Languages > Language-specific analysis

Slavic: False Friends

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I know Slavic isn't a language, but I hope it is an appropriate label for this discussion.

Years ago while studying Serbo-Croatian in a course delightfully called "Turbo-Serbo" (16 weeks for speakers of Russian or Czech), I came across this wonderful word:

понос / ponos

I laughed and laughed...   In Russian, that word means diarrhea.  In Serbian it means pride.

So I started to look for more false friends amongst the Slavic languages. I thought having a list of these terms in an excel doc or an actual book would be of great benefit to linguists and Slavic language students.  I searched and searched for a few months, but then my project died on the vine.

Why? Would this be something to include in a textbook, for example?

Certainly there are various false friends in many (all) pairs of languages, but I'm not sure I understand why you would need to or want to compile a list.

One very interesting question is whether these words actually have the same origin and how they came to have such different meanings.
Here's one example:

Regardless, these examples are amusing :)

I think linguists and compulsive list-making goes hand in hand. It certainly does for me and the amount of things I put in online spreadsheets and go back to check when I know I want to remember something that I put in there. We could make a sticky thread of the best/funniest false friends in one of our forum boards. I think that'd be a really good idea, actually.

We've already got 1-2 mentioned. I can think of two from Icelandic. "Fag" means a subject (like a school/course subject) and "Misseri" (pronounced like 'misery') means (among a few other things) a school semester. "What are you learning this misery?"  8)


--- Quote ---I think linguists and compulsive list-making goes hand in hand.
--- End quote ---
Haha, I guess that's true.

Those are some fun examples from Icelandic.

Oh dear!

I don't know any Slavic languages, but in Japanese 'kiseki' means miracle, while in Korean it means son of a bitch...

Which is funny as BoA, a Korean/Japanese singer released a song called 'kiseki no hito' which I'm sure amused her Korean fans...


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