I never “learned” the word barulho, but I heard it all the time and it made complete sense in context, so it integrated itself into my vocabulary. The laundry machine does barulho; so does the neighbor’s dog, cars when they need to be serviced, and people in the kitchen when they’re cooking. “Is my bike supposed to be making that barulho?” The lyrics from a Lenine song (o barulho do mar na areia: the barulho of the sea in the sand). I pictured barulho as a sort of furry monster that makes raucous mischief, regarded with the same mix of affection and exasperation as one gives a terrible-two toddler, running around a room with sticky hands. The word always appears with fazer—to do—thus giving life to the things doing barulho, as if they had their own violition, their own ability to enact actions.

And then I saw the direct translation—burulho: noise. Of course! Yet… how dull, to restrain burulu to one word rather than a sort of hazy image of what noise is based on what it does—how, with whom, to what. (It makes mischief, and most often seen with animals and appliances).

Profe Miranda interrupts a passage I am reading out loud from my Portuguese textbook. “Que baralho! he says. “Calma.You’re speaking like a machine gun.”

Evidentially, I need to work on voice inflection.


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