Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the tag “Paulo”

Wordy Wednesday: idiom

PauloHere is Paulo, one of my loveliest friends. A Brazilian who came to London as a teenager and lived here for 20 years, Paulo speaks perfect English, but I have to admit that I love it when the words falling from his lips retain a flavour of his home town, Rio. Here are a few of the Brazilian / Portuguese idioms that find their way into his conversations in English:

“Caught the tram already going,” meaning to misinterpret a conversation you’ve joined mid-way through.

“Sand got inside,” refers to things going wrong, someone putting a spanner in the works (to use an English idiom), or something being really grating.

“This is too much sand for my truck,” meaning, this is more than I can cope with.

“The cows have gone to the swamp,” meaning you’re getting bogged down; you’re stuck; nothing’s progressing.

“You’re letting water in,” you’re making no sense; you’re making an idiot of yourself.

The thing with idioms is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (that’s an idiom, too…): you can’t translate them word for word and get to the meaning, which makes them tough for non-native speakers to get their heads around (that’s another one). But I love them because they enrich the language, act as shorthand and reflect the attitudes and culture they originate from…

idiom |ˈidēəm|


1 a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light).

• a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people : he had a feeling for phrase and idiom.

• the dialect of a people or part of a country.

2 a characteristic mode of expression in music or art : they were both working in a neo-Impressionist idiom.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French idiome, or via late Latin from Greek idiōma ‘private property, peculiar phraseology,’ from idiousthai ‘make one’s own,’ from idios ‘own, private.’

Chickens, chambres d’hôtes and UFOs

pauloMy Brazilian friend Paulo & his boyfriend Didier had been talking for years about leaving Tooting and spending a year or two in Didier’s home region of Burgundy, but once I’d moved to Céret in the Pyrenees-Orientale they decided that the sunny south of France was rather more appealing.

Paulo’s practical skills and artist’s eye were vital in refurbishing the dilapidated townhouse they bought in Quillan and transforming it into a quirky and welcoming chambres d’hôtes. (Thinking about running a B&B? Paulo’s advice is only do it if you like ironing…)

Nidelice (‘delightful nest’) is popular with cyclists, walkers and white water rafters, and with Dan Brown-readers and conspiracy theorists drawn by Rennes-le-Château, for its claimed links to the Knights Templar, and also by the Cathar castles of the Languedoc; the last bastions of the Cathar ‘heretics’, whose fascinating religion saw men and women as equals, had people rise to become ‘Perfects’ by forgoing meat and sex, and deemed the Catholic Church to be the ‘Church of Satan’. Read more…

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