False Friends Explained – “bald vs bald”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of the most neglected series ever: False Friends Explained.
And the words we’ll talk about today look so incredibly similar, that they look identical.

bald vs bald

 

Now, I’m not trying to find drama where there is none – even though they look identical, German bald and English bald are used in so vastly different domains that they don’t really cause confusion or misunderstanding.
Still, I thought it could be fun to take a look at where these two words come from and also take the chance and talk a bit about the world of going bald in German. A world I know nothing about. My golden surfer locks are as full and curly as when I was 23 last year… ish.
Anyways, let’s jump right in…

And we’ll start with the German side bald.

The German bald

Most of you probably know that the German bald means soon. And just like soon, its “span” is quite flexible ranging from within a few years to within the next half hour.

  • Ich glaube, wir werden bald mit unserem Computer befreundet sein.
  • I believe, we’ll be friends with our computer soon.
  • Dein Vortrag ist ECHT interessant, aber ich müsste bald mal auf Klo.
  • Your presentation is REALLY interesting, but I might have to go to the bathroom soon.

I think bald might be on average a tiny little bit further in the future than soon. Or at least in the common good bye phrase

  • Bis bald.
  • See you soon (“until soon”).

The German version would not fit if you’re about to see the person within the next few days.
But overall, bald and soon line up pretty well and there’s not much to explain so let’s get to the interesting part… the origin.
And bald is actually related to the English word bold. And we actually don’t need much mind yoga to see the connection.
Go ahead and try: what does bold have to do with the idea of soon.
Take a second and see if you can find the connection.
I will run my fingers through my golden, curly hair in the meantime.

wow.. so soft and yet determined

So, do you have an idea? If not, don’t worry. Sometimes we miss the most obvious things. I for example miss out on a lot of obvious Thaipos while editing.
Anyway, the connection is that someone who is bold or acts boldly will act without much hesitation. So he or she will act… soon. Or in German: bald.
German bald once meant the same as bold. And we can actually still find remains in names like Leopold or Archibald or the term der Witzbold, which is a common word for person who likes making (bad) jokes.

  • Thomas ist voll der Witzbold.
  • Thomas is a buffoon/joker/jester.

Eventually, mutig took over much of the idea of bold and bald focused on the time aspect.
Now, while we’re at it.. the origin of bald and bold might be the massively ancient Indo-European root *bhel which was about swelling. That’s the root of words like ball and for a connection to bold just think of two people puffing up their chest to appear brave :).
Cool.
So that was the German bald. Now let’s look at the English version.

English bald

The English bald is pretty much the opposite of what I am, thanks to my golden, curly surfer boy hair :).
And do you remember the origin of bold we just mentioned? The family of ball?
Well, bald might belong to that family as well. Like… “Oh no, I think am getting balled.”
But that’s just one theory science has.
Another one connects bald to a equally ancient root that was about shiny, white. Which would also make sense, because a bald head is shiny.
But it doesn’t really matter, after all. History is only fun and helpful as long as its fun and helpful. #fact
What matters is how to say bald in German.
Well, there is the adjective kahl, which is the German brother of callow and describes the idea of bare, bleak, naked and it is not limited to heads.

  • Im November sind die Bäume und Äcker kahl.
  • In November, trees and fields are bleak, bare.
    (I feel like my choices of adjectives are off. What’s a good way to say that in English? Help :)
  • Seit dem Unfall habe ich am Hinterkopf eine kahle Stelle.
  • Ever since the accident I have a bare spot on the back of my head.
  • Marias Vater wird langsam kahl.
  • Maria’s dad is slowly going vegan.

Yeah… … … just checking if you’re still paying attention ;).
So kahl is one option to talk about a bald head in German. But there’s a better one. Because German actually has a word for specifically that. Of course.
It’s the noun die Glatze and you getting one and having one are the most common ways to say going bald and being bald.

  • Thomas hatte lange Angst, dass er eine Glatze kriegt.
  • For a long time, Thomas was scared of going bald (getting a bold head).
  • Maria’s brother will be bald soon.
  • Marias Bruder hat bald eine Glatze.
  • Die glatte Glatze glänzt in der gelben Sonne.
  • The smooth bald head is glowing in the yellow sun.

And some of you might have noticed it … the last example actually gives us clues as to why Glatze is called Glatze :).
Glatze, glatt (flat, even, slippery), glad, glow and gelb and yellow – they all come from the drastically ancient Indo-European root *ghel which carried the idea of shiny.
And you know what else is shiny?
My golden surfer locks!
Which I have to comb now. I have to comb them like 6 times a day, you know.
But we’re done anyway I think. This was our look at the false friends pair German bald and English bald. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

Oh by the way… have you noticed the little summary box at the top of the article? The plan is to add them to all the articles on the site so you get an idea of the words you’ll learn. Let me know what you think about it :)

Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for daily shots of me and my beautiful hair: @goldenboy68+1

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tmurrin1979
tmurrin1979
1 year ago

Hi Emanuel! I wanted to let you know that the answer “die Glatze” is being flagged as incorrect for the question “What is the word for bald head in German?” From a reader who is going bald, this was a fun lesson! ;)

gallia_a
gallia_a
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Probably related to this, in the last question “kriegen/bekommen” are marked as verbs that do NOT make sense with the noun “die Glatze”, but one of the examples is “Thomas hatte lange Angst, dass er eine Glatze kriegt.”
Is this an issue with the exercise? Otherwise, I would be confused…

JudyHatton
JudyHatton
3 years ago

Ps. I love your articles. Such fun. My german is poor but you really make stuff memorable.

JudyHatton
JudyHatton
3 years ago

I don’t think in English you would describe trees in winter as bleak: a better example from nature would be hills or moors, although trees, for sure, are bare in winter, so that adjective works. Also bleak has connotations of desolation and wildness and hostility which fits more aptly with open, treeless places and spaces. To go further – I am an English teacher! – it’s a “pathetic fallacy, “ type of word, best exemplified in the novels of Thomas Hardy where landscape is used to emphasise the emotional state of the characters in the books. Read “Tess of the D’’urbervilles”. .

Starbuck
Starbuck
9 months ago
Reply to  JudyHatton

I would also suggest the trees and fields could be “barren” in this case :)

Amanda
Amanda
3 years ago

Hallo!
I just wanted to say thank you to the German Is Easy website and to the community. I have learned that my lessons are being financed by some of the members here and I want to express my deep sincere gratitude for your generosity. I’m very excited for this opportunity!
Thank you so much!

-Amanda

Cristal
Cristal
3 years ago

I just have to say thank you, thank you so much, to those who donate a little extra to this website so that people with not as many opportunities (like myself) can learn German as well. You all are honestly some amazing people. Again, with all of my heart, thank you so much. :)

Annasc
Annasc
3 years ago

Hey just wanted to thank all the members who donate money to this website! This gives such hopeless people as I am a chance to learn my favourite language as well.
I’m starting to dive into the articles – 364 more ahead!

Annasc
Annasc
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Whaa.. ? Number 500? Why then in my profile I see only 364? Where are the other 13.. something? :))

Annasc
Annasc
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Wow thats a huge number! How can I make sure I read all of them? I have a strong love for completing stuff :DD

Annasc
Annasc
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oh! Alright, thanks!

Richard Rotella
Richard Rotella
3 years ago

just some trivia: kahl relates to the Latin “calvitium”= bald headed (also “calvo” in Italian and Spanish)

Jazz
Jazz
3 years ago

Glosary is a great idea

Erebmuneht
Erebmuneht
3 years ago

Not related to the article, but I’m having trouble figuring out the meaning of a line from Hindemith’s Das Nusch-Nuschi:
“da Wildheit du und Aufruhr in mein Herz gebracht hast.” It’s got me really confused, and I would really appreciate an explanation. The whole sentence is “Grausame, nun, da Wildheit du und Aufruhr in mein Herz gebracht hast, sitzest du ruhig vor der Tür and richtest lächelnd deiner Haare Locken.”

Erebmuneht
Erebmuneht
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

So both “Wildheit” and “Aufruhr” are accusative? I was thinking Wildheit was the object and “du und Aufruhr” was the subject, which made very little sense to me. Thanks!

Maria Augusta de Luca
Maria Augusta de Luca
3 years ago

Thank you for the explanation and exercises. Bis Bald

Philip
3 years ago

I don’t think Bis bald is an appropriate thing to say.

Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
3 years ago

Thema:
Why aren’t facts bald and lies bare??
VORSCHLAG-
Vielleicht irgend wann ein “Gespräch über “ur”? (Wenn nicht schon getan)

Ursprung – Ursache -Urwald -Urmensch & ein möglicher Zusammenhang mit Ur-Stadt “Ur” ?
Woher stammt -Ur____? Verwendet andere Sprachen “ur”? Oder so eine “Quelle” Bezeichnung?

——————————————————————–
”Another one connects bald to a equally ancient root that was about shiny, white. Which would also make sense, because a bald head is shiny.”
it doesn’t really matter, after all.”
“History is only fun and helpful as long as it(‘)s fun and helpful. ”
–ahh -okay

“It’s like deja-vu, all over again.” – Yogi Berra

Hmm, Ab wann ist die Geschichte nicht mehr nützlich?
Geschichte kann aber, sehr peinlich sein.

Heute fällt mir gerade etwas zutreffendes ein.
Aus der deutschen Geschichte kommt der unterhaltsamer Vorname:
”Baldur” – ein Unikat (mit ur am Ende)

Jetzt ist der Name wahrscheinlich nicht mehr so salonfähig im deutschen Sprachraum. ??
Baldur ist ein männlicher Vorname.

Herkunft und Bedeutung des Namens
Baldur ist eine Namensvariante von Balder, der bei den Asen der Gott der Sonne, des reinen Lichtes, des Frühlings, des Guten und der Gerechtigkeit war.

Baldur von Schirach eine peinliche Geschichte.

Jinksy
Jinksy
3 years ago

Love the check box at the top. To teach something it’s best to say it at the start, during the lesson and summarise at the end again (assume we are all slow!).

Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
3 years ago

Thema : Missing out on a lot of obvious Thaipos while ”editing”.
Verdammt der Akku ist gleich
leer!

If you wanna see a Nackedei,
you fly to Thailand.

Google EAV Samurai (original Musikvideo)

Herr Meier fährt in Urlaub nur
nur nach Bangkok oder Singapur.
Doch nicht wegen Landschaft,
wegen weiblicher Bekanntschaft
Zahlst du mi cash,
hupf i aus der Wäsch’,
Text: Thomas Spitzer
——————————————————————————————

Bald und Bald
sind gleich genannt
doch –
mit einander kaum bekannt.

German Bald soll Zeit Begriff
English Bald sei ein-Leb wohl !!
dem Haar Abschliff!

AbG Werke & Trunkenbold Tratscherei VEB

Elsa
Elsa
3 years ago

Helooooo,
Oh, I got beat today by a few other readers ;)
Typhoes:
“The German version would not fit if you’re about to see the person within the next few days” – this is not really a typo but a kind of misuse of the word fit (probably influenced by the German “passen”?). A better term would be “work”, as in “The German version would not work if you’re about to see the person within the next few days”
“Thomas was scared of going bald (getting a bold head)” – you do mean a bald head, don’t you?

Your questions about English words have already been very satisfactorily answered!

I got all your test questions right :)))))

And I think the summary box is a great addition, as you can make your mid up immediately as to whether you want to read about that particular topic now or leave for later!

I think that’s all and let me know if you need any advice on good hair products for your golden surfer locks!
Bis bold!

Manes
Manes
3 years ago
Reply to  Elsa

Very good use of the English: bare trees in winter; joker, jokester is correct. The only mistake was calling your hair “them“. In english, when speaking of your hair as a whole entity it is always singular. Very common mistake for a German speaker. My hair is thick and blonde and I need to go comb it. Reminds me of the use of the :“ I have an apple in the hand, “ = direct German to english translation. BUT, we say we have an apple in our hand, my hand etc. Some stuff does not directly translate, we all found that out~!!

0fqj3
0fqj3
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yup.

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
3 years ago

The to
Fields and woods are bare in winter. They are other things too but bare is spot on.
PS I’m noticing that I am learning two languages in these posts, American as well as English (my last two books were translated into American for the US market!). I am half Scots half English with an English degree so if anyone is interested, my contributions are in English ( English English if we are going to be pedantic.)

Alan
Alan
3 years ago

Wag, joker, comedian.
Agree, bare is right.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago

I think any Brit would gladly verify that (we) Yanks don’t speak English at all. Our inability so speak English is even mentioned in, “My Fair Lady”. While the language spoken stateside is called “English” I feel calling it “American” is more appropriate. Like I said, any Brit would gladly agree.

berlingrabers
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I think that’s pretty much how it is. American Standard and Queen’s English are totally mutually intelligible, even with the differences that always get brought up. The relationship is complex, since (at least some) American dialects have sometimes preserved older forms of expression, while at the same time incorporating influences from other languages than came into play east of the Atlantic. At the same time, historically there’s been a sense that “real” English is preserved in England, so that in the U.S. it was long considered a mark of good breeding/education to speak with an English-sounding accent (you see/hear this in older movies). Then you’ve got the fun dynamic that Brits just sort of generally despise Americans for all sorts of historical and cultural reasons. It’s messy.

There really are quite a lot of markers – a lot more than 10 – of where your English comes from (even leaving aside the millions of native speakers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, African countries, the Indian subcontinent…), and it would just sort of be strange to use the forms that come from the “other side.” My wife, for instance, is the daughter of American Southerners who went to boarding school in Pakistan where a more British English was the common language. She sounds perfectly American in general, but she pronounces “shone” (past participle of “shine”) as rhyming with “gone.” It’s always a little jarring to hear. It’s not bad, or wrong – it’s just not how *we* say it.

We’ve got a fair number of BE children’s books at home, and I tend to “translate” some bits into AE idiom sometimes, because they’re just not our words. Eventually, our kids will read on their own, and they’ll need to sort out the differences, but for now, it just feels strange to read aloud phrases or words I wouldn’t use. There are exceptions to that – if I’m reading a real classic, where it’s important that they get exposed to the sound of good writing, I wouldn’t make those kinds of edits.

In some ways, it’s similar having moved from Prussia to Bavaria – I learned my German up north, and I just can’t bring myself to say “servus” yet, even though it’s not like I really culturally identify with one dialect more than the other, necessarily.

I dunno, language is weird.

Eduardo96
Eduardo96
3 years ago

I would like to thank you all for helping me to become a member of yourdailygerman.

Secondly, I have a question, can I use ”Glatzkopf”’ instead? What would be the difference?

neo
neo
3 years ago

I think you say “bold” instead of “bald” several times – e.g. “It’s the noun die Glatze and you getting one and having one are the most common ways to say going bold and being bold.” and “For a long time, Thomas was scared of going bold (getting a bold head).”

Olletti
Olletti
3 years ago
Reply to  neo

‘Bald’ is correct, but since many people pronounce it more like ‘bold’, they also tend to misspell it accordingly.

aoind
aoind
3 years ago

For a teller of jokes “joker” is a very fine word of course but my go-to in these circs would be “card”. “Oh yeah, he’s a real card that one” (adjust sardonic tone depending on how unfunny his jokes are, but to be described a “card” is more to do with one’s enthusiasm for jokes (usually ribald ones) – not whether someone will be selling out at the Comedy Store any day soon).

“Bleak” and “bare” are both fine words to describe the state of vegetation in November but there are loads more. “Exposed”, “windswept”, “desolate” and “barren” are acceptable variations although with differences in meaning. On top of “bald” I think I’ve reached my depressing-word-limit for the day right there.

uila
uila
3 years ago

Time out! Are you saying that “Bis bald” is not an appropriate thing to text a friend when I am on my way to see them?

Also, is question 5 missing a “do not”?

Vielen Dank!

0fqj3
0fqj3
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

So if “bis gleich” is near term, when is “bis bald” correct? On the same timescales you would use “auf wiedersehen”? Shorter? Longer? (Or does “auf wiedersehen” colloquially have none of the connotation of reconnection, despite its literal decomposition?) Is it a matter of concreteness (“bis bald”, see you soon in some abstract future, “bis gleich”, see you in some well-parameterized future)?

0fqj3
0fqj3
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I just found that you already wrote up a much more extensive exposition on the subject (https://yourdailygerman.com/gleich-sofort-nachher-bald-spater/), so thanks for that. I really need to make more time to read your articles.