What is a False Friend?
Before coming to Germany I had never heard of the expression “false friend” before. I soon learnt through my mistakes! There are some words in English which sound or look similar in German, but have a different meaning. This can cause confusion, if not, on occasions embarrassment.
You can find a list of the most common ones in every English school book or check out the link: www.englisch-hilfen.de.
I once embarrassed myself at a party when a German friend told a joke about a “Präservativ”. I thought he was talking about “jam” (Konservierungsmittel) only to be told he was actually talking about condoms!! No wonder I didn’t get the joke!
Here are some False Friends to be aware of:
backside: das Hinterteil die Rückseite: back
bodybag: der Leichensack die Bodybag : mono-strap backpack
chef: der Küchenchef der Chef: boss
gift: das Geschenk das Gift: poison
If a German were sitting in a restaurant and heard you say: “Did the boss give you a gift for your birthday?”, he or she may be a little worried!