Sunday, October 20, 2019
Almost, But Not Quite
Almost, But Not Quite One of the most popular features on this site has been the list of false friends, those words that look the same or almost the same as English words but have different meanings. However, such words arent the only dangerous ones for those who believe (usually correctly) that knowing English gives them a head start on Spanish vocabulary. For there also are a number of words that might be called fickle friends, words that are roughly synonymous with English words but have a different connotation, or that are synonymous some of the time but not always. These words can be confusing to anyone with a knowledge of English who is speaking Spanish as a second language. (Although technically not accurate, false friends are often referred to as false cognates. Presumably, that would make fickle friends known as partial cognates.) To take an extreme example of a fickle friend, one so extreme it is on the list of false friends, look at molestar, which is related to the English verb to molest. In English, the verb can mean to bother, which is its Spanish meaning, as in the sentence they continued on their journey unmolested. But far more often, almost always, the English word has a sexual connotation that is absent in Spanish. Many of the words on the following list are something like that, in that they have a meaning similar to an English one but often mean something different. Translating them as the English cognates may make sense some of the time but frequently it wont. AcciÃ ³n: It is usually synonymous with action in its various meanings. But to a stock broker it can also mean a share, and to an artist it can be posture or pose. Adecuado: This word can mean adequate in the sense of being appropriate. But adequate can have a negative connotation that adecuado doesnt. Its usually better to translade adecuado as suitable or fitting. Admirar: It can mean to admire. But it frequently means to surprise or to astonish. AfecciÃ ³n: Once in a while, this word does refer to a fondness toward somebody or something. But far more commonly it refers to a disease or some other sort of medical condition. Better words for affection are another cognate, afecto, and a separate word, cariÃ ±o. AgonÃ a: Nobody wants to be in agony, but the Spanish agonÃ a is much worse, usually suggesting that someone is in the final stages of death. Americano: The understanding of this word varies from place to place. If youre from the United States, its safest to say soy de los Estados Unidos. Aparente: It can mean the same as the English apparent. However, the Spanish usually carries a strong implication that things arent what they appear to be. Thus, aparentemente fue a la tienda would usually be understood not as he apparently went to the store but as it appeared like he had gone to the store but he didnt. Aplicar: Yes, this word does mean apply, as in applying an ointment or a theory. But if youre applying for a job, use solicitar (although there is some regional usage of aplicar). Similarly, an application for a job or something else you would apply for is a solicitud. ApologÃ a: The Spanish word doesnt have anything to do with saying youre sorry. But it is synonymous with the English word apology only when it means a defense, as in a defense of the faith. An apology in the usual sense of the word is excusa or disculpa. Arena: In sports, arena can refer to an arena. But it is more commonly used as the word for sand. Argumento: This word and its verb form, argumenta r, refer to the type of argument a lawyer might make. It can also refer to the theme of a book, play or similar work. On the other hand, a quarrel could be a discusiÃ ³n or disputa. Balance, balanceo, balancear: Although these words can sometimes be translated as balance, they most often refer to a swinging or oscillation. Words with meanings more closely related to the English balance include balanza, equilibrio, saldo, equilibrar, contrapesarÃ and saldar. Cndido: Although this word can mean frank, it more often means naively innocent. Colegio: The Spanish word can refer to almost any school, not just ones that provide university-level classes. Collar: This word is used when referring to the collar a pet (such as a dog) might wear, and it also can refer to a ringlike mechanical item known as a collar. But the collar of a shirt, jacket or similar type of apparel is a cuello (the word for neck). Collar can also refer to a necklace or similar item worn around the neck. Conducir: It can mean to conduct or (in the reflexive form conducirse) to conduct oneself. But it more often means to drive or to transport. For that reason, a conductor on a train (or other veh icle) is the person in the driving seat, not someone who handles tickets. Confidencia: Its meaning is related to the English meaning of confidence as a secret. If youre referring to trust in someone, confianza would be more appropriate. Criatura: Most commonly it means creature or being, including humans. But it is also commonly used to refer to babies and even to fetuses. Debate: This word often does refer to a debate, particularly one in a legislative body. But it also frequently refers to a discussion, one that doesnt have to include opposing viewpoints. Defraudar: This verb doesnt have to imply wrongdoing. Although it can mean to defraud, it more often means to disappoint. Demandar: As a legal term only, demandar and the noun form, la demanda, are similar to the English demand. But to demand something in a less formal situation, use exigir or exigencia. DirecciÃ ³n: It usually means direction in most of the ways it is used in English. But it is also the most common way of referring to a postal or email address. DiscusiÃ ³n: The Spanish word often ca rries the connotation that a discussion has become heated. Alternatives include conversaciÃ ³n and debate (which doesnt have to refer to a formal debate). En efecto: This phrase can mean in effect. But it also can mean in fact, not quite the same thing. Estupor: In medical usage, this word refers to a stupor. But in everyday meaning it refers to a state of amazement or astonishment. Usually the context will make clear what meaning is meant. Etiqueta: It can refer to etiquette and the requirements of formality. However, it also frequently means tag or label. The verb form, etiquetar, means to label. Excitado: This adjective can be synonymous with excited, but a closer equivalent is aroused - which doesnt necessarily have to do with sexual overtones but usually does. Better translations of excited include emocionado and agitado. Experimentar: This is what scientists and other people do when theyre trying something out. However, the word also often means to suffer or to experience. Familiar: In Spanish, the adjective is more closely connected with the meaning of family than in English. Often a better word to use for something youre fami liar with is conocido (known) or comÃ ºn (common). Habitual: The word often does mean habitual and it is a common translation for the English word. But it can refer to something that is normal, typical or customary. HindÃ º: HindÃ º can refer to a Hindu, but it can also refer to someone from India regardless of the persons religion. Someone from India can also be called an indio, a word also used to refer to indigenous people of North and South America. An American Indian is also often called an indÃ gena (a word both masculine and feminine). Historia: This word is obviously related to the English word history, but it is also similar to story. It can mean either one. Honesto: It can mean honest. But honesto and its negative form, deshonesto, more often have sexual overtones, meaning chaste and lewd or slutty, respectively. Better words for honest are honrado and sincero. Intentar: Like the English cognate, it can mean to plan or want to do something. But it also is frequently used to indicate more than a mental state, referring to an actual attempt. It thus is often a good translation for to try. Intoxicado, intoxicar: These words refer to almost any kind of poisoning. To refer specifically to the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, use borracho or any number of slang terms. Introducir: This verb can be translated as, among other things, to introduce in the sense of to bring in, to begin, to put or to place. For example, se introduce la ley en 1998, the law was introduced (put in effect) in 1998. But its not the verb to use to introduce someone. For that purpose, use presentar. Marcar: While it usually means to mark in some way, it also can mean to dial a telephone, to score in a game, and to notice. Marca is most often brand (with origins similar to the English trademark), while marco can be a window frame or picture frame. MiserÃ a: In Spanish, the word more often carries the connotation of extreme poverty than does the English misery. Notorio: Like the English notorious, it means well-known, but in Spanish it usually doesnt have the negative connotation. Opaco: It can mean opaque, but it can also mean dark or gloomy. OraciÃ ³n: Like the English oration, an oraciÃ ³n can refer to a speech. But it also can refer to a prayer or a sentence (in the grammatical sense). Oscuro: It can mean obscure, but it more often means dark. Parientes: All of ones relatives are parientes in Spanish, not just parents. To refer to parents specifically, use padres. PeticiÃ ³n: In English, petition as a noun most often means a list of names or a legal demand of some sort. PeticiÃ ³n (among other words) can be used as a Spanish translation in such cases, but most often peticiÃ ³n refers to almost any kind of request. Pimienta, pimiento: Although the English words pimento and pimiento come from the Spanish words pimienta and pimiento, they arent all interchangeable. Depending on region and speaker, the English terms can refer to allspice (malageta in Spanish) or a type of sweet garden pepper known as pimiento morrÃ ³n. Standing alone, both pimiento and pimienta are general words meaning pepper. More specifically, pimienta usually refers to a black or white pepper, while pimiento refers to a red or green pepper. Unless the context is clear, Spanish usually uses these words as part of a phrase such as pimiento de PadrÃ ³na (a type of small green pepper) or pimienta negra (black pepper). Preservativo: You might find yourself embarrassed if you go to a store and ask for one of these, because you could end up with a condom (sometimes referred to as a condÃ ³n in Spanish). If you want a preservative, ask for a conservante (although the word preservativo is also used at times). Probar: It can mean to probe or to test. But it is frequently used to mean to taste or to try on clothes. Profundo: It can have some of the meanings of the English profound. But it more often means deep. Propaganda: The Spanish word can have the negative implications of the English word, but it often doesnt, simply meaning advertising. Punto: Point often works as a translation of this word, but it also has a variety of other meanings such as dot, period, a type of stitch, belt hole, cog, opportunity, and taxi stand. Real, realismo: Real and realism are the obvious meanings, but these words also can mean royal and regalism. Similarly, a realista can be either a realist or a royalist. Fortunately, realidad is reality; to say royalty, use realeza.Relativo: As an adjective, relativo and relative are often synonymous. But there is no Spanish noun relativo corresponding to the English relative when it refers to a family member. In that case, use pariente.Rentar: In some areas of Latin America, rentar can indeed mean to rent. But it also has a more common meaning, to yield a profit. Similarly, the most common meaning of rentable is profitable.Rodeo: In the right context, it can mean rodeo, although there are differences between the typical rodeos of the United States and of Mexico. But it can also mean an encirclement, a stockyard, or an indirect path. Figuratively, it also can mean an evasive reply, a beating around the bush.Rumor: When used in a figurative sense, it indeed does mean rumor. But it als o often means a low, soft sound of voices, commonly translated as murmurring, or any soft, vague sound, such as the gurgling of a creek. Soportar: Although it can be translated as to support in some usages, it often is better translated as to tolerate or to endure. Some of the verbs that are better used to mean to support include sostener or aguantar in the sense of supporting weight, and apoyar or ayudar in the sense of supporting a friend.Suburbio: Both suburbs and suburbios can refer to areas outside a city proper, but in Spanish the word usually has a negative connotation, referring to slums. A more neutral word to refer to suburbs is las afueras.TÃ pico: This word usually does mean typical, but it doesnt have the negative connotation that the English word often has. Also, tÃ pico often means something along the lines of traditional or having the characteristics of the local area. Thus if you see a restaurant offering comidas tÃ picas, expect food that is characteristic for the region, not merely typical food.Tortilla: In Spanish, the word can refer not only to a tortilla but also to an omelet.ÃÅ¡ltimo: Alt hough something that is the best can be referred to as lo Ã ºltimo, the word more commonly means last or most recent. Vicioso: Although this word is sometimes translated as vicious, it more often means depraved or simply faulty.Violar, violador: These words and words related to them have a sexual connotation more often than they do in English. While in English a violator may simply be someone who drives too fast, in Spanish a violador is a rapist.