A "false cognate" is a word in one language that is identical or similar to a word in another language, but does not mean the same thing. For instance, both German and English have the word fast. But the German word means almost.
There is a whole glossary of many "false friends," and other words that can be confusing. However, there are also many genuine cognates shared by different languages. Technically and linguistically, cognate words have the same root or "ancestor," but any "false friend" can confuse people learning a different language because of its close resemblance to a word in their own language.
This whole post is a "metaphor" to describe a certain type of misery and torture.
Writers may use metaphors to make their writing more interesting or entertaining.
(A special thank you/danke schön to Sylvia Schedelbauer, a filmmaker I met at the Flaherty this year, for reminding me that this confusion exists and for showing me that this has real life applications to help us understand otherwise mystifying occurrences in our daily lives.)