Meow! Miau! Nyan!

I happen to be obsessed with a little Japanese kitty who has a Pop Tart for a body and leaves a rainbow trail every time he moves. His name is Nyan, and he stars in a simple but deceivingly addictive video game of the same name. At first I thought the kitty’s name was Nyan just because . . . well, it was. But it turns out that nyan is the sound cats make in Japan.

In English, we’re used to our moos and oinks and woofs and meows, but animals don’t make the same sounds in other countries. Or, rather, the people speaking the languages don’t interpret the sounds the same way.

Take our Nyan cat, for example. In Japan, he says nyan. In the United States, he says meow. In Germany, it’s miau; and, in France, it’s miaou.

Here are other examples of what animals say across the globe:

Bird
English: tweet
French: cui cui
Greek: tsiou tsiou
Portuguese: pio
Swedish: pip-pip

Cow
English: moo
Finnish: ammuu
French: meuh
Japanese: mau mau
Spanish: meee

Dog
English: woof
French: ouah
German: wau
Greek: gav
Japanese: wan

Rooster
English: cock-a-doodle-do
French: cocorico
Hebrew: coo-koo-ri-koo
Japanese: ko-ke-kok-ko-o
Portuguese: cucurucu

Frog
English: ribbit
Dutch: kwak kwak
Finnish: kvaak
Italian: cra cra
Japanese: kero kero

pig
English: oink oink
French: groin groin
German: grunz
Japanese: boo boo
Russian: hrgu-hrgu

Want to learn more?
Here’s the page where I found all of these lovely words. Want to know the noise a donkey, moose, or crocodile makes? Check it out.

Here’s a link to a great ESL page where you can hear sound clips of native speakers saying the animal sounds.

Denglish, Franglais, Germish, and Spanglish – English words find new life across the globe

Lesson: How English words evolve in other languages

Last time we discussed false friends, words that look the same or similar to words in other languages, but have different meanings. Related to false friends are pseudo-anglicisms. These are English words other languages adopt, but use in ways English speakers would likely misunderstand.

Here is a list of some interesting pseudo-anglicisms:

pseudo-anglicism foreign definition
autostop (Greek) hitchhiking
baskets (French / Romanian) sneakers
beautyfarm (German / Italian) spa
college (Finnish) sweater
desk  (Japanese) title  for office worker
dressman (German) male model
face control (Russian) checking if a person looks appropriate (a common practice in Russian night clubs)
funeralmaster (German) undertaker
gadgets (Italian) goodies
gimmick  (Filipino) a night out with friends
golf (Italian) sweater
handphone (Korean) cell phone
handy (German) cell phone
junk  (Dutch) drug addict (In English it would be “junkie”)
magnetron (Dutch) microwave oven (sounds more like a superhero name to me)
mansion (Japanese) condominium apartments
pocket (Dutch) paperback book
relooking (French) makeover
shampooing (French) shampoo
slang (Filipino) a strong foreign accent
skin scuba (Korean) scuba diving
smart (Japanese) skinny
speaker / speakerine (French) Announcer (radio, TV, railway)
style (Vietnamese) Appearing teenage, playful, modern
talkmaster (German) talk show host
topfit  (Dutch / German) physically fit
twen (German) a person in his/her twenties

Some of these I really love. Wouldn’t it sound good to say, “I won’t be back until tonight, honey. I’m going to the beautyfarm,” or, “I’ll get you your stupid food in a minute. Let me throw it in the MAGNETRON!!!”

It’s amazing how much of  American culture we have exported. (Though it’s frightening to think how many people in foreign countries may know who Snooki is. On behalf of America, sorry about that one.)

For your enjoyment, here is a list of more pseudo-anglicisms.