Saturday, 21 June 2014

Psycholinguistics and Translation: To Date, Boyfriend, and Girlfriend

In modern times, relationships are something out of date: Only old-fashioned people would like to really have them.

Modern people at most say they relate, but they do not actually relate most of the time.

The words date, marriage, and partnership are quite common in our vocabulary, but their meaning has changed substantially and is now very far from what it once was.

In the United States of America, people say they are going on a date and that is just what it is: They are going to meet someone.

Whilst the result of that encounter might be anything between a hello and completely intimate sexual action, the expectation of society is still that things work between the couple in all main capitalist and democratic countries, like that things work in such a way that the two become a couple.

In the past (perhaps remote), going on a date was making the courtship also in the United States. The man would then converse with the woman and slowly progress in terms of degree of intimacy, so that they would first converse, then hold hands, then kiss, then hug, and so on so forth. Back then, therefore, everyone had an expectation that things worked well for the couple.

Marriage, on the other hand, seems to be universally seen as a lifetime commitment to monogamy, deepest partnership, and therefore collaboration, by everyone on earth. It is one of the lucky terms, since it seems not to have changed with time.

Partnership is a term that originated in business and simply means agreement on what is most important in the market: If we have a partner with whom we administer a shop, we have an agreement on duties and profit share, for instance.

When human beings say that they have a partner, what they usually mean is that they have someone with whom they share their intimacy frequently, so that there is actually no sexual relationship, of any sort, implied by the term. Modern partners seem to usually accept having sex with third parties, so that the modern relationship partnership appears as a situation of sexual freedom with joint life decisions.

In a healthy partnership, both sides know what they are into, so that both know that there is no sexual exclusivism implied, for instance. In an unhealthy one, one side would have been tricked by the other and perhaps would find it hard to split.

The usual thing in partnership and dating is non-exclusivism these days.

The usual thing in marriage is exclusivism.

People from underdeveloped countries, in particular from those inside of South America, seem to distort all those concepts and really not understand what is involved.

This is to be blamed on several things. One of them is culture or linguistic divergence.

The terms namorar, namorado, and namorada, in Brazilian Portuguese, for instance, mean something slightly different from the terms to date, boyfriend, and girlfriend in English.

Namorar in Brazilian Portuguese still has a sense of making courtship to another, so that it still has a sense of exclusivism, even though places like Rio de Janeiro seem to see things in the same way that the first world people do.

Namorado, in Brazilian Portuguese, means a faithful sexual/life partner.

In a sense, it all sounds the same, but language is a place of so much complexity that it is not really the same: Namorado can only be a man who is doing courtship to a woman.

As we know, in English, boyfriend may sometimes mean male friend or mate.

Girlfriend may also mean female friend or mate.

Namorada however has the same sense as namorado and would then mean a woman who does courtship to a man.

The interesting thing is that there is no other way to translate namorada into English: It is girlfriend.

Namorado is boyfriend and namorar is to date.

One good reason for that is tradition: Someone started it and now we have zillions of sources that have translated things this way.

If we translated namorar into to do the  courtship, girlfriend into female courtshipper, and boyfriend into male courtshipper when going from the English language to the Brazilian Portuguese, things would probably be fairer, less confusing, and less likely to end up tagged as cultural conflict than they are these days, so that we should definitely do it.


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