One of the personal pleasures of traveling is hearing familiar sounds that have entirely different meanings. A sound set, a word or series of words, may come from unrelated roots in a language or language family. In other words, regardless of the spelling, what you thought you heard is not what they meant. For example, the sound riba in Hebrew (accent on second syllable to be exact) refers to jam while in Russian it refers, accent on the first syllable, it refers to fish. If a host asks you if you want riba on your sandwich, you might be rather surprised if you aren’t paying attention to the language.
Of course, these plays on roots provide wonderful opportunity for puns. It is known that un oeuf is enough for some people, although I prefer three eggs. If you munch some cacahouètes with your beer, you are eating peanuts, not something wet and stinky from the cat box. A relative of mine, just off the boat from France, was watching a nature movie and remarked “Look at the phoque.” She was referring to a seal, not to the mating activity.
This phenomenon of multiple meaning to similar sounding roots is an ideal way of learning vocabulary. I took an intense Russian course which required me to learn some 50 words a day, an extremely difficult feat considering that all of the roots were new to me. We had the word гордится [gorditcya], which means to be proud. Faced with the fact the English root was so distant from the Russian root, I connected the Russian word to the name of a California town, Gardenia, where I would not be so proud to live in, for no particular reason. The result is that I still remember that name.
I would love to hear other examples from people who have run into confusing root pairs and have lived to laugh at them.