Language, Spanish, Translation

False friends beginning with B-C (Spanish-English)

I was surprised to learn that in many countries, constipado means “congested with a cold” and that estreñido is the equivalent term to “constipated”. This could be important to know if you get sick in Latin America.

In a similar vein, I became confused while translating a Mexican autopsy which reported that the deceased was de complexión pesada. In English, “complexion” refers to the appearance of the facial skin, and “heavy” is not a logical concatenation. With a little research, I discovered that complexión refers to “build” or “physique.” In other words, the deceased was overweight or stout.

The list below doesn’t include it, but it is worth mentioning that the word cómodo (normally translated “comfortable”) can mean “inexpensive” in certain contexts, particularly in Costa Rica. The English word “comfortable” nearly always refers to ergonomics or to lack of stress.

Billón: “a million millions: 1,000,000,000,000, a trillion”
Billion: “a thousand millions: 1,000,000,000”

Cacerola: “pan, pot”
Casserole: “baking dish; food baked in a baking dish”

Colorado: “red”
Colored: “having color” (Formerly used to allude to people of African ancestry)

Comodidad: “comfort”
Commodity: “economic good, article of commerce”

Complexión: “physique, constitution”
Complexion: “appearance of the skin of the face”

Compromiso: “commitment, engagement”
Compromise: “agreement in which each side makes concessions”

Conductor: “driver”
Conductor: “person who collects fares; orchestra director”

Conferencia: “conference, convention; speech”
Conference: “formal meeting for discussion, convention”

Constipado: “congested; has the flu”
Constipated: “unable to empty his/her bowels”

Conveniente: “suitable, proper”
Convenient: “at hand; suited to one’s purposes or comfort”

Corresponder: “be appropriate; reciprocate; belong”
Correspond: “communicate by letter; match or agree almost exactly”

Cuestión: “issue, matter”
Question: “a sentence eliciting information”


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