Saturday, March 8, 2008

Open mouth, insert foot

Sometimes it's hard being multilingual. You're busy making your way happily through life, when all of the sudden you trip over a linguistic stumbling block, publicly embarrassing yourself (much to everyone else's amusement).

That's what happened to my German professor this morning. We were busy discussing things that are typically Swiss, and one of my classmates didn't know what rösti was. Now, my German professor is bilingual German-French, and is English is usually excellent. But today, well... he had a problem with false friends.

(A brief explanation for those who don't speak French -- most adjectives end in -é, -ée, -és or -ées. These all translate into English as the ending -ed. So "plié" is "folded", "chuchoté" is "whispered", etc.)

So my professor was explaining that rösti is made out of potatoes that are "râpées". But instead of choosing to render that by "grated" potatoes, he translated it as "raped" potatoes.


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