Ooh, I was intrigued by this passage in the book I’m reading. Are you ready for a couple of new expressions and some incoherent ramblings about gender? You are? Then come with me!
Had his colleague noticed that he admired her?
But what creature had bitten him? He had never thought about Marta that way. He had always seen her as like a Maria-rapaz, a partner who, although she was a woman, was able to talk like a man.
Sex is like that. It changes everything completely.
There are a couple of cool new things here. First of all, “que bicho lhe mordera” (“what beast had bitten him”) could be taken literally – there are certainly sites online that use some version of that as a headline to inform readers of how to figure out the origin of an insect bite or sting. In this case, though, it’s figurative. It just means something like “what had got into him?” or “why was he acting so strangely”.
The second phrase is even better. “Maria-rapaz”, as you can probably guess from the context, is a tomboy. According to the Wikipedia entry, there are quite a few different versions of this idea in popular usage, such as “moleca” and “maria-homem”. The meaning of it seems pretty congruent with the English equivalent. The Portuguese article is mercifully straightforward (at the time of writing), in contrast with the English version which has been larded with gender-studies buzzwords because, obviously, girls can’t just play with skateboards without well-meaning adults sticking labels on them. Ugh.
As the article says, the feminine male equivalent – “maricas” is much more likely to be seen as implying that the person is gay, which isn’t present in the idea of a tomboy, and – male gender stereotypes being more rigid – it’s generally seen as a more negative, derogatory word. There isn’t a Wikipedia page for maricas but Priberam sets out the different meanings pretty clearly.
I think that’s all for today. I had an extended side-note about that word “bicho” in the first expression, that was going to unpack the beastliness but I think I’ve decided it needs a blog post of its own so I’m going to do part 2 in this discussion tomorrow.