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Further False friends

Last time, I looked at the false friends that Spanish speakers of Business English can encounter when talking about health and the body. In this blog, I will extend my investigations to include the linguistic traps to avoid when you’re talking about food.

Meat and Seafood

As mentioned previously, the only time you’re going to say the word cock in polite company is when you’re trying to pronounce the French dish coq au vin. In all other cases, just use the word chicken, whatever the sex of the original victim. Remember that a scallop is a type of shellfish and a langoustine is bigger than you might think; it’s a skinny version of a lobster which is the biggest of the family. For the smaller cousins, the type you can eat six of at a time with a glass of wine or two, you probably need to use prawn in British English or shrimp for Americans. Because our pronunciation is weird, you have to say salmon without the “L” (“SA-mun”) and a T-bone steak so it sounds exactly like a stake in a project. Finally, don’t confuse the strawberry jam you put on your toast with Iberian ham, which is better with fresh bread.

Fruit and Veg

Pronounce the sub-heading above to rhyme with boot (fruit) and edge (veg), and forget about producing all the difficult syllables of vegetables. If you have to make them countable, use veggies. For Americans, the big, purple veggies that are white inside are eggplants, while the British call them aubergines, and zucchinis in US English are courgettes for the Brits, with neither being the same as cucumbers. Beans are both the dried seeds that you stew with chorizo and the long, fresh cases, which, if you’re lucky, we will clarify are green beans or runner beans. Like
beans, chickpeas are often sold dried and need soaking before cooking, whereas peas are usually frozen.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that most types of berry, including strawberries and blackberries, are fruits of the forest, and that a grapefruit is a big citrus fruit with no discernible connection to a grape. Next time, I will finish my tour of English oddities with a look at the dangers of common Business English verbs like introduce; and why you’re unlikely to talk about fabricating or inverting unless you’re a lawyer or an English teacher.

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