deles e diz: "Bonita camisa, Fernandinho." A resposta é: "A do senhor também é linda".

A gozação era: O chefe olha para debaixo da mesa e diz "Bonita camisinha, Fernandinho". E o Fernandinho também olha para debaixo da mesa: "A do senhor também é linda".

E não é que achei o comercial antigo no You Tube?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKYjC621jhw

1/5/2011 #30
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