Language, Spanish, Translation

False friends beginning with D-E-F (Spanish-English)

Most of the false friends beginning with D, E, or F have very different meanings, so a transliteration would produce a very inaccurate translation. For instance, Su decepción fue evidente does not mean, “His deception was obvious” but rather, “His disappointment was obvious.” If the director of a company has been destituido, he has been “fired” or “dismissed” but is not necessarily “destitute” because he may have been granted a good severance package. And the idiom en absoluto doesn’t mean “absolutely” but rather “absolutely not”.

I omitted excitar ~ “excite” because they are very close cognates, but it is important to keep in mind that excitar/excitado tends to refer to sexual arousal. “Excite/excited” can as well, but the more common meaning is “enthuse/enthusiastic.”

Decepción: “disappointment, disillusionment”
Deception: “behavior intended to make someone believe something untrue”

Desgracia: “misfortune”
Disgrace: “cause of dishonor”

Destituido: “fired”
Destitute: “broke, penniless”

Discutir: “to argue, debate”
Discuss: “converse on a topic”

Disgusto: “annoyance”
Disgust: “revulsion; cause indignation

Distinto: “different”
Distinct: “clear, obvious; different”

Dormitorio: “bedroom”
Dormitory: “student housing”

Educado: “polite”
Educated: “trained, taught”

En absoluto: “no way, not at all”
Absolutely: “for sure, definitely; completely”

En la vida: “never in my life”
In all my life: “in the sum of my experience”

Etiqueta: “tag; standards of politeness”
Etiquette: “standards of politeness”

Experimentar: “to experience; to experiment”
Experiment: “to test; to attempt something”

Fábrica: “factory”
Fabric: “cloth”

Fabricar: “manufacture”
Fabricate: “create, typically with intent to deceive”

Fastidioso: “irritating”
Fastidious: “overly picky, obsessive”

Formal: (in Colombia) “polite, helpful”
Formal: “official; methodical; conventionally correct”

Fútil: “trivial”
Futile: “activity that is sure to be unsuccessful”

Sample text using this vocabulary:
I was disgusted at the director’s deception, the evidence of which was quite distinct. It was a disgrace to the whole dormitory. The investigator, a very educated man, was fastidious in his attention to detail. During our discussion, he said, “The director must have known that his fabrications would be futile.”
“He told me that if we fired him, he would be destitute,” I said.
Absolutely,” said the investigator. “He spent all the stolen money.”

Very bad translation using false friends:
Quedé disgustado con la decepción del director, cuya evidencia era muy distinta. Era una desgracia para todo el dormitorio. El investigador, un hombre muy educado, era fastidioso en su atención al detalle. Durante nuestra discusión, dijo, “El director tuvo que saber que sus fabricaciones serían fútiles.”
“Me dijo que si lo despedíamos, estaría destituido,” dije.
En absoluto,” dijo el investigador. “Gastó todo el dinero robado.”

Back translation of the very bad translation:
I was annoyed by the director’s disappointment, whose evidence was quite different. It was a misfortune for the whole bedroom. The investigator, a very polite man, was irritating in his attention to detail. During our argument, he said, “The director had to know that the things he built would be trivial.”
“He told me that if we fired him, he would be fired,” I said.
Absolutely not,” said the investigator. “He spent all the stolen money.”


15 thoughts on “False friends beginning with D-E-F (Spanish-English)

  1. theinfiniterally says:

    ha! Fun back translation.

    The word desperdida caught my eye from the back of a DJ van the other day. In context, it sounds like some kind of party. Desper makes me think of desperation. The only conclusion I can come to is that a desperdida is a bachelor party.

  2. I had an amusing misunderstanding on a language site.

    She wrote, “At the hospital, there are many people expecting,” but she wasn’t talking about pregnancy.

    When she said, “Estoy embarazada.” — she did not mean embarassed.

    • Yeah, I didn’t even mention embarrassed~embarazada in this list, because that one is the classic false friend pair. Embarazoso can also mean cumbersome or burdensome, though, so maybe I should have it in there.

      In Costa Rica they say, “Ya se mejoró” – “She got better” after someone has a baby. I didn’t like it because it makes pregnancy sound like an illness.

    • I read somewhere that Nikita Khruschev was misunderstood the time he pounded on the table with his shoe and shouted, “We will bury you!” But I don’t remember what he meant to say. No doubt something conciliatory.

      • I read that “I will bury you” is just a folksy way of saying “I will outlive you..” You might say this to your comrade when you lose a vodka drinking contest.

  3. I see clearly that there is a defined meaning: a denotation. I still smell the tendrils of cultural connotation though. education vs educado a person can be talented or be so skillfully practiced as to appear talented. a person can be polite and intelligent yet not educated. formality and forma~l do also mean differently one can be correct in function or polite. yet still there is a feeling both ache for the person who needn’t be proceedurally correct but “correct” in action. I smell a divide wherein some just live conceptually different taking things literally versus spiritually. some are born to this some are this by a life lived in a “society” some are forever coarse and lowly lacking refinement no matter the education/training. surely you’ve mused upon that even if I might have inellegantly put this.

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