Friday, October 10, 2014

Rain; Porto Covo; Stews; Non-virgins; & Pronouncing Portuguese


Today it rained all over Portugal, reminding us that - however south you go in this country - you're always going to be along the Atlantic coast. And that means water.

So, walking (on wet dunes!) was suspended and we took a look at Porto Covo. This was quaint in the rain and must be charming when the sun shines and visitor numbers are high. Out of season, though, it was empty and a tad forlorn, even if the blue and white idiom of this region adds a touch of brightness to everything. Rain notwithstanding. But I had an excellent fish lunch - probably swordfish (perca/corvina?) - and appreciated again how important it is for fish to be morning-fresh.

Talking of food . . . Last night I got lucky when it came to dinner - a superb wild boar stew to follow the excellent seafood stew I mentioned yesterday. They can certainly do stews on this coast. And they don't give them fancy names like 'casserole' or 'bouillabaisse'. In fact some places call the fish stew sopa or 'soup. To top it all, the prices are handsomely low.

This afternoon/evening we spent 90 minutes trying to find a Casa Rural called Monte das Varginhas. Which almost certainly doesn't mean 'Mount of the Virgins'. Or even 'Virgins' Mount.' Anyway, we knew it was 6km from Porto Covo but weren't aware it was off the road and down a mud track. And that there was no sign for it on the main road. Though there was one for a ghost restaurant. Finally arriving, we were met by four dogs and a toothless old woman all in black. As she probably had been for 40 years or more. I couldn't make out what she was saying but followed her finger and eventually found her daughter and grand-daughter. The former's main concern was money upfront but her smile seemed quite genuine. And the rooms were OK, even if there was only one channel on the TV.

Portuguese, as is well known, is hard to deal with aurally. Many sentences appear to consist of a string of Zs and, all in all, the language sounds as if it come from East, not West, Europe. Here's just one example of how Portuguese treats a word of Latin origin, set against its companion Romance languages:-
French: Eglise - the S sounds like a Z
Spanish: Iglesia - the S sounds like an S
Galician: Igrexa - the X sounds like a Sh
Portuguese: Igreja - the J sounds like a Jzh

So . . . Is Portuguese pronunciation as it is because of greater Arabic influence, even though the Moors ruled here 300 years fewer than in Spain? Doubtless Alfie Mittington can tell us. And the pronunciation of varginhas? I'm guessing at var-zzheen-esh. Corrections welcome.

Finally . . . The Portuguese for 'turkey' appears to be bife de Perú, which presumably speaks of the bird's origin. Or at least its first sighting.

P. S. This post is late because of various internet problems. And, by the by, the signs into Coimbra's old town are crap.

3 comments:

Alfred B. Mittington said...


If I remember well, the 'S's all turned into 'Z' in Portugueze becauze the Z can be spoken with the lipz nearly clozed, zo that no Atlantic rain enterz ze mouz….

LinguisticAl

Blah blah said...

I am convinced that the Portuguese pronounce their language in the way they do because they are artificially and deliberately trying to make Portuguese as different from Spanish as they can; that isn't possible with the written word (most Spanish speakers can easily read about 90% of written Portuguese) so they change the pronunciation.

Colin Davies said...

Thanks. An interesting hypothesis. It's certainly true, especially if you can read Gallego, that Portuguese is easy to read if you area a Spanish speaker. But impossible to understand aurally.

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