I had occasion yesterday to visit one of Copacabana’s most celebrated beachfront eateries for lunch. It is so celebrated, in fact, that I have absolutely no idea what it’s called, which doesn’t matter in the slightest as I shan’t be returning there any time soon.
Aside from the food being borderline inedible and the service that time-honoured Rio combination of studied indifference and chronic disorganisation, what really caught my eye about this establishment was the sheer artistry and imagination that the proprietor had put into the signage. I mean in all conscience, how could I resist the mouthwatering proposal, winking seductively at me from the lightbox hanging from a chain in the window, that I dine on “Chicken Ass Barbecue”?
Now to the untrained eye, this may seem rather baffling, but it really isn’t. The answer was simple, I concluded; the owner had taken the word, asas, meaning wings, and….erm….winged it.
As regards the culinary motorway pile up that was my lunch, I am reminded of Bill Bryson, who suggested in one of his books that you should never eat in restaurants that display their menus in pictures. He may very well have a point. Such enticements should be the sole preserve of food halls in giant out of town shopping centres, the sort of place you visit on some devil may care whim, fully cognisant of the risk, and warmly embracing the bewilderment that accompanies the arrival of a dish that looked completely different in the photo.
Returning to the language question for a moment though, it would be churlish to suggest for a second that putting foreign languages through the mangler is the sole preserve of the Brazilians. I have plenty of British colleagues and friends, who have been here for years, for whom a Portuguese phrase is a verbal and grammatical endurance test, which they fail with depressing regularity.
I’m sure the Brazilians laugh at us plenty. Which is absolutely fine.