Monday, September 05, 2005

Not-so-false friends

When learning a foreign language, one is frequently warned about false cognates, or "false friends," namely words that sound like they'd mean something in English that they don't. Examples include bald ("soon", not "hairless") and Gift ("poison," not "present") in German or journée ("day," not "journey") in French.

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Nuevo Mundo, the Spanish-language supplement to the San Jose Mercury News, and read about the thousands of damnificados associated with Hurricane Katrina. The word means "injured," not "damned" as one might expect. But when I consider the magnitude of this horrific disaster for which our country was so completely unprepared, I cannot help but wonder if the latter translation really is more accurate.

My heart goes out to all my fellow Americans who have been affected by this terrible catastrophe.

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