quarta-feira, 12 de março de 2014

Aventuras linguísticas

Tudo bem? Tudo bom. Você? Tudo ótimo.

Flora Thomson-DeVeaux

Here’s something for the Brazilians in the peanut gallery to ponder. This has been bothering me for quite some time. Do you realize exactly what you are affirming when you say that tudo está bem? Tudo is a big word to be throwing around every time you greet someone. Tudo. Everything. Every last thing, from the weather to the state of international relations to your grandmother’s dog. Tudo, in the history of the world, has literally never been bem, bom, or ótimo. Not even close. At the very least being able to say “tudo bom” smacks of provincialism, or a serious lack of introspection. Really? Tudo?

These are things about living in Brazilian Portuguese that no amount of seminar discussion or textbook exercises could have prepared me for – little linguistic mysteries that I find baffling or amusing on a daily basis.

I can’t get used to being called senhora, for example, because the word carries a sense of dignity – almost aristocracy – that I find wholly unbefitting. “Would the senhora care to move her laundry to the washing machine?” “The park’s closing, senhora, you can’t stay here.” I almost feel as though I should curtsy. On the other hand, you’ve got Brazilians’ propensity to refer to service employees as moço and moça – “boy” and “girl,” essentially. It’s just like the French garçon (which has been imported into Portuguese, incidentally), but it always strikes me as unbearably rude. American interactions with service employees are geared towards an almost conscious camouflage of the relationship client-employee. “Can I get a grande latte?” we ask, knowing full well that we can. Here, it’s “Boy! Another beer over here!” Perhaps more honest, but it doesn’t sit right.

Another thing is a surprising Brazilian predilection for understatement, which manifests itself principally in the form of meio. A fair translation of meio, in common usage, would be “sorta.” If someone is meio burro, that means he’s sorta dumb. In practice, though, meio means extremely. If someone tells you that the traffic is meio bad, you shouldn't leave the house for the next 2 hours; if they say they're meio depressed, get over there before they jump off Pão de Açúcar. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone called the emergency line to inform the bombeiros that he was meio on fire.

A final enigma. Signing your email with Abraços or Um abraço is formal. Granted. A more intimate salutation is some variation on Beijos. Then why is it that you greet strangers with two kisses and hug your friends? Hah. Stumped you.

Fonte: Revista Piauí.

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