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Not far from my house in Teresina stands the Riverside Shopping Center. The name of the place, as well as the food courts and chain stores inside, could make you mistake Riverside for a mall in suburban America. The way people in Teresina pronounce the name Riverside, though, sounds thoroughly Brazilian: hee-veh-SAI-gee.
When speakers of one language borrow words from another language, they often bend the pronunciation a bit. We do this in English all the time. Think about rendezvous, or guerrilla, or karaoke. We English speakers don’t pronounce these words wrong per se, we’ve just made them easier to get our mouths around as we’ve made them a part of our language.
Brazil has borrowed a lot of words from English, which results in a lot of fun pronunciations. In Brazilian Portuguese, syllables usually don’t end in consonant sounds. Even native Portuguese words like opÃ§Ã£o (option) and absurdo (absurd) are spoken as oh-pee-SAO and ah-bee-SOO-doo. So English loanwords often have extra vowel sounds thrown in too. Again, I recognize that there’s nothing wrong with these pronunciations, but a lot of them do make me smile.
Here are some of the best examples:
- ping-pong (PIN-ggee PON-ggee)
- picnic (PIK-ee NIK-ee)
- hot dog (HAH-chee DOH-ggee)
- self-service (SEU-fee SEH-vee-see)
- site (SAI-chee)
- smartphone (eh-SMAH-chee FOH-nee)
- rock (HOH-kee)
- and perhaps the best of them all, hip-hop (HEE-pee HOH-pee)
As happens with a lot of loanwords, some English words have gained new meanings here in Brazil:
- outdoor (OW-chee DOH-ree) = billboard
- flashback (FLAH-shee BAH-kee) = oldies music
- top (TAH-pee) = cool, awesome
- notebook (NOH-chee BOO-kee) = laptop
- funk (FUN-kee) = a musical genre that bears no resemblance to anything James Brown ever performed
It might come as no surprise, then, that my name here is changed to EH-ree-kee. As I’ve grown to appreciate Brazilian pronunciations of English words more and more, I’ve also started to introduce myself with the Brazilian pronunciation of my name. I’m anticipating that it will take a good while to get out of that habit when I return to the U.S.