English words invented in other languages

Pseudo-anglicisms are words that seem like they’re part of the English language but aren’t. They’re terms created by speakers of other languages or words that do exist in English with a completely different meaning.

Blue – Argentina

Yes, blue does exist in the English language and everyone knows what it means. But in Argentina, after the currency controls (known informally as “exchange clamp”), the parallel market started being called “blue”, and dollars bought in “caves” (grey market), “blue dollars“.

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Friki – Spain and Latin America

In English, we have geek and nerdThe latter, in Spanish, would be an empollón (Spain), someone who studies a lot and enjoys it. But geeks in Spain and many Latin American countries are called frikis (from English “freak”).

The differentiation is based on geeks being more related to technology (techies or tech geeks) and frikis would be movie/TV buffs and comics/ video game lovers and fanatics. Geek Pride Day is even translated as Día del Orgullo Friki.

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Classic music – Japanese, Korean, and Turkish

In Japanese and Korean, they refer to classical music as classic music. Klasik müzik in Turkish.

The good thing about the English language in this case is that you can tell “a classic” from “classical” music.

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Parking – Greek, Italian, Spanish

“Parking” is, obviously, a verb. But in many languages, when they say it, they actually mean a “parking lot” or a “car park”.

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Smoking – Spanish, Danish, French, Russian

Those are just some of the languages that feature the term “smoking” meaning “tuxedo”. It’s even been adopted by the Spanish language as esmoquin.

Why “smoking”? It is, as you may have noticed, related to tobacco. In the XVII century, a smoking jacket was exactly that: a jacket you’d ware while smoking.

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Tenis – Mexico

In Mexico, tennis is a sport but it’s also a term to refer to sneakers. When they say unas tenis, they mean “a pair of sports shoes”.

This also happens in French and Portuguese.

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Zapping – French, Dutch, German, Spanish

In several languages, the act of changing channels to see what’s on is called zapping or even turned into a noun as in hacer zapping (doing zapping).

In English, it’s always a verb and there a few other common terms for this activity such as channel-hopping or channel-surfing.

In Dutch and German, it’s zappen; in French, zapper; and in Spanish, zapear.

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Mister – Spain and Italy

¿Ever watched a football match in Spanish or Italian and heard the term “mister”? They’re not talking about any man but a team’s coach.

In Latin America they use entrenador (trainer) or DT (director técnico, literally “technical director”).

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Salaryman – Japan

The Japanese love their land and their language but they also love borrowing terms from English. Sometimes, they even create them.

A salaryman isn’t an English word but it doesn’t sound Japanese either. It’s a new word they’ve invented to refer to employees.

Office ladies are ofisu redi (even though it sounds like “office ready” due to the Japanese lacking the sound of the “L”). It’s often abbreviated “OL”.

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Note – Japan and Korea

As you can tell from the famous manga/anime series Death Note, for Japanese and Koreans, a note is a notebook.

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Top – Brazil, France, Latin America

In these regions, when something is top, it’s the best.

You can tell it comes from the same English word but its usage is different.

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Face control – Russia

This one’s really funny: in Russia, if you go dancing, you might get “face controlled”.

The term feyskontrol is used for the act of checking a person’s appearance before allowing entrance.

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Coca – Vietnam and Latin America

Spaniards would think they’re talking about cocaine but in Latin America, coca is short for Coca-Cola (instead of English “Coke”).

On the other side of the world, the Vietnamese use it too.

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Puenting, balconing – Spain

Apparently, “bungee-jumping” was too complicated (they’re also supposed to be different kinds of activities) so in Spain, they created puenting (from Spanish puente, bridge).

They also use balconing for jumping off a balcony!

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Shopping – Latin America

In Latin America, you “go to the shopping” to “do shopping”.

Another verb turned into a noun. They also call malls or shopping centers, shoppings.

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Movie titles: Worst Spanish translations