by Tatiana  

PhotoIt is interesting how similar sounding words mean different things in different languages. I wonder how it came about. Maybe a long time ago a group of friends visiting a foreign land dropped a word in a conversation, while speaking their native tongue. The natives heard it, liked the sound of it and decided to adopt it in their language. However, because they did not know what that word meant, they came up with a whole different meaning for it.

Take for example батон. In Russian it means an oblong loaf of white bread. However in English button, which sounds similar, has a completely different meaning.

Я люблю запах свежевыпеченного батона! I love the smell of a freshly baked loaf of white bread!

The word батон comes to Russian language from French bâton, which means stick, hence the elongated form of this particular bread loaf.

Nomбатон батоны
Genбатона батонов
Preбатоне батонах

There can also be «батон колбасы» “sausage loaf/stick” or «батончик» a candy bar.

— Что в магазине покупать?
— Возьми хлеб, молоко и батон варёной колбасы.
“What should I get at the store?”
“Get some bread, milk, and a bologna loaf.”
Шоколадный батончик «Сникерс»: съел и порядок! The Snickers chocolate bar: eat it and you're golden!

I remember when I first started learning English in primary school; I had this girl, Nastya, in my class. She was an “A” student and really good at languages. One time we were working on an exercise together and she decided to play a joke on me. She kept asking me different questions about батон, interchanging the meanings between English and Russian. Even though I knew what button meant in English, I kept falling for it. She would say:

Ты голодная? Хочешь батон? Are you hungry? Would you like a loaf of bread?

When I, being gullible, would say “sure,” she would laugh and exclaim:

Ты пуговицы ешь? You eat dress buttons?

I wonder whatever happened to that girl...


Comment from: Edgar [Visitor]

Here’s a nice picture of a baton compared to a baguette which is longer.

Don responds: Excellent link. Thanks!

03/04/10 @ 15:17
Comment from: Brian [Visitor]

It also reminds me of the English word baton, which is a stick that a drum major carries.

03/04/10 @ 12:07
Comment from: Edgar [Visitor]

It was always my impression that this word was taken directly from French because that is what the word means in French; it is used interchangeably with “baguette” to describe a longish loaf of white bread.

03/02/10 @ 13:55
Comment from: P [Visitor]

Well, in portuguese we have ‘batom’, which sounds exactly like ‘батон’ except for the ending ‘m’. It means lipstick, and cannot be used in any other way. :)

03/02/10 @ 10:16
Comment from: Vladimir [Visitor]

>>>«батон колбасы» “sausage loaf/stick”

In this case I would add that saying “палка колбасы” (sausage stick) is much more widespread than “батон колбасы”

03/02/10 @ 03:47

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