October 13, 2013 | Review Period

A Question About Beer

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon with my books, and a theoretical question about alcohol containers has arisen.

Sundays are bewildering, as are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, because so many choices are involved.

I Struggled Between These This Morning

I Struggled Between These This Morning

Like: Italian or Portuguese or French? Then: book or audio lesson or flashcards? Then: which book, audio lesson, or flashcards? 

This is not an actual complaint. I love this stuff, and I love choice. But I confess I am once again succumbing to an intoxicated delirium state that involves my flitting around from book to book in a very undisciplined way. My head is spinning, and the centrifugal force is causing words to fly from my brain.

At this particular sunny moment on a New York Sunday afternoon, I am working through a book labeled as intermediate in the Living Language series for Portuguese. It is not in fact intermediate; it is still rather beginning, in my opinion. However, label levels do not affect my enjoyment.

I am posting just now because in this book I have come across a translation for beer bottle that is inspiring skepticism in me. In case a native Portuguese speaker strolls by, here is a question for you: does a garrafa de cerveja really translate properly into English as “beer bottle”? Or should it instead be “a bottle of beer”?

A Bottle of Beer

A Bottle of Beer

A Beer Bottle

A Beer Bottle

If someone ordered a beer bottle at a Manhattan bar, they might get an odd look, plenty of glass, and very little beer. It is a funny thought.

I do see that neighboring examples in my Portuguese book are frasco de xampu (offered up as “shampoo bottle”) and xícara de café (translated as “coffee cup”), which pattern is leading me to suspect that my beer portraits have been for naught.

But still, I will leave the question resting here on a bench for passers-by.

Comments (10)

Ken • Posted on Sun, October 13, 2013 - 7:16 pm EST

Not being a native speaker, in my experience, I don’t actually remember hearing beer bottles called anything other than “a garrafa”. If you order a beer (bottle) at a bar, you just order “uma garrafa”.  Draft is called “chope” or “chopp” (pronounced the same way).  I guess in Brazil “beer” is just a given. :)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, October 13, 2013 - 7:27 pm EST

Obrigada, Ken!

Shannon K • Posted on Mon, October 14, 2013 - 10:28 am EST

Totally unrelated question, so I apologize in advance… Do you have any experience with the Michel Thomas Method? I just received an email about them, but I’ve never heard of it before. Would love to know what you think about it if you are familiar with it.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, October 14, 2013 - 11:38 am EST

Shannon, my life is one long series of non sequiturs, and I like it that way. Anyway, everything is related SOMEHOW!

I have heard very good things about Michel Thomas over the years, but still have no personal experience with the approach. The company is stingy about review copies, so I have only recently managed to extract a small introductory product of theirs. I will try it out in the next few months and review it, but unfortunately, I don’t have an entire program to examine. One thing I have heard mentioned as a negative is the absence of native speakers in the audio. Mr. Thomas himself was a polyglot who died in New York City in 2005, at the age of 90.

Maybe check out Paul Noble products as well? I will also soon be reviewing Paul Noble, for which I have a complete package sitting on my shelf. A reader who has used Michel Thomas, Paul Noble, AND Pimsleur told me he liked Paul Noble best, just wished there was more material available per language for PN.

Shannon K • Posted on Mon, October 14, 2013 - 12:02 pm EST

Lovely. Thanks. I checked out the PN material. It seems he offers courses in addition to the products he released in partnership with Collins, but the Collins products are only available in four languages (German, French, Italian, and Spanish). His courses, on the other hand, include Mandarin. I am a bit disappointed that the Collins products don’t include it too.

Alex • Posted on Tue, October 15, 2013 - 12:23 am EST

Well, there’s something to chew on for sure. I never thought about it that way before. It’s kind of funny how languages aside from English will reverse the order of adjective and noun (in many cases this is the only proper way of saying it, in fact) and call it “a noun of adjective”.

I guess this is just one of those things they ensure against, you know? Like, you won’t ever have to worry about someone using a loophole on you in a restaurant in France because you must order “a bottle of wine”, not “a wine bottle”, so they can’t just bring you back an empty wine bottle and say, “What? You got what you ordered. It’s not MY fault other establishments aren’t as literal as WE are…”

Ken • Posted on Tue, October 15, 2013 - 8:07 am EST

By the way, sorry, but when I said if you order a beer (bottle) at a bar, I meant you just ask for “uma cerveja”, not “garrafa”.

Daniel K • Posted on Tue, October 15, 2013 - 9:33 am EST

“Uma garrafa de cerveja” is definately “a bottle of beer”, as a “garrafa” can be for pretty much any kind of (drinkable) liquid. In Portugal you would generally state the brand of beer you would like, eg. Sagres, whereby the person behind the bar would ask how you would like it (in a “garrafa” or otherwise) if he had various options for you.

So the subtle distinction between the English “beer bottle” and “bottle of beer” is lost in the romance langauges, which consider first and foremost the bottle rather than its contents. I hope this explanation has been of help to you!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, October 15, 2013 - 10:55 am EST

Muito obrigada, Daniel!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, October 15, 2013 - 10:57 am EST

Shannon, you are correct about Paul Noble and Mandarin. Sorry! :(

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