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True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 4:58
by linguoboy
I'm not sure what the "Multilingual false friends" thread is really for. Near as I can see, it's just lists of interlingual orthographic coincidences. So here's a thread for actual false friends, i.e. words from different languages that seem like they should have the same meaning by don't--preferably illustrated with genuine examples of their use.

I'll start us off with a Spanish/Catalan example. The word is lloro. In Spanish, this is a verbal noun derived from llorar "to cry", but in Catalan it means "parrot". So when I was reading a short story by García Márquez and came across the line:

"...y hasta sus risas sonaban a lloros."

I read this as "and even his laughs sounded like parrots" instead of "and even his laughs sounded like weeping".

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 5:01
by Lauren
I don't see the difference between this thread and the existing one... :silly:

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 5:53
by linguoboy
Lowena wrote:I don't see the difference between this thread and the existing one... :silly:

Thanks for sharing!

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 6:05
by Lazar Taxon
I don't see the difference either. In your example Spanish "lloro" and Catalan "lloro" are unrelated words that look or sound similar but have different meanings, just like the those posted in the other thread. (Catalan "lloro" is derived from Spanish "loro", itself from Cariban "roro".) False friends such as these are pairs of interlingual coincidences.

Maybe it would be beneficial to have a general false friend thread, and then a semantic divergence thread limited to related words - the former would encompass most of the coincidentally similar things, while the latter could be a bit more interesting by showing how meanings have evolved. And you could also have a false cognate thread, about words which seem similar and have the same meaning but aren't related, like English "much" and Spanish "mucho". Or have we already got one?

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 14:52
by phaed
I like the semantic divergence idea :)

[flag]la[/flag] desertum
to (Romanian reference, English reference):
[flag]ro[/flag] în deșert — vainly, uselessly
[flag]en[/flag] desert

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 15:01
by linguoboy
Lazar Taxon wrote:I don't see the difference either. In your example Spanish "lloro" and Catalan "lloro" are unrelated words that look or sound similar but have different meanings, just like the those posted in the other thread. (Catalan "lloro" is derived from Spanish "loro", itself from Cariban "roro".) False friends such as these are pairs of interlingual coincidences.

The difference to me is that the vast majority of the so-called "false friends" given in the other thread would simply never cause trouble in real life. Take a typical recent contribution:

[flag]fr[/flag] dort "he/she sleeps"
[flag]cs[/flag] dort "cake"
[flag]tr[/flag] dört "four"

How would you ever confuse these in actual use? The first is a verb, the second is a noun, and the third is a determiner, so the grammar alone makes it clear that they can't mean remotely the same thing. And they aren't even pronounced the same: respectively, they are [ˈdɔʁ], [ˈdɔrt], and [ˈdœɾt].

On the other hand, look at Youngfun's list [posted just after I created this thread]. Less than half of the pairs he gives represent exact matches either in either spelling or pronunciation, but almost all of them would actually be problematic in practice. That to me is the true definition of a "false friend".

If contributions like that equaled or outweighed the laundry lists of homonyms, I wouldn't see a need for a new thread. But they're few and far between. They're also the only ones that interest me. That's why I thought the best thing to do would be to float a new thread and see if I could attract others who feel the same. If no one does, well then, where's the harm?

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 15:57
by MillMaths
linguoboy wrote:I'm not sure what the "Multilingual false friends" thread is really for. Near as I can see, it's just lists of interlingual orthographic coincidences.
Sometimes I find mere orthographic coincidences interesting in themselves. :)

Anyway, I like the idea of having two false-friend threads, the other simply listing orthographic similarites and this one going deeper into selected pairs of false friends. Here's a pair I sometimes struggle with: nombre [flag]fr[/flag] – number; nombre [flag]es[/flag] – name. Although I know the difference, I sometimes can't avoid being confused when I read the word in Spanish. I tend to think of "el nombre de la casa" as meaning "the number of the house" rather than "the name of the house" (and this despite the fact that "the number of the house" in French would be "le numéro de la maison" (nombre is more like number as a mathematical entity)).

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 16:10
by ling
I'd say that true false friends tend to be cognates or loanwords in closely related languages or in languages that have been influenced by other languages, but such words have meanings that are quite different.

formidable: in French it means "wonderful", but in English it means "fearful".
embarazada: "pregnant" in Spanish; looks like it should mean "embarrassed" to an English speaker.
勉強: "study" in Japanese; "reluctantly" in Chinese.
gig: "a performance session" in English; "a lover on the side" in Thai (borrowed from English "gig").

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 17:53
by הענט
Okay. Let's create a thread to make it more confusing. :D

I think someone in the previous thread wrote Hungarian igen and Swedish igen. Both are pronounced differently, but they are the same in their written forms.

The French dort is also pronounced differently than the Czech dort, but had we been super IPA wise strict, we wouldn't have any thread like that one. :)

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 18:24
by Marah
It's just that sometimes you wouldn't even think they're false friends, as linguoboy said. That's why the other thread is for mere fun whereas this one could be useful for learners.

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 18:37
by Itikar
[flag]fr[/flag] sans doute: probably
[flag]it[/flag] senza dubbio: surely
8-)

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 18:54
by Dormouse559
The plot thickens …

[flag]fr[/flag] sans doute: probably or surely
[flag]it[/flag] senza dubbio: surely

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 19:20
by Itikar
It is covered in a lesson from Assimil, and they say that no, it is not so surely as in Italian. :P

In fact: http://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/sans_doute (surely is given also, but only as an obsolete meaning)

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 19:23
by Marah
http://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/sans_doute
You're both right.

Most of the time it means probably, sometimes it means "surely". The latter is outmoded though.

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 19:40
by Itikar
[flag]fr[/flag] assez: enough, and particularly, quite
[flag]it[/flag] assai: a lot, too much (it can mean also "enough" but this meaning is not too used, and slightly dialectal)

From:
[flag]la[/flag] ad satis: [to] enough

With these false friends however I believe some further specification should be sometimes needed.
-Common origin should be pointed out if it is not so clear
-As in both my examples above there are meanings that aren't very popular and widespread anymore, so it should either be better specified, or be referred to the most common meaning. It is clear that certain true false friends have a common root.

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 19:42
by Itikar
[flag]fr[/flag] fille: daughter, girl
[flag]it[/flag] figlia: daughter (girl is: ragazza)

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 20:24
by Johanna
One pair that confuses a lot of Swedes learning English is this one: skulle - should

They're cognates and in the same tense, but while skulle means would in English, should means borde in Swedish.

So as you can see, they're not only verbs, they're both modals and used in sentences where you often can't even use context to tell which of the two you really mean.

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 20:29
by הענט
Well in that case

[flag]nl[/flag] wie - who
[flag]de[/flag] wie - how

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 20:40
by kevin
ling wrote:embarazada: "pregnant" in Spanish; looks like it should mean "embarrassed" to an English speaker.

Reminds me of another nice one:

[flag]en[/flag] pregnant
[flag]de[/flag] prägnant - concise

Re: True false friends

Posted: 2013-01-27, 20:54
by md0
Worse can be false friends even if they have the same etymology, right?

[flag]el-cy[/flag] απολογούμαι (to say sorry, to apologise)
Απολογήθηκεν για τες δηλώσεις της (She apologised for her statement)
VS
[flag]el[/flag] απολογούμαι (to defend oneself, to explain oneself)
Απολογήθηκε για τις δηλώσεις της (She defended her statement)