Not Waving but Winken

Considering the linguistic heritage we share with our German friends, there exists a Tiefbrunnen of fauxami between the two languages, leaving a considerable Rahmen for misunderstanding (no, not noodles; a framework).

Winken is a case in point: it means to wave. To wink is blinzeln or zwinkern. In case you were wondering about this article’s title, drowning, by the way, is Ertrinken. (Drowning represents a considerable err of judgement when drinking, but still…)

Just goes to show there are plenty of opportunities for Schnitzer (slips – not to be confused with Slip, which is not an unterkleid as you might expect, but a pair of briefs).

The most worrying Möglichkeit for confusion has to be the word Gift. Be very careful about accepting this! It isn’t, as you might expect, a present – but poison! Something to bear in mind if you want to avoid the kind of Missgeschick that could wind up with a visit to the undertakers…

Given that under is ‘unter’ and take is ‘nehmen’ in German, and to undertake is ‘unternehmen’, you could be forgiven for thinking that an undertaker in German would be an Unternehmer. However, you’d have to be a most-strident anti-capitalist to make that kind of connection: ein Unternehmer is actually an entrepreneur. As opposed to a businessman, who would be a Geschäftmann (and I’m sure an anti-capitalist could make something of that too…)

FYI: If you were looking for an undertaker, you’d actually need a Leichenbestatter.

There are some words which look like almost-straight borrows and these can be very confusing. Take bekommen, aktuell and sensibel for instance; they actually mean ‘to get’, ‘topical’, and ‘sensitive’. And if I suggested that eventuell you’ll learn them, it wouldn’t be as hopeful a statement as it sounds. Eventuell doesn’t translate as ‘eventually’ but ‘maybe’.

My favourite German/ English fauxami has to be Puff. Don’t start thinking about something light and fluffy… it means ‘brothel’. Perhaps fluff was the wrong word there… A puff of air is stoß.

Although Stern is right up there too. No, I’m not suddenly coming on all strict and severe – Stern is a star in the sky. Not to be confused with Star, of course; which could relate to a starling, a cataract or a movie star.

And I quite like Viel Spaß! In this context, it isn’t a place for farming young calves, but an exhortation to enjoy mucking about with language! Have fun!

We’d love to get more ideas and stories about linguistic false friends from you. Can you think of any German/English fauxami I have Mist?


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