Those Dreaded False Cognates

One thing that was so amusing (at least to me) in my post about learning Serbian was my (sarcastic) assertion that all Slavic languages are alike. While there are certainly similarities between them – for example the word time in Russian is время [vremya] and in Serbian it’s време [vreme] – there are also differences in the form of false cognates.

Cognates are words that are similar in another language, so false cognates are those that are deceptively similar: they sound like one word, but actually mean something completely different. Look at this photo I found on Tumblr the other day:

It means “20 years of pride” in Serbian (January 9 marked the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of Republika Srpska, the Serb entity of Bosnia), but the word понос [ponos] is potentially confusing. You see, it means pride in Serbian, but diarrhea in Russian! Making that error would certainly give quite a different meaning to that image.

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