Pensamentos Do Mar And The Portuguese Word

Feb. 2, 2013
His work has appeared on The Awl, Global Voices, The Rumpus, McSweeney's, and elsewhere. The Guardian and the head ...

One in a series of long-standing pipe dreams — for me, at least — includes filming a detective show in either Porto or Lisbon, putting the Portuguese streets, architecture, and sea to use in a way that echoes Morse in Oxford or Aznavour wandering Paris in Shoot the Piano Player! In one episode — in my mind — someone with one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms is murdered, and the detective and the camera float through the narrow streets and palliative buzz of the language accordingly.

In seeking out linguistic activity afoot in Portugal — as opposed to Brazil, where I know a tiny little bit already (“Num país tropical!”) — I spoke with two students, who were kind enough to give me word and definition as my mind riffed and reeled and absorbed the news: there is guna (a ‘thug’ from the North), mitra (a ‘thug’ from the South), tone (as in, someone who’s annoying), azeiteiro (based off of the word for olive oil, it means someone who is a bit sleazy and a bit cheesy), puto, pita (as in, acting hysterically, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to “O pão está agindo pita!” but a man has to try), curtir (as in, to like something (if you’re Brazilian and on facebook, you know this already), but it’s now being used in Portugal to mean you made out with someone), comer, gajo or gaja (guy and gal), sacar, bué (as in, ‘a lot,’ which was borrowed from Africa), fixe (as in, ‘cool’), snifar (which reminds me a bit of the Polish ‘heroinoman’), bófia (as in, the police), griza (as in, o que um marvilhosa griza — what a marvelous joke), or tótil (which also means ‘a lot.’)

A backstreet chase whipsawing into the open air in front of the Calçada da Vandoma. An inter-genre wink at “Bron” by having a body discovered midway across the Ponte Luiz or Lisbon’s IP7. The detective’s bafflement when everyone suddenly becomes obsessed with ‘trendy’ British wines. He’d be game — who wouldn’t be? — and try a sip, but then say, incredulously, “Estás a gozar com a minha face?” (as in, “Are you kidding my face?”)

When I reached out to the Minister of Employment to ask where the social victories of austerity could be found and why it was so difficult to isolate social disruption from ‘creative destruction’ — wanting to put minhas habilidades de linguagem de usar because the news of the day included things like citizens driving 30KM to Spain to have someone look at a cut due to no adequate medical service nearby, a spike in emigration from the previous year, the privatization of some schools and the elimination of 50,000 teaching jobs, and the possible continued need for international financial support despite a successful bond auction — I did not receive a reply.

So I reached out to the office of the right honorable George Osborne. Nothing doing.

I returned back to those who had taught me a spate of words, asking Sara — an advertising and marketing student in Lisbon — why on earth the Minister didn’t respond, and she said, “Porque ele é estúpido. (Sorry. I don’t like him),” adding that she had no real idea what he was doing as a minister of employment since “o país vê é mais e mais desemprego a cada dia que passa” — that is, the country is seeing more and more unemployment with each passing day.

We joked for a bit about my striking it rich and creating odd government posts for notable citizens, like “The Ministry of Optimism” for the famously dour and pessimistic António Lobo Antunes, and — after a bit — I returned to my coffee and thought of the sea, the detective throwing a finished cigarette to the pavement, and the days to come. TC mark

Evan Fleischer

Evan Fleischer

His work has appeared on The Awl, Global Voices, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. The Guardian and the head …

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