Loosing count

April 5, 2017


Although I am actually quite good at math, here in Portugal I'm frequently loosing count. That starts with the days of the week, but becomes more seriously at the doctor who describes me a recipe for some antibiotics. What's happening? If I may say so, the Portugese language has in fact some mathematical errors ;-) I will explain.




With the days of the week it's actually just a matter of switching mind. Except the days of the weekend, Monday till Friday are being indicated by numbers. You would think it would start by '1' but for some reason (can someone explain? I would be curious to know in fact), the Portugese decided to start with '2'. So that makes Monday 'segunda feira' (second day). Taking it further from there, it will be no suprise that Tuesday is 'terça feira' (third day) and so on. Till we arrive to 'sexta feira' (sixth day), Friday of course. The days of the weekend don't join this counting for whatever reason, but are being mentioned as 'Sabado' and 'Domingo'. Did you get that? Let's continue. 


More difficulties I have with finding a trace of logic with the numbers of the houses here. For instance we are living at number 56 (even number), however our neighbours are living at number 43 (quite an odd number). And their neighbours at number 26. We live at the same side of the street and we share a wall. It's not very thinkable to get lost in my own street, but if you are actually lost, this lack of logic can make your search very complicated. Even your GPS gets confused.


Minus and minus = plus


Now some gramar issues I have. At maths we learn that 'minus and minus = plus', or positive if you like. In terms of language it would mean that 'not nothing' in fact means 'everything'. Right?  A double denial in fact is a confirmation. But not in Portugese. 'Tu não comprendes nada' or 'you don't understand nothing' I would consider as a compliment. Only the tone of voice puts me in a doubt. 'You don't understand anything'. That's right. And you? Are you still following me?




It's getting seriously at the doctor. Who gave me instructions for some antibiotics for a throat infection. Instructions: 8 in 8 hours a pill. I looked at him like a lemon with big eyes. Sixty-four pills. With a sore throat spitting fire! My goodness. Luckily for me and my throat I made a huge misinterpretation, as the doctor patiently explained me to 'just' take one pill every 8 hours.  


Once I got over this one and thinking for a moment that the doctor just didn't speak so well Portugese, the Portugese language turned out to have more of this kind of countings. Today I know that fifteen in fifteen days means 'every two weeks'. Four in four weeks means 'every month' and to three in three months obviously means 'every (or per) quarter'. That is Portugese counting, right or wrong, you just have to deal with that. Or could it be me? ;-)



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