So I can't figure out why Brazilians are surprised when I know and say bad words in Portuguese. When I've sworn, quite a few people have asked, "how did you learn that word?!!?!"
I really, really don't understand this question.
Brazilians are people; that means they use bad words (except, of course, for the Catholic grandmothers who believe that words have power to call up demons or something). I live here, so I hear them. I memorize them because they're useful ways to translate the typical cornucopia of vulgarity-mixed-with-formal-English running through my brain.
I would understand if people were surprised that someone as seemingly sweet and innocent as I would use these words. I would also understand if they were amused by hearing bad words from their native language spoken with an accent: it's a centuries-old source of human entertainment. But what I don't get is how people are confused by where I could've possibly picked the word up.
Umm... I have 4 words for them: Alexandre. X-Box. FIFA 2010. (Let's count the year as one word.)
One of my favorite bad words in Portuguese is biscate. It means "slut." (I prefer "whore" in English, but the translation [puta, an easy one for you Spanish speakers] is just too literal in Portuguese and doesn't work as well.) Unfortunately, biscate seems to lack an adjectival equivalent ("slutty"). My friends back in Caipirópolis did not ask me this strange question about my swear word acquisition (they knew I'd learned at least half the words from them). They were, however, bemused by my attempts at using the word biscate as an adjective, putting it into phrases like Ela falou uma coisa meio biscate. Not correct, but the girls got my drift. They also approved of my correct deduction that led to the word biscatinha, which translates to "little slut" (usually in the porno way to use that term) but which I prefer to use to mean "just a little bit slutty" or as a term of endearment for a friend who is acting like a slut (it's OK, she knows who she is).
While Mary was here, she heard the ever-popular puta que pariu, which functions as a slightly stronger form of "god damn it!" but which literally translates to "whore that gave birth!" Once I supplied her with that translation, I realized just how ridiculous the term is, and now it's hard for me to take Alexandre seriously when he's mad.
Don't feel bad for him. He laughs at me every time I say "piece of shit!" for the same reason. He also laughed at me when I tried to really dig in an insult by translating it, saying Isso é preguiça paRA caralho! instead of pa' caralho. I failed, clearly. My mistake was akin to that of a foreigner saying "I'm piss-ed off!" and clearly enunciating the -ed.
But my conclusion is: bad words are fun and necessary in the right time and place. Sociolinguistics dictates that informal language is not wrong; it's just wrong in the wrong context. So that's fine if you're one of those people who say, "Oh no, I never use bad words! 'Fiddlesticks' is as far as I go!" but just so you know, you're distancing yourself from all the cool people that could be your friends and no one will even realize why. They'll just think something like, "man, that girl's not very accessible!" Scientific fact.*
*That second link quotes that, when used in the right context and not to express aggression or violence toward someone else, that swear words can "promote social harmony or cohesion."