May 19th, 2009

Words and expressions


I’m back in Brazil. After a week of saying “Gracias” it’s back to “Obrigado.” Instead of shrugging apologetically and saying, “No hablo español,” I have reverted to shrugging apologetically and saying “Na falo portugués.” Interestingly, some words stay the same. Por favor is por favor, whether you’re speaking Spanish or Portuguese.

The classy Spanish word for tyre repair shop.

The classy Spanish word for tyre repair shop.

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been collecting the odd phrase or word that amuses me. For example, when driving in Ecuador you often see a tyre standing on the roadside with the word vulcanizadora painted on it. Show me a tyre repairman who wouldn’t prefer to be called a vulcaniser. It sounds almost operatic.

I also saw a number of ferretarias. Ferret farms, I wondered? No, ironmongers, after ferrous, for iron.

Local colloquialisms are always fun to discover. Speed bumps in Brazil are called “molar breakers” or “sleeping policemen.” There are lots of them. On each side of a town, the main highway will have two or more, sometimes not signposted, in which case they really do jolt your jaws. They are often preceded by a sonarizador, literally sound-maker, what we call a rumble strip in New Zealand. The word for pothole (of which Brazil also has a plethora) is the same as for crab burrow, which I appreciated, of course.

There must be dozens more. Any suggestions?


One Response to “Words and expressions”

  1. Elaine says:

    During a lunch in Caravelas we saw a menu item that was new to me called “camarão maluco” which literally means “crazy shrimp.” During a discussion last night on the different kinds of shrimp caught in the region I asked about the maluco shrimp. Turns out it’s headless shrimp! Without their heads the shrimp go crazy. I’ll try to find out if this is just a regional nickname or if it is used elsewhere.