Monday, September 26, 2011
The Simples/Complicado Dichotomy
Miss Angola won Miss Universe 2011 because she was found to be simples, while Miss France has shown herself to be complicada.
An interesting concept in Lusophone Africa is the simples/complicado dichotomy.
Simples is one of the highest compliments one can receive, while in English, to be called simple is an insult. It means you are either simple-minded or live a simple and boring life. To call someone´s house simple may be an underhanded way of saying it is small or sparsely decorated. But in (African) Portuguese, to call a person simples is saying that person is nice, or pleasant or best of all -not complicado.
Complicado can certainly mean complicated in the way English speakers use it. But it has this whole other meaning too. In English, someone who is complicated might be emotionally complicated, have baggage from past relationships, have mood swings that are difficult to predict and understand. Complicado can mean all of these things, but it can also have a vague meaning that someone is just difficult to get along with. A situation that is complicado can be complex to resolve or it can be simply a pain to deal with. At worst, to be complicado means that you like confusão.
Confusão can be translated as confusion, but that does not capture the nature of it. It is closer to chaos, pandemonium or drama. A person who is complicado might like creating confusão in their life or in the lives of others. For example, if a candongueiro hits your car and you get out and to yell at the driver he might say something like "Stop creating confusão." You see how that is different from confusion? Everyone would know why you were yelling. No one would be confused about that. But to make a scene about it, to heighten the tension, that would be creating confusão.
Other examples of confusão might include a mess of papers on your desk, a cat fight, a traffic jam or politics. Portuguese is amazing.
Updated: Angola-Mozambique Tão Bem Palavras