If you know German, the world is, well, slightly more confusing


While it may be true that if you know Swedish, the world is funnier, I have to admit that my knowledge of German only served to create momentary confusion.

When I saw the headline that the head of BetonSports was arrested, I thought to myself, “Who the heck would have a web site devoted to sports in concrete?” That’s because the German word Beton means “concrete” (the construction material) in English, and the German word Sport means the same as in English.

It took me a few moments to realize that the company’s name is “Bet on Sports”.

Comments (36)
  1. random german says:

    As a kid when I was visiting the US first I found

    all the gift shops there quite funny.

    (gift = poison in German)

  2. It’s not only German word – ‘beton’ is also used in Poland and the meaning is also the same as is Germany…

  3. FelixTheCat says:

    Raymond, you need to get out more.  Go to Vegas and make some sports bets or at least have lunch at the Crossroads.

  4. Murad says:

    ‘Beton’ comes via French, from Latin “bitumen”…by the way.

    http://thetechnophile.blogspot.com

    [I sensed a French influence… I’m always tempted to nasalize the “o”, at least now I know why. -Raymond]
  5. Confucius says:

    Well, in German there is no "sports" but just "Sport". So by that little S at the end of sports, you could tell it’s English. However, please also keep in mind that English is somehow derived from German.

  6. ShyGuy says:

    In Italian, "Betoniera" is the truck used to mix up cement.

    "Bitume" is asphalt.

  7. Schwallex says:

    penisland.net (Pen Island)

    whorepresents.com (Who Represents)

    expertsexchange.com (Experts’ Exchange)

    therapistfinder.com (Therapist Finder)

    molestationnursery.com (Mole Station, NZ)

    cummingfirst.com (Methodist Church)

    ipanywhere.com (IP Anywhere)

    speedofart.com (Speed of Art)

    classicalbum.com  (Classic Album)

    gotahoe.com (Lake Tahoe)

    powergenitalia.com (PowerGen Italy)

    Those have been circulating through zillions of blogs as of lately. I am surprised I am the first one to mention them here.

  8. Boris Zakharin says:

    There is great confusion with pronouns in Hebrew as compared to Russian and English. The Hebrew "Me" means "who", "Who" means "he", "He" means "she". In addition "Ani" means "I" in hebrew, but means "They" in Russian. Of course, I am transliterating. The spellings are different in some of these cases.

  9. Ken says:

    Wow, I live just down the street from the "cummingfirst.com" church.  Who wouldn’t think of that?  I already have to clarify my town is real when I put my address up online.  Is the webmaster for the church incompetent or merely not a Methodist?

  10. Will Rogers says:

    > However, please also keep in mind that English is somehow derived from German.

    Modern English and Modern German are more cousins than the former derived from the latter.  They are both members of the Germanic language family, although English has been much more influenced by French and Latin (as a consequence of the Norman conquest) than German.  Old English, the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, was much closer to Old High German than the modern forms are today.  As someone who has studied Modern German, Old English, and Latin, I find the whole matter of linguistic history fascinating in a satisfyingly geeky way.

  11. Lee Houghton says:

    I heard the product known as the Mist Stick didn’t do too well in Germany.

  12. RADl0PASlV, Prague says:

    I confirm, in Czech ‘beton’ = ‘concrete’ also

  13. Walter says:

    Well, I’m Dutch, and I just did a double take too ;-) BetOnSports would have made more sense (I mean, if you’re going to use StudlyCaps, you may as well be consistent).

  14. macbirdie says:

    Well, being a native Pole is not a piece of cake either. You can buy a hot dog in Poland and it’s always a "hot dog" here. Dog in Polish is "pies". It’s pretty confusing to see "hot pies" outside Poland only to discover that this is a "hot pie" in plural.

  15. Random News says:

    Two weeks ago, I read some teens filled soccor balls with concrete (cement?) and publically challenged people to kick them. A few people were hurt and the kids were arrested.

    I don’t remember which contry that was in, but I wasn’t all that surprised to read Raymond’s translation that Beton == concrete.

    "Germany, sports, concrete, arrests… hmmm, sounds vaguely like what I read two weeks ago!"

    Amazing what tricks the mind can play on you.

  16. Michael Puff says:

    It was Berlin, Germany. :(

  17. Random French says:

    This reminds me of an American friend who met a French girl in California. He took her to the beach and the girl was very excited because she saw a seal. She started to scream: "Phoque", "Phoque", "Phoque". My friend was very embarassed because "phoque" (which means seal in French) sounds very much like f**k…

  18. Larry Lard says:

    >> Well, in German there is no "sports" but just "Sport". So by that little S at the end of sports, you could tell it’s English.

    It’s the same in English as it is in German; the little S at the end actually tells you it’s *American*.

  19. Puckdropper says:

    Ken,

    You run in to people who just don’t think about how things sound before they’re done.  It’s not incompetence as much as it is simply not realizing the /other/ interpretation.

    I wonder if a person is more likely to recognize a 4-7 letter word first in a block of uncapitolized and unspaced text like a URL.  When you look at the list of "misleading" URLs, how long are the words you usually recognize first?

  20. Cheong says:

    [quote]That’s because the German word Beton means "concrete" (the construction material) in English, and the German word Sport means the same as in English.[/quote]

    When reading this, I remembered some people I seen in certain anime pulling large concreate "wheels" connected to a handle,that is supposed to be used to flatten the grounds(football pitch for example)…

  21. Boris says:

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned Boba Fat and Darth Muzzle.

  22. jochen says:

    I’m a german native speaker, and I know English pretty well, so i could have guessed "bet on", but in the first place I was misunderstanding this exactly like you ;-).

  23. Andreas says:

    I remember Americans visiting Germany and breaking out in laughter when they drove by a store which, in huge letters, advertised "BAD DESIGN".

    The store offered bathroom furnitures ("Bad" = "bath"/"bathroom").

  24. John Webber says:

    I always snicker silently driving along the Autobahn A9 between Munich and Nuremburg when I see the exit for the town "Titting". There’s also a town called Tuntenhausen a ways south of Munich ("Tunte" is slang for a homosexual man).

  25. The SZ says:

    But Microsoft is the best: WinQual.microsoft.com

    Qual is Torture in german, and winqual is real torture!

  26. When I read Geoffrey K. Pullum’s PowerGenItalia and PenisLand, I was once again struck by how funny it…

  27. Binsky says:

    Argl…It actually took your blog post for me to realise that what they meant was really Bet On Sports… :S (thanks?)

    Being a Dutch native speaker, I made the same mistake, but did not find out I was wrong yet…

    *goes back to hiding his shame*

  28. rolfhub says:

    >> Well, in German there is no "sports" but just "Sport". So by that little S

    >> at the end of sports, you could tell it’s English.

    > It’s the same in English as it is in German; the little S at the end actually

    > tells you it’s *American*.

    Well, you can’t always tell, enough people don’t seem to know (or care) about little details like this. Often enough, people (for example, here in germany) seem to think that one can simply get the plural for _every_ english word by appending an ‘s’ (many also do it for non-english-words as well, for example one "Pizza", many "Pizzas" (only "Pizzen" is correct plural in german)).

    What also never fails to amuse me (note that I don’t want to ridicule anyone, foreign languages are hard, I know) is when german words are used in english, but with quite a funny pronounciation, for example "Stau" (traffic jam) is very popular among the AFN (american forces network (radio station)) speakers, with a pronounciation that’s just plain funny.

  29. Marcel says:

    many also do it for non-english-words as well, for example one "Pizza", many

    > "Pizzas" (only "Pizzen" is correct plural in german)

    Actually both are correct, all dictionaries I have including the Duden say so.

  30. a visitor says:

    Actually both are correct, all dictionaries I have including the Duden say so.

    you mean: the dudes say so

  31. Vishy says:

    Will Rogers:

    See http://home.ccil.org/~cowan/essential.html for a list of Essentialist Explanations of language.

  32. Schwallex says:

    > I remember Americans visiting Germany and
    > breaking out in laughter when they drove by
    > a store which, in huge letters, advertised
    > “BAD DESIGN”.

    I have to add that in proper German, that should be either “BADDESIGN” or at least “BAD-DESIGN”. (And in *really* proper German, that should be “Badeinrichtung” or “Badgestaltung”.) So even if their design wasn’t bad, their German certainly was.

    P.S.: Most recently, many Americans in Germany found it quite disturbing to see Aldi advertise a sale of “Body bags”. By which they actually meant rucksacks — but you know, the German marketing people are somehow convinced that the English “Body bag” sounds so much cooler than the German “Rucksack”. (Most ironically, noone seems to have told those marketing people that the latter one has been exported into English long time ago, so if they were looking for a cool English word they could have simply stayed with “Rucksack” (^_~).)

    [Yeah, “body bag” always cracks me up. -Raymond]
  33. Martin says:

    Also quite nice in the Win INET API (I think) is HINTERNET, where HINTER means behind. It’s not only the buttocks thing, German also has the nice word "Hinterwäldler" which comes to mind with this.

  34. rolfhub says:

    Another great example are the "power puff girls".

    …..

    "puff" interpreted as german would be "brothel" in english.

    I sure looked a bit astonished upon first seeing the logo with some drawing of very young looking girls next to the word "puff", until it dawned to me that (of course) the word has quite a different meaning in enlish …

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