I-got-you-this

I pooed and walked…

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).

Bilbo-leaving-the-shire

I’m off on an adventure! A language adventure!

 

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)

caguei

 

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…

I-got-you-this

I’m so sorry for your loss. Here I got you this. Probably best if you open it later…

 

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!

 

 

16 replies
  1. Blog do Jorge
    Blog do Jorge says:

    Hi Tom. Great post again! And so here I am again to make an advertisement on one of my texts that you may like. It is a brief translation of the name of some streets and neighborhoods in Sao Paulo, where I live:

    http://www.blogdojorge.com.br

    It was inspired in a famous list (don’t know who is the author) that runs through the internet on names of Rio places:

    br.answers.yahoo.com

    However, the masterpiece in humorous translations of Brazilian idioms into English is Millor Fernandes’ book “The Cow Went to the Samp” (“a vaca foi para o brejo”):

    The-cow-went-swamp-Portuguese

    Unfortunately, I think it’s sold out and we didn’t have any new edition of it in the last 20 years.

    Regards!

    Reply
  2. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    caring
    Syllabification: (car·ing)
    Pronunciation: /ˈke(ə)riNG/
    adjective
    displaying kindness and concern for others: a caring and invaluable friend
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/caring
    ——-

    If indeed negative caring does not exist (as the guy in the video claims) then would it not also be true that the opposite of kindness is not mean-spiritedness but indifference?

    Oh, there is an uncaring worm openly humping the bookshelf in the background of the clip @ 2:49.

    Reply
  3. Phil
    Phil says:

    Loved this post! Here in the Midwest of the US, I hear (and use) both “I couldn’t care less” and “I could care less.” The first one is usually delivered in a straightforward, declarative tone, while the second one often has a more sarcastic tone, equivalent to saying “As if I cared?” after someone tells you something about which you don’t give a rat’s ass.

    Which leads me to wonder, which is worse, not giving a shit, or not giving a rat’s ass?

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      I’ve heard the rat’s ass one in films/TV Phil! Strangely enough, we also use the rat’s derrière in a phrase that ties in rather nicely with Chris’s comparison with “pissed” meaning either drunk or annoyed, depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside.

      You guys say you couldn’t give a rat’s ass if you don’t care, but we can describe someone as being “rat-arsed” if they’re really drunk! What’s up with that?

      Reply
  4. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    Hi Tom interesting and witty post.

    I’ve found that with a language you just have to roll with it. It’s quicker and hurts your head less!

    Cultural differences and divergent historical contexts often make language illogical from our perspective as a foreigner.

    Here are some of my examples.

    In the UK we say “I’m pissed” to mean drunk and “I’m pissed off” to mean angry. While in the US “I’m pissed” means to be angry.

    In England some people (my dad’s generation) when they swear in English used to say “Sorry/apologies for my French”. My Argentinean wife thought it was hilarious and illogical – but it has a historical context.

    While when I went to Argentinea for the first time with my Castillan Spanish I couldn’t understand why I could no longer user “coger” without getting strange looks and laughter.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha! I’ve heard that the “coger” one can get Iberian Spanish speakers into all kinds of trouble in Argentina! Especially when they want to ‘catch’ a ‘Baby’ (slang for a small bus, right? Or is that one apocryphal?). I also heard women named Conchita suffer plenty of laughs and sniggers in Argentina 😉

      I know what you’re saying about rolling with the differences – if you try to ‘make sense’ of these things you’re probably going to waste a lot of time. I just find them fun! But maybe if I spent less time blogging about this stuff and more time actually studying, my Portuguese would be better! Right, I’m off to study Pretérito imperfeito! 😉

      Reply
  5. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    Nah you’re much better off laughing about it than studying it 😉 Anyway I always imagined it was more natural to learn Brazilian Portuguese on the beach 😉

    Reply
  6. Marina
    Marina says:

    Oh, i have a close friend who uses that expresion all the time! We joke and say “Activia e Jhonny Walker” because Activia is a iogurt wich is suposed to make you pooh and Jhonny Walker… wel… he just keeps walking!

    Reply

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