EP word of the week (#88): ama

The simplest of words are usually those most prone to polysemy, i.e. to have many meanings.

In European Portuguese, such is the case with ama, which can be a verb form (of the verb amar, to love) or the word for babysitter/childsitter (especially a professional/private one); since Portuguese is stupidly old-fashioned, for now the word only appears in the feminine – [a] ama.

In Brazil, the term commonly used is [a] babá; we’re sufficiently acquainted with it through telenovelas and other Brazilian cultural exports to know the difference (which, as I said many times, works for most of the words on this feature), but it would never be the go-to word chosen by an European Portuguese speaker in Portugal when speaking to other EP natives :)

Since I wanted to give you something different today, I thought about sharing a video recording of a great short story by one of Portugal’s most famous writers: 19th century Realist novelist Eça de Queirós. The title of the story is “A Aia” (lit. The chambermaid / children’s nurse/nursemaid), which as you can see is an old-fashioned word for the same profession (especially in courtly settings); in Brazil, [a] ama itself is associated with this historical meaning, which both variants retain in words like [a] ama-de-leite (a woman in charge of breastfeeding a baby in replacement of their mother) or [a] ama-seca (a woman who looks after babies without breastfeeding them).

You can follow the text on this link (starts on page 171) (let me know if the link isn’t working anymore so that I can replace it).

I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know if you have any doubts about something you listened to / read in it.

If you just want to comment on the story itself, feel free to do so in the comments too :D

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