As one of the world’s most popular second languages, it comes as no surprise that English has influenced the vocabularies of many different languages across the globe. Sometimes, this has been through loanwords, such as Computer (computer) in German, which are words lifted straight out of one language and used in another.
Slightly less obvious are calques, such as the French courrier électronique (e-mail), which are when a word or phrase is translated literally and used in another language. Somewhat ironically, the word ‘calque’ is itself a loanword, taken directly from the French calque, while ‘loanword’ is a calque, coming from the German Lehnwort.
Perhaps a more confusing example of English’s influence is the emergence of pseudo anglicisms; the use of English words in other languages, but not in the same contexts or with the same meaning as in the original English. These can be rather baffling for language learners, whether they be English people learning a foreign language, or speakers of other languages trying to show off how cosmopolitan and modern they are by using their advanced vocabulary on bewildered native English
While there are, of course, academic discussions and studies as to how and why this phenomenon has grown, I thought instead that I’d like to have a little bit of fun with finding some of the most bizarre examples I could of English words being used in European languages with a completely different meaning to the ones we’re used to on this side of the Channel.
You can read the follow article in our magazine Silly Linguistics and get access to all previous issues at no extra charge