For a year in college I lived in Santiago, Chile (hence the reason I often talk about Spanish). Santiago is a great place to learn Spanish. I had other friends who studied abroad and chose trendier destinations, like Italy, but often complained about not being able to speak the local language because everyone spoke English! This was not the case in Chile. I had to speak Spanish to get around easily.
A fond memory from Chile was of going to a food stand called Nuts 4 Nuts. These sugarcoated peanut selling carts spotted the city. I remember cupping the warm treat in my hands during cold July days (I know that sounds weird) while I walked to the Universidad de Chile.
These Nuts 4 Nuts stands were so popular they soon had competition. I started to see Nuts 5 Nuts and Nuts 6 Nuts around town. Trying to explain why this was funny to my host family was futile. They just stared at me like the odd foreigner I was to them.
Cultures often borrow words from foreign languages. We say déjà vu, kibosh and adios. Its nice to share, but often the adoptive parents don’t know how to properly use their newfound word. “Cheeseburger” is a great example. Originally we borrowed the word ‘hamburger’ from German. We recognized ‘ham’, thought that it actually meant ‘a burger of ham’, and so concluded that a ‘burger of cheese’ would be a ‘cheeseburger’. ‘Hamburger’ actually means ‘being from Hamburg’. ‘Burger’ doesn’t mean anything in German and ‘cheeseburger’ is an even further stretch from the original intent.
What other loan words do we use in a completely wrong way?