As I mentioned in my article, “The Literal Translation Versus the Meaning,” it can take quite some time feeling your way around a new language. That is because, as I mentioned, the literal translation is not necessarily the meaning in the foreign language.
For example, a young man would call his wife or girlfriend his “sweetheart.” The literal translation of “sweet” in Portuguese is “doce” and “heart” is “coracao.”
But if you called a Brazilian woman a “doce coracoa,” she might look at you in amusement, wondering what you mean. The Portuguese equivalent of “sweetheart” is “amada,” which literally translates to “loved one.”
There are many other examples. Well, you get the picture.
Nevertheless, the main point of this article is not so much of a romantic nature. Here’s a little story. When I came to live in Brazil, I had a hard time finding “hot pepper.” Like some people, I enjoy chipping up really hot pepper and eating it with my food.
I couldn’t find hot pepper anywhere in the area that I was living in, so I started asking around. The literal translation of “hot pepper” into Portuguese would be “pimenta quente.”
pimenta = pepper
quente = hot
But, once again, the literal translation is not the meaning! There is no such expression as “pimenta quente,” in Brazil. No one would understand that!
I did some “feeling around,” and discovered that there was “pimento cheiroso.” This literally translates to “strong smelling pepper.”
Nevertheless, pimento cheiroso turned out to be “sweet pepper.”
So what now? Everyone seemed confused until I met a smart young lad at the Vegetable Shop who was fluent in both English and Portuguese. He said to me, “do you speak English.”
“Yes,” I replied. “Do you?”
He began to explain to me that sweet pepper is “pimento cheiroso,” and that there is no such expression as “pimento doce,” in Brazil.
He also explained to me that was I was looking for was pimenta ardida = hot pepper!
Cheers to this smart young lad, and here’s to some hot pepper!