If I ever again accompany my husband to a medical conference in Spain, and want to tell my hosts that I am embarrassed (as he often makes me), I should not say embarazada, for that word means ‘pregnant’, which at my age would be unusual. Such false friends can add to the gaiety of foreign travel.
Among false friends, I must confess to assuming, all my adult life, that Formica, the kitchen laminate, had something to do with the ant, formica in Latin. It came as a shock last week to discover that the inventors in 1913 simply meant Formica as a substitute ‘for mica’.
Mica was an electrical insulator — the original purpose of Formica. In my defence, it is true that Formica, fabric coated with resin, did use bakelite as a resin.