False friends- Language misunderstandings

“Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.”

–  Led Zepplin

“Stairway to heaven ”

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“Today Roger had to play a real Tennis Ass.”

An ass is a donkey(der Esel) or in American English a bottom ( der Arsch)

Der Ass is an ace, either in cards or in sport.

Roger Federer is a word famous  Swiss Tennis player.


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” Swiss voters go to the urn every few months .”

An urn is a vase or a container for holding the ashes after cremation (“die urne”)

Die urne also means a ballot box.


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“Please complete this formula sir.”

A formula is a mathematical relationship,usually expressed in symbols ( die Formel)

Das Formular means a form or questionnaire.


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“The depressed cat need  some  rat”

A rat is a type of rodent (Die ratte)

Der Rat means advice or suggestion in German.


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“The queen always winks at the crowd”

To wink is to close one eye quickly(Zwinkern)

Winken is to wave in German

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“He couldn’t see anything in the mist”

A mist is a light fog  (leichter Nebel)

Der Mist means manure in German.


“A mistake is to commit a misunderstanding.”

-Bob Dylan

It should be easy to learn German , the English language contains some experts  say 40% of German words and yet there are misunderstandings.

One reason for language  misunderstandings might occur because of similarity of words but with different meanings.

Diccon Bewes , an English man  and author in Switzerland and Michael Meister, a Swiss illustrator ,  have collected some examples of words that have a different meaning in German and in English and with the help of cartoons  in a new book called “fake friends” .

I will never forget the preparation for my   wedding  day ,when my future ex husband had telephoned me long distance  to inform  me with great excitement how he had just bought his wedding DRESS !! 

Was i about to marry a cross dresser? I thought, not having realised  that he meant to say he just bought his wedding suit, but then as it turned out he also lacked a sense of humour about being corrected ..

As it turned out  the German word “kleid” means both dress and suit and garment. 

This small booklet demonstrates that  humour  somehow exists in  stern Switzerland as long as it is laughing at others ..and not too confrontational. 

Lanugage misunderstandings are only one sort of misunderstandings that may occur in a foreign culture , nonverbal body language is another, personal space etc. however having lived 20 years in Switzerland i can honestly say that i have recently concluded as a result of a  brave look at my past that misunderstandings occur in families, the best and worst, and between any human interaction which is why so many of us prefer to spend time with four legged furry friends who accept us as we are and understand on an intuitive level, and maybe we can learn, to skip the language and pick up the vibes..





About seagullsea

a seagull flying over the great ocean of life observing.
This entry was posted in a stranger in paradise, adaptation, humor rights, intercultural relations, lost in translation, people watching, planetary life, survival, swiss kife, Uncategorized, understanding ourselves and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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