In Germany we found it unfortunate the the word for “the” is “die”. In a country that is known for concentration camps, mass extermination of Jews and starting a World War, it is unnerving to see large signs that have phrases like “Die Checkpoint Charlie” or “Die Menschen in Deutschland” (the German people). For English speakers, such sentences conjure up the wrong emotions.
We had never thought about our own language having simple words that had morbid meanings elsewhere. So it surprised us when we were in Amsterdam and learned (from one of the devoted potheads at The Flying Pig. The guy wasn’t even a guest. He was just a local who basically lived in the “Pig’s” Smoke Room) that the word “lijk” (pronounced “like”) in Dutch, means “corpse”.
Young Americans of course tend to throw out the word five or six times per story. So when we talk, he constantly heard, “dead body” flying from our mouths. His example story of what he heard was “I went to the corpse store today and bought, dead body, 5 pairs of shoes and, dead body a new shirt but maybe it was too expensive and I should return it. But tonight I have dead body a date. Well it’s dead body a date but we’re not really that serious so maybe I shouldn’t call it a date”.
It’s always funny to learn what you sound like to foreigners. And the German’s are not alone in having words that elicit alarm in other places.