5/01/2006

What's this blog about?

This blog is about collecting and discussing examples of a linguistic phenomenon called 'False Friends' in German to English translations and vice versa.

Originally I had wanted to use this very expression for this blog's title, referring to a linguistic situation, where two words or expressions in two different languages - more accurately: their orthographical representation - is equal, but their meaning is not. To give you an example: In English 'pathetic' means something along the lines of 'poor', whereas the German (orthographical) representation stands for 'elevated' or 'solemn' and is being used in situations of great significance, such as the signing of treaties between countries or ceremonial events or similar. (find more examples of false friends in the German False Friends Glossary and the related article)

The two meanings of these - at first glance - identical words couldn't possibly be any more different, could they? Hence, translating one into the other is terribly wrong, isn't it? However, errors like the aforementioned are still fairly common, e.g. in movies, articles, news... you name them. An expression that looks the same in one language doesn't necessarily have to have the same meaning (although some do). The two may look similar, but are of a completely different nature - they are indeed 'false friends'. (In greater detail, the expression used here is a brilliant capture of that exact phenomenon, as 'false friends' is not too an exact denotation, either...)

So, with this blog I would like to collect and discuss some of the most frequent translations errors known as 'false friends'. Only, I wasn't able to use that title for this blog, as someone else had already taken that name. I could have offered James H my services in contributing to his blog, but he (or they?) isn't too outspoken about themselves (and apparently not too active, either). Hence, I was a bit reluctant in contributing to their blog and had to come up with a different name.

The challenge now was to think up something close enough to capture that same idea without falling for the need to use the same expression - in fact, I was to find a false friend to 'false friends'! ;-) I came up with 'fine friend', referring to the expression "What a fine friend you are!" (which, in fact, means that this fictitious person isn't a friend at all). To me, this is the closest approximation to the original expression, hopefully retaining the essence of the metaphor, while differing on the orthographical level.

What do you think? Have I pulled this one off? For starters, you and I could begin with discussing the very naming of this blog with regard to whether or not I met the above described challenge. You tell me... :-)

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