Dust off a forgotten foreign tongue, debate the best ways to learn another language, pick up some slang in the local lingo, discuss regional dialects... It's all about being multi-lingual, baby.

names that mean something in another language

KateL57

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  • Added on: July 17th, 2008
med= honey in at least a few Slavic langauges
medv(j)ed = bear, kind of "honey" bear
-ev= suffix meaning 's

So of course every time I hear Medvedev I think of a honeybear.

The name of one business school near me means "whoever" in Bosnian.

Have you come across any names that are funny because of what they mean in another language?
Make cay, not war - Kesmen

Arre

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  • Added on: July 17th, 2008
My name is Sierra, which most of you probably know means "mountain" in Spanish (I was named after Sierra Leone, incidentally). Somewhere in the area of 80% or 90% of all Spanish speakers I've ever introduced myself to have pointed this out.

Haci Richard

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  • Added on: July 18th, 2008
I always find the Asian names Yu and Ai entertaining while teaching grammar: Yu is...

When I was in Turkey, one of my co-workers was named Kim, which is Turkish for who. The question "Who's your teacher?" caused a bit of confusion. Another Turkish incident was a bit less funny for the woman concerned: Natasha is Turkish slang for Russian prostitute.
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rambutan

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  • Added on: July 18th, 2008
I got some long, cold stares from my generous Thai hosts in Bkk, when I asked, "Is Ittipon coming by cab?"

"Jai kaab" translates as: that person is a mean, tight arsed, skinflint. The literal translation is "heart narrow". I now use the word 'taxi', instead.
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kulmalukko

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  • Added on: July 22nd, 2008
Finnish and Estonian languages are kindered languages. There is many words, who are used both in Finland and Estonia but the meanings are different.

For example:

In Estonia the word "pulmad" means "weddings".
But in Finland "pulmat" means "problems/difficulties".

In Estonia the word "kalju" means "rock".
In Finland "kalju" means "hairless".

In estonia the word "appi" means "help".
And in Finland "appi" is "father-in-law".

nerokerr

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  • Added on: August 10th, 2008
I'm sure we've all learned that last names often came from something that meant something at one point like an occupation, etc... Smith- from blacksmith or something of the like, Baker- kinda obvious, Johnson- son of John, etc. I never even think about these things because the names have become so commonplace to me. But I find myself thinking about it much more when I translate the last names of people I meet from Germanic countries...

van Deuren- from the doors
van Beuken- from the books
voor de Wind- before the Wind
den Herder- the Shephard
van der Spek- from the bacon
de Boer- the Farmer
Stadhouders- City holder
van Bruggen- from the Bridges
Schaap- Sheep
van Gelder- from Money
van de Geest- from the Mind

ok, I guess those are all Dutch names. I'm blanking on German names at the moment, but it's there as well.
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Corvinus

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  • Added on: August 11th, 2008
Hungarian (like Estonian and Finnish) is a non Indo-European language, which means it's pretty easy to get a few weird looks now and then:

bus - a public conveyance
busz (pronounced the same in H) - f*ck

fuss - a to-do
fusz (pronounced the same in H) - pr*ck

Massachusetts - a state in the U.S.
messzig csusik (similar in H) - "He slides far"

There are numerous others, but they've slipped my mind for now.

moniak

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  • Added on: August 22nd, 2008
Polish and Czech are closely related. That means that at least half of the vocabulary is very similar, but there a lots of so called "false friends", meaning the same word and different meaning.

A couple of examples:
divadlo - Czech: theatre, Polish: a weird person
zachod - Czech: outhouse, Polish: west
wychod - Czech: west, Polish: outhouse
There are a lot of jokes about the Polish/Czech language mishaps.
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Prisa

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  • Added on: August 28th, 2008
I always laugh when I hear the name Asifa in Arabic. It means 'sorry'. And I always think it's sad when a girl is named that.
Allthough it doesn't always translate into 'sorry' I still cant help but make that association right away.
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Tyler79

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  • Added on: November 7th, 2008
"Ben" comes very close to the sound of the Chinese word for "stupid".

Lots of funny days in class with that one!

Michael C

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  • Added on: November 12th, 2008
I was in Chuuk, Micronesia with the Peace Corps ... where "pis kor" means public hair and my home state of Michigan sounded a bit too close to "mishiken", or clitoris.
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  • Added on: January 9th, 2009
I'm not sure if an Indian man with the name of Hardik would view his name as a plus or a minus if he moves to an English-speaking country.
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Viaggero

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  • Added on: January 20th, 2009
Here in the USA there are two that always make me laugh: Chico which means boy in Spanish and Colleen which means girl in Irish Gaelic. Couldn't their parents come up with a name?

rhythm_blues

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  • Added on: February 10th, 2009
I met a woman from Greece who was studying English in the U.S. She was dismayed to learn that her name, Fanny, is hardly ever used in English anymore because it means bottom or rear-end!

There were a number of Japanese students at the school, and many of the young women had names that ended in ko (Yoko, Michiko, etc.) so she decided to go by "Fanniko" instead.

itinerantlondoner

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  • Added on: February 10th, 2009
rhythm_blues wrote:I met a woman from Greece who was studying English in the U.S. She was dismayed to learn that her name, Fanny, is hardly ever used in English anymore because it means bottom or rear-end!

There were a number of Japanese students at the school, and many of the young women had names that ended in ko (Yoko, Michiko, etc.) so she decided to go by "Fanniko" instead.


All I can say to that is she is very lucky she didn't choose to move to the UK instead, where Fanny refers to a rather different body part.
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