If I were feeling particularly
pretentious creative, I might choose to describe learning Portuguese as being like an epic journey with no end. At the start there is the excitement of heading off into the unknown, when every step is accompanied by some new and exciting discovery (think Bilbo as he sets off from the Shire).
Later on you realise how far you have to go, you hit frustrating obstacles and exhausting uphill sections. Staying with the metaphor (apologies), there are also those great moments when you can look back and enjoy the view, realising how far you’ve come and how much you’ve achieved.
And (still with the metaphor) then there are the times you stumble across something truly odd, half-hidden on the side of the track. You pick it up and turn it over in your hand. ‘What is this?’ you ask your befuddled self. Well I discovered one such linguistic oddity just a few weeks ago.
Imagine you are confronted with something that is meant to make you feel upset, daunted or angry, but it doesn’t! You know the kind of thing I’m talking about: you are dissed in the comments section of YouTube, or someone at school informs you that you’ve been dumped. Of course you’re not bothered in the slightest, right?
You could choose to tell the world about your profound lack of concern by saying something like Não é importante para mim (It’s not important to me). OR you could pull out that weird thing you found by the side of the road and slam it (nonchalantly) on the table:
Cara, caguei e andei. (Dude, I pooed and I walked)
Told you it was weird didn’t I? If you were feeling verbose, you could use the full version:
Caguei e andei pra não fazer monte grande. (I pooed and then walked so as not to make a big mound)
It’s a beautiful image isn’t it? I’ll admit, I’m still pretty baffled by this. But then it occurred to me that the equivalent in English is also slightly weird: “I couldn’t give a shit”. What? Do you give out shits when something is important to you? What’s that all about? If you couldn’t give a shit when you don’t care about something, then logically that means that when you DO care about something…
And for the English learner, there is one final illogical twist in this already strange tale. In Britain, the polite way to indicate lack of botheration is to say “I couldn’t care less”, but our North American cousins turn it round by saying “I could care less”.
Confused? I’ll let David Mitchell explain. Have a great weekend!