False friends in Medical English by Jonathan McFarland


False friends (faux amis) are pairs of words that look or sound the same in two languages, but have different meanings. One kind of false friends can occur when two speakers speak different varieties of the same language. Speakers of British English and American English sometimes have this problem. George Bernard Shaw commented: “England and United States are two countries divided by a common language”. But today we are going to talk about false friends between different languages, like ENGLISH and SPANISH.

If you have caught a cold and go to a Chemist and ask for something for your constipation you will be given a laxative.

 CONSTIPATED = ESTREÑIDO: “I am constipated”
CONSTIPADO = COLD: “I have catch a cold”

“The actual President of Spain is Rajoy”.” Sorry, I think you mean present”.

ACTUAL = REAL. “This is the actual case”.                                           ACTUAL = PRESENT: “The present President of Spain is Rajoy”.

The Doctor assisted the Congress on AIDS. The nurse attended the patient.

ASSIST = ATENDER: “The nurse assisted the patient”. ASISTIR = ATTEND: “The Doctor attended the Congress on AIDS”.

“Can you pass me the carpet please?” “It is under your feet. Don’t you mean the folder?”

CARPET = ALFOMBRA: “The carpet is under your feet”. CARPETA = FOLDER: “Can you pass me the folder please?”

“You look very embarrassed.” “No, I am 8 months pregnant.”

EMBARRASSED = AVERGONZADA: “I am very embarrassed”.

EMBARAZADA = PREGNANT: “I am 8 months pregnant”.

“Was the operation an exit?”. “The operation went very well; it was a great success.”

EXIT = SALIDA: “The exit is over there”.
ÉXITO = SUCCESS: “Was the operation a success?”

“You look very sane.” “I hope so! I hope I don’t need to visit the psychiatry department. I feel healthy.”

SANE = CUERDO, EN SU SANO JUICIO: “He is sane, he doesn’t need to go to the psychiatrist.
SANO = HEALTHY: “ I feel very healthy”

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