There are times when I realize I’ve forgotten the English word but recognize the Portuguese meaning and understand it in its context. It’s a bit of a strange sensation due to the fact that the sentence, in which a particular word is used, is not lost on me. I know what is being said and I can merely decide to just continue on reading without a loss in understanding.
But certain words leave me bothered enough to look up their meaning in English, just to refresh my memory. Unfortunately, it’s kind of like when I shake hands with someone new, and their name, having just been said, goes in one ear and out the other. I can have a conversation with them and I’ll remember other things about them, just not their name.
This brings me to a random article I was reading today about traffic in Brazil, where I saw the word contramão being used in the title. Upon seeing the word, my brain told me “streets, the wrong way” and I just continued. Kind of weird, right? I understood its general, fuzzy meaning in English, but couldn’t remember the specific word(s) in English. Being annoyed at my lack of recall in my own language, I looked it up and saw: “wrong way, contraflow”.
When I hear the word in question, for some reason, I think of the song Construção by Chico Buarque. It’s a great song where he cuts up the lyrics and mixes up line beginnings and endings to give different meanings. The line where he says the word is below:
“Morreu na contramão atrapalhando o tráfego.”
“He died (going) the wrong way disrupting traffic.”
So the person was going in the wrong direction (ie, no sentido oposto). Looking up the word, it always has “na” before it. For example, “estar na contramão” and “andar na contramão”. Google Translate says the phrase “na contramão” means “against the grain” and it’s in this meaning that one can see all the possible figurative uses. I'll leave you with an example:
“Ter uma visão crítica sobre o esporte profissional é estar na contramão do sistema capitalista, afinal, no mundo, a indústria esportiva movimenta aproximadamente US$ 1 trilhão por ano.”
“To have a critical view of professional sports is to be against the capitalist system; after all, the turnover of the worldwide sports industry is around US$1 trillion a year.”
Other Portuguese Lessons:
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