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The False Friend Realization

Legend has it that, once upon a time, a Spaniard landed in Germany with an unsettled stomach and walked into a café to get a comforting tea. And then false friends happened.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, false friends, Spanish, German, infusion, blunders

From Latin īnfundō (to pour in, upon or into), an infusion originally referred to the liquid which had had ingredients steeped in it to extract useful qualities, hence nowadays we still use the word infusion for beverages such as tea. Later on the term slid into medicine to refer to the administration of liquid substances directly into a vein, i.e. transfusion. False friends may not as distant as they might seem. One just has to find the etymological link between them. : )

The Language Ninja

You are abroad, little foreigner. Far away from your country, your native language, and your folks. Whether you are living abroad or traveling with friends, foreigners often stick together and use their common language to communicate, and most of the time they assume that there’s no one around who can decipher their messages. Well… watch out, for the language ninja might be right behind you!

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, embarrassing situations abroad, faux pas, native recklessness

Here are some case studies featuring The Language Ninja in action:

Case study #1 (image above)

I’m on the subway in Berlin on my way to meet a friend. The two Spanish women next to me are exchanging workplace gossip, including some disgusting pranks and sketchy office practices that could get more than one person fired. My friend calls me up, I start talking to her in Spanish while I can see the two women going vampiric pale and sweating more than sinners in a church.

Case study #2

I’m getting groceries in a supermarket in Savonlinna (Finland) and two dark-haired guys stare at me as I walk past them. Spaniard A says to Spaniard B: “Look at that curvy goddess”. I turn around and reply: “¿Gracias?”. Hysteric giggles follow. We end up in a karaoke bar singing hits of the 80s.

Case study #3

I’m in a hostel in Stockholm and introduce myself – in English – to a bunch of friendly Austrian guys. I unpack and do my thing while they resume a heated conversation about their sex lives, their numerous partners and their kinkiest bedroom stories. After half an hour one of the Austrians asks me about the location of the showers and I respond in flawless German. The Austrians burst into hysteric laughter, which takes almost ten minutes to dissipate, and spend the next hour apologizing. Later that day I meet their girlfriends, who insist on me tagging along to the bars that night (#solotravel). The Austrian guys spend the night subtly paying for all my drinks in exchange for my silence on their sex stories.

What about you? Have you ever been busted by a language ninja? : )

Abecedarium

Ruminating, I stumbled upon the fact that using the word “alphabet” to refer to the sequence “a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z” is lexically inaccurate. Etymologically, “alphabet” goes back to the Ancient Greek “alphábetos”, with “álpha” and “beta” being the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.
Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, abecedary, alphabet, abecedarium, Greek
Since English uses Latin letters, the right term to refer to “a b c d” – and so on – should be abecedary, or abecedarium if you’d like to be morphologically pedantic.

These are the things that keep me awake at night.