I've always been interested in how the meaning of words can change when they migrate to other languages. For example, the English word knots, as in the unit of velocity of a ship, is actually a kind of play on words, and originally was an abbreviation of "nautical miles per hour." However, when it was translated into Spanish, it lost its connection to that original meaning, and became nudos, which is just a knot of rope.
I recently learned that the word for oatmeal (the hot breakfast cereal so traditional in English-speaking countries) is harina de avena in Spanish. This is interesting because the word meal is defined as follows.
- The edible whole or coarsely ground grains of a cereal grass.
- A granular substance produced by grinding.
In the case of oatmeal, the meaning is obviously that of "whole grains," since the flakes of oat are not ground at all. However, the Spanish word harina, according to the DRAE, always refers to the product of grinding, that is, to a powder. This is the meaning of meal in cornmeal, but not in oatmeal. Therefore, the Spanish term literally means "ground oats," while the original English does not.
Can you think of similar examples of such semantic drift, in either direction'