The simplest of words are usually those most prone to polysemy, i.e. to have many meanings.
In European Portuguese, such is the case with ama, which can be a verb form (of the verb amar, to love) or the word for babysitter/childsitter (especially a professional/private one); since Portuguese is stupidly old-fashioned, for now the word only appears in the feminine – [a] ama.
In Brazil, the term commonly used is [a] babá; we’re sufficiently acquainted with it through telenovelas and other Brazilian cultural exports to know the difference (which, as I said many times, works for most of the words on this feature), but it would never be the go-to word chosen by an European Portuguese speaker in Portugal when speaking to other EP natives :)
Since I wanted to give you something different today, I thought about sharing a video recording of a great short story by one of Portugal’s most famous writers: 19th century Realist novelist Eça de Queirós. The title of the story is “A Aia” (lit. The chambermaid / children’s nurse/nursemaid), which as you can see is an old-fashioned word for the same profession (especially in courtly settings); in Brazil, [a] ama itself is associated with this historical meaning, which both variants retain in words like [a] ama-de-leite (a woman in charge of breastfeeding a baby in replacement of their mother) or [a] ama-seca (a woman who looks after babies without breastfeeding them).
From the Middle East and the Caucasus we turn to the northwest, to the largest island in the Atlantic: Greenland! While it may not come up often in conversation or even on the news, I find it curious that EP and BP found different ways of saying Greenland and greenlandic.
In European Portuguese, the two words are written as in the title: [a] Gronelândia and [o] gronelandês (in reference to the language and a male Greenlander; the feminine adjective/noun is [a] gronelandesa).
In Brazilian Portuguese, the words used are [a] Groenlândia (sometimes [a] Groelândia) and [o] groenlandês / [a] groenlandesa, respectively.
Not far away from Israel, another country suffers from a much normal malaise among EP vs. BP comparative scholars: the old issue of the stressed e followed by n, which yields the open é in EP and the closed ê in BP (if you want to catch up on this pattern, check the entries for Polónia, ténis, and Mónicawith o).
The country is – as I’m sure you’ve guessed it by its similarities with the English version – Armenia; Arménia in EP and Armênia in BP, with the same change afecting the associated adjectives – [o/a] arménio/a in EP and [o/a] armênio/a in BP.
There are several words associated with cancer that have their roots in the Ancient Greek and Latin forms shown above: in Portuguese, the adjectives carcinogéneo (carcinogenic, capable of causing cancer or turning into cancer) and cancerígeno (containing cancer cells, cancerous) are commonly attached to nouns when talking about this condition. For example, [o] material carcinogéneo (carcinogenic material, i.e. asbestos) or [a] célula cancerígena (cancer cell).
Today and for the next few weeks, I’m going back to one of the first groups of words featured in EP word of the week, and one of my personal favourites: countries, nationalities and languages!
Being a Political Science and International Relations who’s in love with languages (and now branch out into the realms of translation and text editing), words related to different cultures are obviously something I really love!
Last week – on January 27th – it was celebrated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so I thought it would be fitting to showcase a word related to the topic in a way that would still be interesting to you as readers.
In Portuguese, both variants use the same word for Israel (exactly the same as in English), but different words for the nationality (israeli in English): israelita in European Portuguese, israelense in Brazilian Portuguese.