False Cognates – Sanctuary/Santuario

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The term “false-cognate” is sometimes used incorrectly for “false friend”. False cognates are a pair of words in the same or different languages that are similar in form and meaning but have different roots. That is, they appear to be or are sometimes considered cognates whensanctuary in fact they are not.

The mistranslation of a false cognate may not only lead to academic and linguistic mistakes, but even to real life conflicts.

One of these cases is the television coverage made by the Spanish television during the Vietnam War, in which the Spanish reporter informed that the American forces were “bombing the SANCTUARIES of the Vietnamese guerrilla”. This item provoked a huge [and unfounded] media’s spin…

Here is the story: after the American media informed on TV that the US forces had “detected and attacked the sanctuaries of the Vietnamese fighters (i.e. their hiding and refuge places), the reporter decided to translate the term to the Spanish word “santuario”, which means “sacred or holy places”…
According to the”NTC’s Dictionary of Spanish False Cognates” by Marcial Prado:
“Sanctuario” and “sanctuary” share the meaning of “shrine, temple”. “Sanctuary also means “refugio”, “asilo” (for persons)
“Buscar asilo en, acogerse a = to seek sanctuary in”

This is yet another example of the DEVASTATING EFFECT of MISTRANSLATION and MISINTERPRETATION of WORDS…

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