False Friends and Unnecessary Enemies? American Liberals and Conservatives and European Integration
July 1, 2008
Anyone who has tried to learn a modern European language is familiar with the concept of the ‘‘false friend.’’ Here a word in the new language looks very much like a word in one’s native language, but its actual meaning is so different as to make it dangerous to use. The most famous (if probably apocryphal) example of a ‘‘false friend’’ is from the Berlin Blockade, when Americans, eager to help the German people overcome the deprivations of rationing, organized the collection of food packets. In order to gain maximum credit for the American government in the emerging Cold War, these packets were originally stamped proudly with the words ‘‘Gift of the American People,’’ with ‘‘Gift’’ displayed prominently. The problem, of course, is that while the German language does indeed include the word ‘‘Gift,’’ the word in German means ‘‘poison,’’ which explains why the food packets were less than completely palatable upon first arrival.