By Ed Catchpole
I can really sympathise with the writers on this website like Stephen Latham and their struggle to learn Portuguese.
I can now speak Portuguese fluently (except on Friday nights) but it was a long hard slog to learn and fraught with disaster, and now after 7 years I’m ready to share some of these faux pas with all you Gringos.
One of my most memorable blunders with the Portuguese language took place in a busy shopping centre. My Brazilian wife Sandra and I were out Christmas shopping and she asked me for suggestions about what to buy her father.
I happened to know that he really likes a Portuguese wine called Periquita, so ever the helpful husband I shouted up to Sandra on the busy escalator.
Eu sei! Seu pai gosta muito de Periquita!”
Now, what I didn’t know was that while in European Portuguese Periquita is a half decent red wine, in Brazilian Portuguese it is slang for the female’s private parts.
This accounts for the stunned silence that greeted my suggestion on the escalator, why the mothers standing nearby covered their children’s ears and why my wife ran into the nearest shop and pretended she didn’t know who I was (again).
My problems were not limited to Brazil. Whilst living in England, and determined not to lose my hard-won vocabulary, I continued to speak Portuguese at home with Sandra.
In the depths of the British winter I was making some porridge for breakfast when the phone rang, so I asked Sandra to continue stirring, adding in a stern voice…
“Eu nao quero avelha queimado no fundo.”
… which I thought meant “don’t let the oats stick” but actually means “don’t burn the old lady’s buttocks.” I had confused aveia (oats) and a velha (old lady). Easily done.
Ah yes, before I go… watch out for the pronunciation of pão (bread) and pau (slang for the male’s private parts) as it does raise eyebrows in the padaria (bakers) if you get it wrong.
It’s a minefield, não ?
Ed Catchpole lives in sunny São Paulo. When he isn’t upsetting people with his Portuguese he works as a financial consultant. He can be contacted at email@example.com.“