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D is for devious virgins

by Bernard O'Shea

In English, many of the D words seem to be tinged with a thrilling emotional or sensational intensity. Daring, dangerous, daunting, dreadful, delectable, delicious, distressed, devastated, devilish, diabolical, drenched, dribbling, devouring, disgusting, dramatic, dastardly, desirable, dire, dingy, deplorable, deadly, dominatrix, destroyer, drugs, duels, doomed, dirty dancing  …. Is it any coincidence, then, that diamonds are a girl’s best friend? Come on over to the dark side. How about a dalliance with Dracula? You get the drift.

Do the D words have the same flavour in my five Romance languages? Let’s flick through the dictionaries at random to find something appealing….

SPANISH: despreocuparse means to stop worrying, which is something people should do more of. I like how Spanish has one word for this, whereas English uses three, although the modern English equivalent would be to chill

Those candles may not be as glowing as you might think.

PORTUGUESE: uma donzela-de-candeiro. Its old-fashioned meaning is a table or bench on which a night light is placed. This is not why it tickled my fancy, though. What I found amusing is that in Brazilian usage it has come to mean a woman who pretends to be a virgin. This must have been from the old days before electric lights and when Catholic and other religious ideology decreed that women had to aspire to be Virgin Marys until their wedding day (no such restrictions for the males). Was the biblical father of Jesus the Virgin Joseph? Maybe he was one of those macho young men who brag about being experienced lovers but in fact are still virgins, um palito ainda na caixaa matchstick still in the box (I made up that expression.)

FRENCH:  disjoncter. This means to trip, fuse, short-circuit, as in the electrical sense, but it has been adapted to great effect into modern argot to mean to trip out, to go off one’s head, lose one’s head, to crack up, to go off at a tangent. We have all disjoncted at some stages in our lives, methinks, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights in our youth.

ITALIAN: dopotutto. This great-sounding word means after all. Use it liberally when speaking Italian. Just say “Dopotutto, ….” followed by some really thoughtful or philosophical observation, or utter nonsense, and people will marvel at your power of conversation. Words like these are useful, too, as they signal that you intend to keep talking and everyone else has to listen, which is the whole point of having a conversation really.

ROMANIAN: dragoste. Well, you can’t deny you learn all the crucial words here at My Five Romances. It means love, and thus a face dragoste means to make love. The related adjective is drăgăstos/drăgăstoasă, meaning loving, affectionate, amorous. M5R

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ladyofthecakes 27/11/2013 - 7:21 pm

Donzela… lol… I was discussing this word with my Portuguese teacher last week! But she said nothing about the faux virgin aspect… maybe this really is just a Brazilian thing (she’s from Lisboa).

Bernard O'Shea
Bernard O'Shea 28/11/2013 - 12:19 pm

Hi, what a coincidence…. I’m glad because sometimes I think the words I choose are too obscure to be of any use … there are so many expressions that are unique to Brazilian Portuguese… the European Portuguese wouldn’t understand most of them… I think Brazilian Portuguese has wandered around unleashed picking up all sorts of influences whereas the continental language has been more restrained.

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