People often talk about elements of languages that are untranslatable. The most famous example in Portuguese is the word saudade, usually approximated with English's longing, yearning or nostalgia. Yet despite it's weight, this word is used all the time. For example, you wouldn't usually say that you miss someone, but rather that you long for that person. It's very fun and dramatic, and Portuguese speakers take pride in this word which constitutes an important part of poetry and song and is emblematic of an unique passion of this language. I just like hearing it when someone says they yearn for my presence.
Personally, however, what I find most entertaining are words are phrases that almost translate. For example, the informal way of saying "hello" in Portuguese is oi. I always just figured you could substitute it for "hey," and would use it to get people's attention even if we'd been spending time together beforehand. Oi, however, really is just an informal "hello," and is therefore only used when greeting someone. So, instead of saying things like, "Hey Felipe, can you pass me the rice?" I spent weeks saying, "Hello, Felipe. Can you pass me the rice?", even though we had already been eating lunch for twenty minutes. The following are a couple of my other favorite "almost-translatable's".
Mais louco que o Batman (Crazier than the Batman, usually in reference to a drunk person)
I'm not sure why, but in Brazil Batman is singled out as the standard for crazy. I looked this up on "Informal Dictionary," the Portuguese equivalent to our "Urban Dictionary," to figure out if there was a reason why this particular superhero was chosen for this type of comparison. The description read, "He's a millionaire who fell down a well and became afraid of bats but then decided to dress up as one and fight crime. That's pretty crazy." I guess I agree, though Spiderman's story is like ten times crazier than Batman's and Bruce Wayne always struck me as a pretty level-headed guy.
A gente (The people)
In informal speech, instead of saying "us," you can also say "the people." So, saying "we are really hungry," and "the people are really hungry," literally mean the same thing. It sounds hilarious in English, and thus has become the American's new favorite joke when speaking to each other to substitute "the people" when talking about ourselves.
This is one of the most common vulgar words here and, like the f-bomb, is used so often that it's actual meaning isn't even considered when spoken. Que porra é essa, for example, would be translated to "what the hell is that," though it really means, "what semen is that." Another example would be, essa mulher não esquece de porra nenhuma, which means, "that woman doesn't forget a damn thing," but reads, "that woman doesn't forget any sperm." Not that our swear words make much sense, but it's funny for people learning this language to think about what's actually being said in such circumstances.
This last weekend I went to a national park in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It was super fun hiking and we spent the night in a cabin near the summit of a mountain with some awesome views. I've put up pictures on Picasa and included two here.
|From Blog pictures|
|From Blog pictures|