Brazilian Portuguese has an odd linguistic confusion: the words to win, to earn, to receive are all the same. Ganhar.
“Ganhei a loteria.” I won the lottery.“Ganhei um vidrio de geleia.” Someone gave me a jar of jelly.
And my favorite: “Ganhei meu filho no ano pasado.” I had my son last year.
This language charms and enchants me. This is a magical world where lottery winnings are everywhere and winning is everyday. A gift is a win. A world where children are prizes to be received. I love this people that finds wins in the mundane, where all that enters your household all is to be celebrated.
On the other hand, it seems to me that this linguistic collision has a dark side: where is the difference between what is earned and what is won? The fact that this language makes no distinction makes my New-England Protestant-Work-Ethic driven brain nigh explode. As an extended family we struggle with encouraging one family of underachievers to stand on their own feet. But how to have the conversation when the language they use for what is given to them is the same as what is earned? How to draw the distinction between the profits of the sweat of your brow, a gift formed from the sweat from another’s brow, and God’s good fortune? They aren’t the same, but the words in Portuguese are. It’s a tangled ball of yarn to unravel.
One last thought on winning. That family that we’re working so hard to encourage? Well, I gotta say that they seem to be pretty happy the way they are. While there’s all sorts of reasons (see: long-term stability, collateral burdens on other family, kids’ future aspirations) that I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home, this is indeed a family that knows how to LAUGH. Life doesn’t have a finish line, and we can’t take it with us when we go. Naked in we come, naked out we go. So while we’re certainly doing ourselves all a favor in teaching them to be more self-sufficient, I sometimes wonder if we’re doing them one? Teach them to fret more about the day-to-day, about what the future might hold? Sometimes as my husband and suffer the false-starts and frustrations of starting a new life, it seems to us that the true blessing might to be simply content with what you have.
The “wins” are how you define them.
The Gritty Poet
You could use “conseguir” instead of “ganhar” when conveying to someone that they should attain something instead of receiving it: “consiga as coisas por conta própria, não espere para ganhá-las”.
My favorite Portuguese shortcoming is that how the language uses “tempo” to designate both time and weather. I also find it wierd that there really isn’t a stand alone term for weather in Portuguese. Ok, you can say “condições climaticas” but it is so unappealing and doesn’t sound natural at all.
Are you Protestant btw?
A good linguistic work-around. Thanks! The “tempo” thing doesn’t bother me as much because it’s the same in Spanish. Portuguese does have “clima” like Spanish does if you want to describe a more permanent state of weather. I’ve used it and people seem to nod their heads as if they understand 😉
I love your blog Mal! I was thinking about your rug the other day and what crafty creative things you might be up to in Brazil. I learned how to knit after years of stopping and starting (I think my original inspiration was watching you make dish cloths!). I I am imagining interesting local yarns – although I am sure the farm work is taking the majority of your energy. Keep it up and lots of love. Jess and fam.
Thanks for reading! Glad you’re enjoying. Sadly no knitting here–it’s too hot! I’ve taken up crochet as a result. Ladies here go ALL OUT with the crochet and will make coverings for just about anything. Me, I mostly have made some small area rugs and a few towel trimmings for relatives. Since we’re dead broke for now the craftiness is finding its outlet in repurposing items for household use & decoration (lampshades, refinishing furniture, curtains, etc.) Since this blog is more travel/philosophy than crafty maybe I’ll start a Pinterest feed with all my finished projects!