If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

13 April 2006

Beware the False Cognates!

SeƱora Smith, my high-school spanish teacher, taught me the concept of "false cognates," and it's one of the few things that actually stuck.

Cognate, meaning 'seeming similar, generically alike'. False: um; not true.
I guess was she was saying is that when you're learning a foreign language, it's easy to get sucked in by words that sound like words you already know in English.

True cognates are easy to find: Azzuro and blu (azure and blue). Puntuale (punctual). Offrire (to offer). Onesta' (honesty).

False cognates (while not quite as serious as having false gods) can be tricky. Here are a few that can trip you up ... and I welcome other Italophiles to add to the list! (the Italian words are in bold to try to keep it all clear.)

I've already mentioned here one of the most conversationally dangerous false cognates - but it bears repeating. Preservativo is NOT a preservative, it's a condom. Preservative: conservante.

Magazzino: you might think this is magazine, but no, actually 'Warehouse' - often used to describe a collection of stores together. My neighbor just yesterday referred jokingly to his house as a 'magazzino pazzo' (crazy warehouse.) Equally confusing... To ask for a magazine, in Italian, you would say rivista, which it would be easy to falsely-cognate into meaning "revisit". But no. To revisit something is actually rivedere, literally "re-see" in Italian.

(Hey... you still with me here? I know dorky language gymnastics doesn't blow everyone's skirt up. But really, this is good stuff!)

Fabricca: the Danny Devito in all of us wants to think that this is the Italian word for "fabric." Nope. Fabric is actually tessuto, and fabbrica really means factory (like'fabricate' - which makes sense if you can wrap your head around it.) Though it's easy to think that factory would be fattoria -- which, nope, is NOT a factory, but rather a farm. Or, as I like to think of it to keep it all straight in my head, a factory where the workers are animals.

Linguistic mastery: it's all in the little tricks.


Anonymous Laurie said...

prestare and prestare. Lend and Borrow. This one makes me CRAAAZZZYYYYYYYYY!!!!

1:23 AM  

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