I learned a fantastic new word today from Miguel Esteves Cardoso’s piece “Não ao Brexit” in the Portuguese tabloid Publico. In it, he’s describing the contrasting personalities of the two main Brexit advocates, Gove and Johnson. The word is “queque” which I think is pronounced like “cake” with perhaps a bit more tail on the end. It literally means cupcake and he uses it in the sentence “Johnson é simpático e queque.” Johnson is likeable and cupcake. So what does that mean, I ask my wife. Basically it means… well, someone like Johnson – vain, snobbish, wanting public admiration. I guess the closest english equivalent would be “toff”, not that it’s exactly the same word, but it’s in the same area and of course has a link to confectionery (being short for “toffee nosed”).
Johnson doesn’t get off so lightly as this sentence though. All the way through, Cardoso seems to be contrasting Gove’s honest nationalism and intellect with Boris, who he describes as “um aldrabão” (a crook), “um palhaço esperto, indolente e mentiroso” (an expert clown, lazy and dishonest), and “um traidor e um oportunista” (a traitor and an opportunist). In summary, to contrast the two “Johnson é um Trump educado e europeu enquanto Gove é um Larkin prosaico e incapaz de poesia”, all of which is so close to the English that even if you don’t speak Portuguese, you probably get the gist, but in case not “Johnson is an educated, European Trump, while Gove is a prosaic Larkin, incapable of Poetry”.
Such a great character sketch and yes, I’m definitely saving that word, queque for later.
3 thoughts on “Learning from the Brexiteers”
Straight after posting this I realised how sloppy I’d been: Queque and Toff can’t be equivalent because Toff is a noun and queque – while it derives from a noun – is being used as an adjective in the sentence. Oh well, apart from the terrible grasp of sentence structure, I hope the rest of it made sense!