In German, strawberries are Erdbeeren; literally, ‘ground berries’. This makes sense, as strawberries grow close to the ground; as opposed to, say, blackberries, which grow on often very-large bushes. ‘Strawberries’? They’re not planted in straw. They were around before people were around to put straw around them. There’s probably a good etymological reason for the ‘straw’, but in modern English it doesn’t really make sense.
What other English words make more sense when translated into another language?
European football. You kick a spherical ball around with…you know…your feet. The American word soccer doesn’t really tell you anything about the sport.
To further complicate things, what Americans call football doesn’t involve much contact of the foot with the ball. The ball spends most of the time in the players hand/arm. It’s only during kickoffs, punts, extra points, and field goals, that the ball actually touches the foot.
Knight. In French they were called “chevaliers”, in German “Ritter”. Both words mean horse rider or horse warrior. Makes sense. Horse warring was what they did, after all.
Knight OTOH doesn’t seem to mean a thing, unless you happen to speak Olde English, in which case you know it means “servant boy”. Errr… right… totally what springs to mind here. He must be about to fetch the drinks.
There are a bunch of these in Japanese. In my limited experience, there is one word for a certain group of things, and then things build on that word, sort of the way genus and species works in English. So plate is sara, ashtray is ashplate (haizara). A rat or mouse (incidentally, pigeon and dove is also the same word) is nezumi, hedgehog is called a needlerat.
Others might be more along the lines of what you were looking for. Gray is “ash color,” and brown is “tea color.” They also use the word for thing (mono) to make tons of words. Shopping is kaimono (bought thing). Food is tabemono (eaten thing), drink is nomimono (drunk thing). They even used to use kimono (worn thing) to refer to clothing in general before it took on its modern meaning.
Oh, I figured the straw was the soft herbaceous “trunk” that goes from a strawberry bunch to the next. You can see them quite more clearly in wild strawberries than in cultivated ones.
I had a recent argument about “knight” and its translation to Spanish. The text talked about “watchtowers” in Spain as being “used by knights to watch out for enemies,” and I pointed out that in Spain a caballero would never have been the person in the tower. In English, knight has come to be almost synonimous with “medieval soldier,” but in Spanish like in French it’s a horse-rider; often the only one in a given group of soldiers would be their Lord’n’Captain. The people manning the towers often were boys in their low teens: old enough to be trusted with such a responsibility, but young enough that their work could be spared from the fields.
One I always find curious is words which get acquired from a language and end up meaning something very different or even opposite in the new language. In Spanish plaza is an open space (same as piazza in Italian); in English it got to mean several buildings around an open space and has ended up meaning a building. And what you guys call mesa, Spanish calls meseta (“mesa-like thing”): a Spanish mesa is a table.
The etymology I favour for strawberry is the “Strewn berry” variant, in reference to how the plants and berries lie about on the ground. In which case it makes perfect sense. More so than the German, because I’d expect to find the berries underground, like the erdnuss or the erdapfel.
I was going to mention Flugzeug, literally ‘flying thing’. But in English, ‘airplane’ makes as much sense because the wings are planes that work in the air.
The German word for ‘helicopter’ is a little weird. Hub is ‘stroke’, and Babelfish says Schrauber is ‘nut runner’. So Hubschrauber literally translates to ‘stroke nut runner’. That one makes more sense in English, as it is from the Greek meaning ‘rotating wing’.
You may not want to rely on babelfish because it is leading you terribly astray. For one thing, ‘zeug’ does not mean thing - in Flugzeug it means something akin to ‘gear’ or ‘craft’. Also, a Schraube is not a ‘nut runner’, and hub is not a stroke (in Hubschrauber). Rather, ‘hub’ is lift (not as in elevator, rather as in levitation), and Schraube is a screw (or: a propellor), so Hubschrauber is a ‘lifting screw’.
Finally, to add to the strawberry issue: strawberries are best grown on a bed of straw to prevent them from rotting - hence: strawberries.
That’s pretty useful. Now we can tell it apart from handball, basketball, volleyball, baseball and all those other sports that are not played on foot.