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22 / 01 / 2004

IT LOOKS LIKE ENGLISH BUT IT'S NOT-1: meaning and examples

Hello again,

Most of you probably know that you have to be careful with false friends. False friends, or false cognates, are words in English that look like a similar word in Spanish/Catalan, but don't have the same meaning. For example, the English word sensible does not mean sensible in Spanish/Catalan, but rather sensato/assenyat (we covered this in another lesson).

But there's another very similar phenomenon that causes even more confusion: it's the existence of English-looking words in Spanish/Catalan that aren't actually used in English, or are used very differently.

Consider the following Anglo-looking expressions in Spanish/Catalan and their correct translations into English:

Span/Cat: Camping
English: Campground

Span/Cat: Parking
English: Parking lot, car park, parking garage, parking place

Span/Cat: Footing
English: Jogging

Span/Cat: un Burguer
English: a fast-food restaurant

Span/Cat: Puenting
English: Bungee Jumping

Notice that English speakers do not say "We're going to stay in a camping during our holidays" but rather "we're going to stay in a campground during our holidays". And nobody does "footing", they "go jogging". And the list goes on and on.

Frankly, I don't know exactly how these words are erroneously borrowed, but I think the press has a lot to do with it. I often see italicised English words in different newspapers used incorrectly, or with a slightly different meaning; In some cases the author is probably attempting to show off his/her intellectual abilities and knowledge of English, but he/she ironically ends up promoting an incorrect use of English.

In the next lesson we will look at a few more.

Have a good day,