Posted in English

The Heels Are Alive

We tend to learn body parts early on in our language journey and we think we’ve got them all mastered because we’ve mastered how to sing “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” in Portuguese but there are all kinds of other body parts that don’t get a look-in: armpits (axilas), kidneys (rins), calves (panturrilhas ou “barriga de perna“), and so on.

One I came across today and probably should have known was “calcanhares” meaning heels. There are a few expressions involving heels, some of which are familiar and some less so

Calcanhar de Aquiles – the Achilles heel can be used figuratively to mean a person’s weak spot, just as in English

Dar aos calcanhares – is like the English expression “to show a clean pair of heels”, in other words, escape or run off quickly.

Não chegar aos calcanhares de alguém doesn’t really have an equivalent in English. If you don’t reach someone’s heels it means you are vastly inferior. A minha filha gosta de David Tenant mas na minha opinião, não chega aos calcanhares de Tom Baker.

And an English expression that doesn’t have a direct match in Portuguese would be “high heels”. In Portuguese the heel of a shoe has a different name: salto, so a salto alto is a high heel shoe. It’s a bit confusing because salto can also mean a jump, so salto alto sounds like it should mean a high jump, but the athletic event we call a high jump is “salto em altura” in Portuguese.