Mistranslations of furren words...now with ümlaüts gälöre!

So, I am two weeks exactly into my Big Fat German Vacation ™ and have a wunderbar time.

Except with this stinking keyboard and its qwertzuiopü (note the Z where the Y should be. And the shift kez is different and <i donät think they use parenthesis like we do.) and there is an ümlaut infestation.
But, that is for another day.
Today’s question kiddies is;

What foreign phrases/words have you come across that have nearly sounded the same in your native tongue.


German to English
Regen - to rain. Reagan A former American president

Sauerstoff oxygen Sauer Stuff - Something that has gone bad.

Schmuck jeweler Schmuck <not a nice person

Sense ; a scythe Sense hearing, smelling, tasting, touching

Any mistakes are clearly my own, Langenscheidt’s dictionary and society is to blame.

Our children’s former babysitter is from the Azores and she used to speak to the kids in a mixture of roughly half English and half Portuguese. (Probably more of the latter when we weren’t around.) This was fine by us–broadening for the kids and all that. So we were surprised when she told us that she got into trouble once with some other parents for teaching “those words” to little kids.

It turned out that the children had been sprinkling some Portuguese words into their conversation. The one that had the parents concerned came up after everyone had been learning to set the table for lunch. The Portuguese word for “knife” is faca.

I can imagine the parents alarm the first time their 3-year-old asked how many of those facas they were going to need on the dinner table.

“Email” is “electronic message” in English, while “émail” is “enamel” in French.

And of course “gift” means “poison” in German. Don’t ask for directions to a Giftgeschäft. :smiley:

<evil giggle?
I brought a german keyboard home with me when i visited Christian this past feb…popped it on mrAru’s computer when he wasnt looking and he did half an hour of email before he ingested enough coffee to wake up and notice…

I wonder if the English schmuck is from the German one since it’s a Yiddish word and is a profession that is stereotypically Jewish. Any etymologists around?

So, have you foudn yourseelf asking for a RABBIT of coffee yet? (Kaniinchen,a sopposed to Kánnchen) - a friend did that once.

oh I know of one - German visitors had trouble with the word See/Sea. If memory serves die See is the sea as I know it, whereas the See that is a lake of (to add to the muddle, a loch) is either masculine or neuter.

Ahh…good times in German One (9th grade)…

Sechs (6 auf Deutsch) - Sex

damit (German preposition) - dammit (English obscenity)

The conjugation of fahren:
ich fahre (I drive)
du fährst (you drive)
er/sie/es fährt (he/she/it drives)
wir fahren (we drive)
ihr fahrt (you [Pl.] drive) - Fart: to break wind

When asked by the teacher in a homeroom class of the middle school I attended as an exchange student in Germany-
“Im Sommer, wie ist das Wetter in Ohio?”
(In the Summer, How is the weather in Ohio?)
My reply was-
“Ahhh, Im Sommer, wie hier, ist es manchmals heiss und schwul.”
(Uhhh, In the Summer, like here, it’s sometimes hot and humid.)

Much to my puzzlement, the entire class and teacher broke into laughter.
Ya see, schwul is slang for “gay” (homosexual).
Schwül is humid.
Without voicing the umlaut properly I actually said, “Uhh, In the Summer, like here, it’s hot and gay.” :smiley:

In Germany, you are one umlaut away from sounding gay!

I pulled something similar to that, once. When asked for a list of things we’d never do, I said “Ich würde nie im Wind urinieren.” (I would never urinate into the wind, heh). Unfortunately, my pronunciation of urinieren was sub-par and it came across as some slang term for masturbation. My teacher and the guy who had spent a year in Germany as an exchange student just stared at me for a moment before asking me what I had meant to say.

Yes, it is German and Yiddish.
Schmuck means jewelry, decoration, or trimmings (as in tree trimmings)… In this case, by inference, the accoutrement of the penis, otherwise known as a foreskin- Sort of like a penis necklace (And totally useless in the Jewish psyche.).

A Moyhel’s job is never done.

J’accuse réception: the secretary did it!

Wow, I’m a native speaker of German and it took me a long time to figure out what term they might have heard. I think it’s “onanieren”. But that’s not really a slang term. I think your doctor might be more likely to use that word. The slang term for masturbation is “wichsen” (pronounced: wiksen) or “sich einen 'runter holen”.

And in French, a fork is a fourchette.

Latin is full of these pitfalls, too. Facit is, IIRC, the present tense of “to do” (i.e. “does”) and since the A is short it sounds like something else. And Pisces sounds like “piss case”.

Is that pronounced the way I think it is? :smiley:

English “Bill” sounds like the Dutch “bil” which means bottom.

That’s right, the name of the former president of the USA sounded, to the Dutch, like “Bottom Clinton”.
And don’t get me started on Lil’Bottom the Kid.

::suppresses childish chuckle::

Maybe. The “ei” in Langenscheidt is pronounced like “eye”, and the a is like “ah”, so it’s Lahng - en -schite.

Onanieren. That’s it.

I assumed it was slang as when I was recanting the tale to a German girl, I didn’t remember what word they thought they heard, so I looked it up and couldn’t find it under the entry for ‘to masturbate’…

That’s probably because it’s a little obsure (and considered a pretentious word by some). It derives from the name “Onan”, who spilled his seed according to the Bible.

Heh, the things you learn every day… :smiley:

I had the some problem when I was teaching Latin to a class of 12 year old boys. They were highly entertained by the 2nd person singular imperative of the verb “to do”. It’s spelt *fac * and pronounced ‘fark’.

I forget, is that with a long or short A? Because according to my interpretation of the pronounciation key in my Latin dictionary, a short A in that position would seem to sound exactly like “fuck” to American ears (hence facit = “fuckit”). :eek: :smiley: