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50 Spanish-English False Friend Words

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Because Spanish and English share a lot of words with Latin roots, it's easy to understand Spanish sentences like, "Seattle aprobó un salario mínimo de $15 la hora." But sometimes words with the same origin take a separate path in each language, or words with different origins resemble each other by coincidence. That can mean trouble. You might want to tell someone you don't want to embarrass her and wind up saying, "I don't want to get you pregnant." For your protection, here's a list of Spanish-English "false friends."

The Spanish words in the first column resemble the English ones in the third column, but have different meanings.

Spanish word English translation English word Spanish translation
ACTUAL current, present-day ACTUAL real, efectivo
AMERICANO person from North or South America AMERICAN estadounidense
ASISTIR to attend, be present at OR to assist ASSIST ayudar
BILLóN (US) trillion, (UK) billion BILLION (US) mil millones
BIZARRO dashing, brave, gallant BIZARRE extraño
BOMBERO firefighter BOMBER bombardero
CARPETA folder CARPET alfombra
CASUALIDAD coincidence, chance CASUALTY víctima
CHOCAR strike, collide CHOKE ahogar
CODO elbow CODE código
COLEGIO high school COLLEGE universidad
COMPROMISO obligation, commitment COMPROMISE componenda
CONDESCENDER to comply, agree CONDESCEND dignarse
CONSTIPADO (n.) a cold CONSTIPATED constipado (adj.)
CONTESTAR to answer CONTEST (v.) contender
CORRIENTEMENTE fluently, plainly, flatly CURRENTLY actualmente
DELITO crime DELIGHT delicia, deleite
DESGRACIA mistake, misfortune DISGRACE vergüenza
DISGUSTO annoyance, worry DISGUST asco, repugnancia
DESTITUIDO fired, deprived DESTITUTE indigente
DORMITORIO bedroom DORMITORY residencia universitaria
EMBARAZADA pregnant EMBARRASSED avergonzada
EMPRESA business enterprise, company EMPRESS emperatríz
ENVIAR send ENVY (v.) envidiar
ESTRECHAR to narrow, bring closer together STRETCH estirar, alargar
ESTIMADO esteemed ESTIMATE estimacíon, presupuesto
ÉXITO success, hit EXIT salida
FÁBRICA factory FABRIC tela
GROSERÍA grossness, crudeness GROCERY abarrotería, tienda de comestibles
INTRODUCIR insert INTRODUCE (someone) presentar
LARGO long LARGE grande
LECTURA reading LECTURE conferencia
LIBRERÍA bookstore LIBRARY biblioteca
MANTEL tablecloth MANTEL manto, mesilla
MOLESTAR bother MOLEST abusar (sexualmente)
NUDO knot NUDE desnudo
PARADA stop, e.g. bus stop PARADE desfile
PARIENTE relative PARENT padre
PRETENDER to attempt, to woo PRETEND fingir
PREOCUPADO worried PREOCCUPIED distraído
REALIZAR to come true REALIZE darse cuenta
RECORDAR to remember, remind RECORD grabar
ROPA clothes ROPE cuerda
SANO healthy SANE cuerdo
SOPA soup SOAP jabón
SOPORTAR tolerate, put up with SUPPORT apoyar
SUCESO event SUCCESS éxito
TUNA prickly pear TUNA atún 
 ÚLTIMAMENTE  recently ULTIMATELY al final
VASO drinking glass VASE  jarrón, florero

Gracias a Susana Hernández Araico, Ph. D., por comprobar esta lista.

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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