False Friends: recuento ; recount


These terms are certainly look-alikes, but as used in electoral law (Derecho electoral) recuento and “recount” may or not be cognates, depending on the context. In English “vote recount” refers exclusively to a second or repeat tabulation of votes when the accuracy of the initial vote tally is questioned. The most famous case of an election recount in recent history is undoubtedly the vote recount conducted in Florida during the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. In Spanish, however, recuento may denote both the initial tallying of votes or, as in English, a second vote count. In that regard, the DRAE defines recontar as contar o volver a contar el número de cosas. Thus recuento de votos may be a synonym of escrutinio de votos denoting the counting of votes for the first time, as in Los colegios electorales han cerrado y ha comenzado el recuento de votos (“The polling stations have closed and the counting of votes has commenced”). But, as in English, recuento de votos may also refer to a “recount,” i.e., to a second or subsequent canvassing of votes. This was implicit, for example, in news articles published in Spain concerning the 2000 US election recount, such as one entitled La victoria de Bush depende del recuento en Florida.

The same may apply in other contexts. Recuento físico de existencias denotes a “physical inventory,” “inventory count” or “physical stock-taking,” and may refer to an initial inventory or stock count (its usual meaning) or a second or subsequent one. In contrast, in English the expression “inventory (or) stock recount” always denotes a second or subsequent review of stock after an initial inventory has been conducted.

In other respects, in the context of corrections law (Derecho penitenciario) recuento has a totally different meaning. In that regard, expressions such as recuento de internos or recuento de reclusos refer to an “inmate headcount” or “inmate rollcall.”


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