False friends: constipation/constipated

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False friends: constipation/constipated

Post by Kangas on Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:31 am

Sometimes languages can get us in serious trouble. Embarassed

Some words have very similar spelling in two different languages, leading people to think they have the same meaning in both of those languages, however that meaning might be totally different and sometimes gets them into very awkward situations. Shocked ... we call these words "false friends".

Here's an example of false friends in English and Portuguese: Constipação/Constipado and Constipation/Constipated. They look very similar don't they? Well but they certainly don't mean the same thing ...

In English, constipation is a problem in the bowels that causes faeces to harden and dry leading to a very difficult and infrequent evacuation, which would be translated to Portuguese as "prisão de ventre". In Portuguese however, constipação it's usually regarded as the common cold. In the case of constipated and constipado it's the same thing, contipated means someone who suffers from constipation, in Portuguese, "ter prisão de ventre", while constipado means someone who has a cold.

According to Ciberdúvidas da Língua Portuguesa, both words (constipation/constipação) come from the latim word constipatio, which means "to tighten, to narrow". However different languages ended up using it to describe different situations.



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