The KGB's Potatoes
One of the advantages to being a linguist is that I get to see some of the strange things people do when they need “other language”, but don’t expect people to understand.
One of my favorite video games from childhood was GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. In the game, which is based (very loosely!) on the 1995 James Bond film “Goldeneye”, there’s a level set in a Soviet Archive building. All throughout there are boxes, marked with big red type with “картофель”, pronounced “car-TOE-fell” ([kar’tofʲel]).
When I was a kid, playing the game, I always assumed it meant “records”, or maybe even something cool, like “nuclear weapons” or “spies who crossed the KGB”!
Nope. картофель is the Russian word for ‘potato’. Just nice.
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