pe-de-moleque

Ah Moleque!

In my ongoing quest to learn Portuguese, there have been certain words and phrases that have proven difficult to pick up and use with confidence. A commonly cited ‘tricky’ Portuguese word is “saudade“, that profound feeling of wistful longing; sadness offset with a wan smile. But in my experience, although saudade is a tricky word to explain (see previous sentence), it’s an easy word to feel, to understand and therefore to use.

The words I find most tricky are the ones that have multiple meanings depending on context. Gírias (slang words) and Palavrões (swear words) are probably the main culprits.

One such word that I still find a little bamboozling is moleque (sounds like “mul-ECK-y”). The dictionary on my phone lists the following translations: (nouns) urchin, scoundrel, young person; (adjectives) mischievous, funny. Google Translate gives me 2 nouns: kid and imp.

Ah-moleque

Dis iz da street-spelling innit…

 

OK, so we’re building up a picture here of a rather naughty little child (moleque for a boy, moleca for a girl). However, I get the feeling that although this word has negative connotations, it seems like we’re talking about a cheeky kid, a rascal, a scamp, rather than a devil-child destined for a correctional facility.

But there’s another usage. I remember a year or two ago hearing a work colleague on the phone, asking for help with a technical problem from a workmate in another office. The guy on other end of the line was making suggestions and my colleague was trying each one without success. Then there was pause as he tried one more piece of advice. Suddenly he exclaimed with a laugh “Ah moleque!” with a big smile. The problem was solved! But ‘moleque’?

It seems that moleque is not just a word for a naughty boy – it can also be used as slang term that might fit the place taken up by ‘dude’ or ‘kid’ in English. I guess I kind of get it, but not 100%. Certainly not enough to use it out in the field…

Here’s something I do know though:

pe-de-moleque

Pé-de-Moleque – a curious name for what English speakers would call peanut brittle.

 

Pé-de-Moleque is what we in England call Peanut Brittle: hard caramelised sugar surrounding delicious toasted peanuts. The origin of the name (which translates literally as “boy’s foot”) is explained in Wikipedia:

The origin of its name lies in the fact that most paved streets of colonial Brazil were made by laying down various odd rocks in a loose layer of sand, and having street children stomp on them to flatten the surface… Since the appearance of the peanuts stuck together by molasses was found to be similar to that of this type of street, the candy took the same name.

For me it’s a great snack to keep for an emergency. Snacks I like too much get finished off in an afternoon – once they’re gone I look at the empty bag and feel greedy/guilty… What I like about pé-de-moleque is that it’s pretty tasty and staves off hunger but not so delicious that I eat the lot!

pe-de-moleque

Peanuts embedded in caramelised sugar/molasses – somewhat like cheap road surface, though considerably more delicious.

 

15 replies
  1. Si
    Si says:

    If I was trying to explain moleque I would maybe suggest a Dennis the Menace type kid, and maybe a translation is cheeky monkey?

    Reply
  2. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    In Spanish if I use a lot of palabrotas local friends complain as they say it sounds forced or unnatural – but fine when they use them.

    I reckon with language its all a question of trial and error and ignoring embarrassment. You need to learn by association wtih specific situations.

    I admire you though as the sounds and pronunciation in Brazilian Portuguese are far more complex than in Spanish.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      So true about just using such words to learn when they work (and when they don’t!). I know what you mean about the sounds and pronunciations of Spanish vs Portuguese. At first I found it rather a hurdle, but I have grown to love the sound of Portuguese – today it seems so much for rounded and beautiful to me than the clipped sound of Spanish.

      Reply
  3. Jonathan Cairns
    Jonathan Cairns says:

    Aaaaah….now there was me thinking I’d finally come across a Gringo’s take on that ubiquitous song that sounds suspiciously like “Ah, moleque leque leque leque..” Keep’em coming Tom 🙂

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha! I keep thinking that too! Let me draw your attention to the bottom of the Toddy post Jonathan: Toddy! Not that I did much analysis exactly – all I know is that it’s pretty annoying when it’s being played through a cell phone speaker on the bus! 😉

      Reply
  4. Marcos
    Marcos says:

    Here in Brazil,English teachers, not the natives ones say that “saudade” has no translation in English. I disagree with them. If you say: “I miss my city very much” you can translate it into Portuguese as:”Eu sinto saudades da minha cidade” you can also say: “I’m homesick” and I believe that you can say other expressions which have the same meaning of the Portuguese word “saudade”. By the way, people in English speaking countries have the same feelings that people in Brazil have too.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Absolutely Marcos – I think the point though is that there is no single word translation in English that adequately explains the whole meaning of the word saudade. You can say it is like homesickness, but I think there is more to it than that. I think words like saudade should make all Portuguese speakers proud of their rich language 🙂

      Reply
  5. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    Hi Tom. I almost agree but with one exception. The Porteño accent (Argentineans from Buenos Aires) have a musical sing-song intonation which is great to listen to.

    However as the wife is a porteña I’m biased 🙂

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Gritty, you have read between the lines and seen through my liberal subterfuge to the right wing extremist that is hidden within. Foiled again! 😉

      Reply
  6. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    And yet mass child labor, not to mention labor camps in general, have usually been found under extreme left wing regimes like the Khmer Rouge and stalinist U.S.S.R..

    Reply
  7. Malvina
    Malvina says:

    “Dis iz da street-spelling innit…” LOL! and THAT’S what “pé de moleque” is? People have mentioned it to me, but the name is so absolutely unappetizing (mmm…. urchin foot….) and unlike its contents I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. I plan on going and finding some ASAP now that I know what to ask for… You made my day a few times over. thank you! 😉

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *