Wandering Thoughts

May 4, 2009

Maybe I should of used a dictionary afterall

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 8:19 pm

Hah. Under my post on corruption, Harvest Bird offers an even better tale of the perils hidden between the words of other people’s languages.

Which reminds me:

One winter in Madeira I met Tony, an artist and surfer from Wales. Like me he was trying learning Portuguese. Unlike me he eventually got there. In the meantime though, one afternoon he went up to a local joiner to buy some wood for picture frames. When the time came to talk prices, tired of the same old “quanto coosta” he decided to try something new – an attempt at, “how much do you charge?”

Or, as he put it that afternoon, “Quanto caga?”

Alas for Tony, if you want to say “how much do you charge?” in Portuguese. You’d say (sorry about my spelling): “Quanto cobra?” Or something like that.

“Quanto caga?” on the other hand, means – once you allow for bad grammar – something along the lines of: “how much do you shit?”

Tony never told me the joiner’s reply…


  1. Hah..that’s classic! Off the top of my head, a similar story I can think of is in a London hostel where I worked and a fellow employee, a not especially attractive Serbian woman, was learning some Spanish. Having just mastered the phrase “tengo hambre” to indicate that she was peckish, she wandered into the dining room downstairs around lunchtime and announced to a startled group of Argentinian and Chilean guests: “tengo hombre!”

    Comment by Simon — May 5, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  2. ah yes, such are the perils of these things. Especially when words that sound so similar have such different meanings. My Portuguese teacher forbade me ever using the Portuguese word for ‘sky’ after hearing my first attempt at it and concluding that out of my mouth it sounded far to similar to a particular profanity to be safely used. (Being a woman of upright standing she never told me what that profanity was either…)

    Comment by terence — May 5, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: