About six months ago I was at a party called Green Sunset, a monthly event held on the grounds of the Museum of Image and Sound (Check out my review of it here). I’d been quite a few times already, but this time around I was surprised to see how busy it was. It was absolutely heaving! After about thirty minutes, my friend Carlos and I decided to brave one of the three HUGE lines to get some drinks tokens.
I hadn’t seen Carlos for a while, so once we were in line, I listened intently to the story he was telling me. He is a man of many words and because these words were cascading out of his mouth pretty quickly, I would say that I was absorbed in his conversation for at least a good ten minutes.
But then I began to sense that someone was stood right beside me. Naturally I was curious why somebody would be rubbing shoulders with me in a queue that was supposed to be single file..so I looked to see what was going on.
Standing mere inches away from me was a guy with a gravity-defying quiff. He was pretty skinny, had sunken cheeks and he was wearing an Abercrombie and Fitch tee-shirt. I know this because it had the words Abercrombie and Fitch written on it in MASSIVE letters….he clearly wanted people to know it was from Abercrombie and Fitch!
I looked back at Carlos before mumbling suspiciously; “Why is this guy stood right next to me?”
When I glanced back at this guy again, he was giving me one hell of an icy glare.
“I really don’t know” said Carlos (who couldn’t have made it any more obvious he hadn’t been listening to me), “but I need to go to the toilet. Here is my money for my beer, wait for me here.” He then walked off, oblivious to the shit storm coming my way (or at least, this is what he told me later!).
Just seconds after he’d left, Abercrombie turned to his friend and said the following: “Esse gringo é mal educado!” (This literally translates something like ‘this gringo is badly educated’). He sneered these words loud enough for me to be able to hear them, and I felt compelled to reply.
“Cuidado” (Be careful”) I said quite forcefully, as a temporary firmness took over me. “Eu entendo Português” (I understand Portuguese).
“Do you speak English?” he asked.
“Yes” I affirmed, as intimidatingly as I could.
“Well I was just telling my friend that you have REALLY bad education”.
“Well, what do you mean ‘bad education’?”
I genuinely had no idea what the hell he was talking about. How would he possibly know about where and how I was educated!?!
When I looked back at him in confusion, this douche bag flamboyantly rolled his eyes at me.
“You have pushed in the line!”
As soon as he said this, out of the corner of my eye I noticed that there was now just one woman separating both of us from the cashier.
“What?” I gasped in surprise. If this was all he was talking about, I could easily explain that I’d been in this queue for at least 10 minutes and he had definitely been mistaken! After all, the three lines seemed to be snaking into each other. Yet before I had the chance to say anything, he continued. “I don’t know what it is like in YOUR country” he added. “But here in Brazil it is bad education to push in lines”.
“But I’ve been in this line for a while” I pleaded, still hopeful I could diffuse the situation.
“No you haven’t, and now you NEED to go to the back!” He said this with the exaggerated patience of an adult talking to a child. To emphasise how condescending he had intended to be, he theatrically pointed to the back of the line.
Well, in this exact moment I could feel myself getting wound up! I HAD been in the line for ages; I had no idea where he had got the idea I had pushed in from, or even any idea where he had come from…and I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but I also had an urge to run my sweaty fingers through the top of his immaculately blow dried quiff!
“Yea” repeated his friend who’d been silent up until this point. “You need to go right to the back!”
Seconds later the woman in front of the cashier walked away with her drinks tokens, allowing the next person in line to go forward.
Next up was either going to be me OR Mr Abercrombie and Fitch. He hesitated for a few seconds, unsure of what I was going to do. Perhaps he’d imagined I’d simply let him in front, that I’d appologise for having a ‘bad education’ and step aside.
Well…there was NO WAY I was going to do that! As I write this, I know how juvenile I’m going to sound…but as soon as we both stepped forward, I rammed my shoulder really hard into his, knocking him out of my way. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have done it! But where I am from it is bad manners to talk ABOUT someone when you’re stood next to them.
I ordered my beer tokens from the cashier with a huge grin across my face.
About thirty seconds later, drinks tokens in hand, I looked back at this guy. His face was dripping in exaggerated surprise, as if he really couldn’t believe how badly educated I was…whatever that meant!
What I learnt from Mr Abercrombie
I realised there was something odd about the way he had used the word ‘education’. I mean, we are never taught by our teachers how to queue at school…or at least, not in the school I went to! So why would he even mention my education? When I asked my Brazilian friends later I discovered I was right to suspect something was a little odd about this attack.
If a Brazilian calls you out on having a ‘bad education’ in Portuguese, it is generally their way of saying ‘you have bad manners’, ‘you’re rude’ or ‘you were brought up badly’. It isn’t actually an attack on where you went to school, even if they literally translate this expression into English…I thought I’d throw this out there on my blog, in case somebody else finds themselves stood in the same queue as Mr Abercrombie any time soon!
Can you think of any other expressions that don’t translate well from Portuguese to English? Or vice versa?