Deadly false friends

Deadly false friends

Today, I want to present three expressions that can lead to serious life-and-death-type misunderstandings. Two of them are false friends (English expressions that are used in German with a very different meaning), and one is a very dangerous literal translation.

Body bag

Whereas a body bag in German is a bag to transport your personal belongings on your body (see here and buy here), in English it is a bag used by the police to transport bodies (see here). Therefore, I suggest that you do not ask for a body bag in your favourite London department store on your next visit, because you may raise some eyebrows.

Public viewing

Public viewings were extremely popular during this year’s FIFA World Cup, but only in German speaking countries. There, a public viewing is a gathering in a public place (town squares, pubs, …) to watch football on television with other people, see here. However, a public viewing in (American) English refers to a dead person’s body being available for public viewing, see here, and English speakers may therefore not understand your enthusiasm for public viewings. The correct English expression for watching football with other people in public (something that is not very common in most other countries) is public screening.

No longer with us

At a conference I attended in England this year, a German native speaker made the following mistake in his talk. While he intended to say

Unfortunately, Mr. X is no longer here.

he instead said

Unfortunately, Mr. X is no longer with us.

The second variant implies that Mr. X had died (see here), which was what most of the English-speaking audience understood judging by their reaction. While the colleague in question had left the conference a day before the talk, he was alive and well, and hence still very much with us.


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