Amici Falsi

False Friends
Important distinction of the day: In language study, you are often warned to beware of ‘false friends’. A false friend is a foriegn word that looks or sounds very similar to an english word, but means something different. Here’s one I just learned:

feticismo: (pronounced ‘feticheezmo’)
What does that remind you of? ‘Cause it came up during a discussion about the recent identification of Caravaggio’s bones.
In context, I was able to understand the meaning:
A primitive religion that attributes magical powers to certain objects. (ie. Idolatry)
or extravagant irrational devotion

But I wanted to be sure I completely understood the word, and since it sounded so similar to ‘fetishism’ (which also has the above two innocent, if less often used, definitions) I asked if feticismo was ever used in a sexual connotation. My Italian teacher turned red, and then she started to wonder aloud if her previous two students who she read the article with thought she had been talking about sex too. Oops. Turns out it’s not used that way as often as it is in English (if at all). Oh well, now I know. :)


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