An eagle-eyed fellow journalist pointed this funny language tidbit out to me… earlier this week Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times, panned Microsoft executive vice-president Stephen Elop for his verbose 1000-plus word memo, cluttered with tedious corporate-speak announcing (eventually) 12,500 job cuts. The link to that article is here, but because of the paywall you might not be able to read it; however, if you Google the headline ‘Hello there’: eight lessons from Microsoft’s awful job loss memo, you should be able to call it up on screen.
One of the comments on that article came from a person with the nom de plume perguntador*
- There is a Portuguese word for writing a lot of blah-blah-blah before getting to the heart of the matter: it is called a “nariz-de-cera” (a wax nose, literally — it could have been imported from French, the source of a lot of literary expressions in European languages) … This must be one of the longest and most excruciating “narizes-de-cera” ever put before a job loss notice.
This made me want to go and pick the nose section of my Portuguese dictionaries for other juicy nasal expressions. The dictionary entry was a bit disappointing: nariz-de-cera (pl narizes-de-cera) 1. common-place. 2 emphatic introduction. I prefer perguntador’s “writing a lot of blah-blah-blah” definition. The other listed nariz expressions are pretty much what you would expect (e.g, seguir o nariz, to follow one’s nose), but the Portuguese equivalent of “to poke one’s nose into other people’s business” is meter o nariz onde não é chamado (literally, to put the nose where it is not called).
As for cera, it is a feminine word meaning wax or beeswax, but it also has a figurative meaning of a weak, wavering or unprincipled person, or work badly or slowly done. Fazer cera means to work slowly on purpose.
A nostril in Portuguese is uma narina.
I then went to my French dictionaries to see if perguntador’s hunch about it being an imported expression was correct. The word for nose is nez, and French has a lot more nose idioms than Portuguese, by the looks of it, but I couldn’t find one to do with wax, which is cire (except the wax for skis, which is fart) 😀 And a nostril is une narine.
- Italian: naso, narice, cera
- Romanian: nas, nară, ceară
- Spanish: nariz, fosa nasal, cera
My Spanish dictionaries don’t have any blah-blah-blah wax noses in them, so I guess the credit must go to the Portuguese imagination.
* In Portuguese, perguntar means to ask, interrogate, query, inquire about; uma pergunta is a question or an inquiry; and um perguntador is a questioner or interrogator, as is um or uma perguntante.