One of the more interesting/hilarious reliefs Shannon and I have had while learning Ukrainian are what I think linguists call “false cognates” (anyone who knows this terminology better than me, please correct me if I am wrong). Basically “false cognates” are words that make approximately the same sound in two different languages but have entirely different meanings. A good example of a false cognate in English would be “football”. Moving from American English to about every other language I can think of, American English intends an entirely different meaning for the same sound, namely soccer.
Well, Shannon and I have very much enjoyed learning a number of false cognates in Ukrainian and although we are well aware some of the humor might be lost in context, we still think they are worth sharing. The English words below are italicized and their matching Ukrainian false cognates are in bold. Hope you enjoy them.
1. Shannon often likes to utilize this Ukrainian word when I am talking to one of my brothers. “David, tell that brat that he needs to come visit.” (brother in Ukrainian sounds like brat in English)
2. One of our favorites is holy although it defenitly puts a new spin on the the famous hymn when you realize that Ukrainians hear you singing naked, naked, naked. (holy in English sounds like naked in Ukrainian)
3. If you feel the urge to use foul language, know that it is because your mouth is rotting. (mouth in Ukrainian sounds like rot in English)
4. Shannon often likes to use poop as her go-to negative exclamation. This apparently confuses our Ukrainian students because they will subsequently shrug their shoulders and point at their bellybuttons. (poop in English sounds like bellybutton in Ukrainian)
5. Even though a fart at the dinner table might be bad manners in Ukraine, calling it by name in English will communicate that you feel as though the action was good luck. (fart in English sounds like luck in Ukrainian)
6. This one is my favorite. Shorts are shaw-ti. Yep. Just like you hear it sung in a rap song, shaw-ty, shortie, or shorty. (shorts in Ukrainian sounds like the slang term shaw-ti in English)
7. We find this one a sad irony considering some of the problems of alcoholism in this part of the world, but if you are sick and need to see a doctor you would ask for the liquor. (liquor in English sounds like doctor in Ukrainian)
8. Finally, if someone decides to ask you to do something that your not that excited about doing, but you can’t say no, Ukrainian offers you a backhand with the word maybe. You simply say my boot. (to me, the Ukrainian maybe sounds like ‘my butt’ in English)