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Thread: Musings on Language #2

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by HeadlessMermaid View Post
    Greek speakers are utterly confounded by English words of Greek origin, whose meaning in English is radically different than their modern Greek counterparts.
    <snip>
    There's at least a dozen of such words which confuse people all the time, and many more that are less common.

    On the other hand, the gender thing doesn't happen that often, at least for those who speak English passably.
    Yup, that's fairly common. There's a specific word for the phenomenon in French - faux ami. It's particularly prominent with English-French translations or vice versa because of the volume of interchange of vocabulary, but Latin and Greek will presumably also be major culprits, and every now and again you come across some in just about every language.

    I think my favourite is from Spanish: if you're embarrassed, the word you're looking for is not "embarasada".

    I suspect in many cases the meaning was originally the same, but then changed through idiom. Many faux amis are not entirely unrelated in meaning (including the above), just not quite right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora
    I think there are a number of English words that lost their initial an. Because people started to feel that "a nadder" should be "an adder". Or so I heard, I wouldn't put my hand into the fire for that. Might have been on that BBC show, so it would probably be true.
    Yeah, there are a few of those. There's probably a list somewhere - I'm sure there's a name for the phenomenon. See "nickname", mentioned above, for the reverse.

    One that is commonly cited is "orange", from "naranja" via "norange". However, given that the word is the same in English and French, I think that might have been imported wholesale with the "error" already in place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Yora
    searching for an arrow I accidentally shot in the ground, and always watching and playing everything in English or Japanese, my talking to myself was in English and so said "Ah, there he is." Which for an arrow in German makes sense, but is nonsense in English.
    It's not complete nonsense - we do have a tendency to anthropomorphise things over here, so you wouldn't be looked at too strangely. The less mainstream the dialect, the more it seems to happen. In fact, the more the rules seem to break down altogether. I remember being once asked, in my hometown no less, "can you pass me some of they?".
    Last edited by Aedilred; 2012-10-10 at 11:27 AM.
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