Monday, February 25, 2008

An open diary of how to (and how not to) get by in the Portuguese language. I completely forgot I was going to tell you all about my learning Portuguese. Well, I promised a story two posts ago and here it is. It is true that I am sometimes a bit harsh to my students when I publish their English clangers on here, but they could have a field day with my Portuguese, I'm sure.

A few months ago we were in a restaurant, just before a football match between Nautico (from Recife) and America (from Natal). Nelson was running around (as usual) and a guy from another table started chatting to me. He had travelled up from Recife for the game and was wearing a Nautico shirt. I explained (quite well I thought!) that Rachel's family were from Recife and, in fact, supported Nautico too and that we were going to the game. At this point I wanted to say that Nelsinho had a little Nautico football shirt too and to do so I used the common Portuguese addition to nouns of -inha which generally means "little" (i.e. Ronaldinho means little Ronaldo). So, I thought, the word Portuguese for shirt - "camisa" - would become "camisinha", naturally. But, as with all general rules there are exceptions and I had hit the bullseye of exceptions in this instance. As I said the word "camisinha", Rachel (who was 2 tables away) shot me a quick glance and shook her head. "Don't use that word!", she mouthed. I could actually see the thoughts in her head forming, slow-motion-like, into a long and despairing "Nooooooooo....". I felt like I was in a comedy scene from a dodgy film as the restaurant went silent, everyone turned to eyeball me and a tumbleweed floated by.

Anyway, my blooper came down to this. Camisinha is Portuguese slang for some other object that is both small and worn for protection. I had just told a complete stranger that my son had recieved from his Grandad, in the red and white colours of Nautico, a condom. Oops.

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