Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Portuguese expressions that make me smile: Fish don’t pull carts

Peixe não puxa carroça – literal meaning: “Fish don’t pull carts”

This is usually said by burly Portuguese “meat and potatoes” men when presented with a fish dish at lunch and signals that they will probably be topping up with a pork steak sandwich before the afternoon is up.

Eating with a knife and fork at every meal is essential for most Portuguese people. A sandwich munched over the keyboard at work will simply not do and similarly fish is generally considered to be fare for dieting ladies and children. If you have a day’s hard physical labour ahead of you then, granted, fish may not suffice. When none cart-pulling folks come out with this expression, though I always think it’s just a grown up version of a toddler refusing to eat his greens.

The relative nutritional merits of meat and fish aside, I love the mental image this expression conjures up of a fish harnessed to a wagon in the same way that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” never failed to summon up an image of a fish stretching its tailfin down in a vain attempt to reach the pedals of a pushbike.

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