I once read a book on the English language that stated that none of the other related languages would make that distinction when reversed--even out compound word loving parent language German. I don't know enough about German to know if that is true or not.
English is right-headed, which means it's compounds (at least, the literal ones) tend to refer to whichever constituent appears rightmost in the word; notice that a gunshot is a kind of shot, while a shotgun is a kind of gun. In principle, any language that has headedness can make this distinction, be it left (like Hebrew) or right (like English). German is right-headed, so even a notoriously long word like "Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänskajütentürschlüssel" ends with the word for "key," and the whole thing is, in fact, a kind of key. So German ought to make this distinction, too. (Unfortunately, I'm not a German speaker, nor do I currently have access to one, so I can't immediately test this hypothesis.)
Also, notice that "houseboat" is an exception. It's what's known as a dvandva compound, since it's both right- and left-headed; that is, it's both a kind of boat and a kind of house.