Of all the countries I’ve lived in and languages learned, the days of the week are pretty much the first thing I picked up, which is linguistically and pragmatically a basic thing to learn. For some reason, I struggle with it here in Portugal. For most of Europe the days of the week are based on deities so it’s very straight forward and easy to translate in your mind, regardless of whether it is from Spanish to German or Italian. It is familiar and makes sense regardless of whether we are talking about Friday, Freitag, Viernes, Venerdi, or Vendredi. See the pattern? Then comes Portuguese and scrambles my brain completely – Sexta-feira? What the hell is that? Well, first of all, only the weekends are familiar to me – Sabado and Domingo. But Monday to Friday are practiced / expressed in terms of As Feiras, or the Work Week, which dates back to the 6th century. Essentially, the work week is a series of days in relation to the liturgical day of rest (Sunday) which was the Latin feria. The Archbishop Martin of Braga violently disapproved of naming the days of the week after pagan Roman gods, so he pattered the days as a Holy week and their distance to Easter Sunday, but modern Portuguese moved everything down a day.

Basically it boils down to

Original Liturgical Latin: Prima feria
Modern Portuguese: Segunda-feira

Original Liturgical Latin: Segunda feria
Modern Portuguese: Terça-feira

… and so on, making

Original Liturgical Latin: Quinta feria
Modern Portuguese: Sexta-feira

Colloquially, you drop the -feira and use the number for the day. Believe me, I’ve had far too much trouble with this and have a constant WTF moment when I have to figure out what freaking day of the week I have to do what, so I am always in a daze. When I asked when the weekly market was in a particular area, I was flummoxed when told it was on Quintas… fifth what? Fifth floor? dimension? universe?

I never had this much trouble with the darn days of the week, even with Hindi or Thai, but I tell you, Portugal is a whole different ballgame. This also accounts why it is so easy to miss the train here, like I did yesterday. Technically I didn’t miss it, I was just too distracted, my mind on the bloody Quintas and jumped on the wrong train three minutes before mine was scheduled. When I got off at the next station to change trains, I realised far too late that I was standing on the wrong platform and watched with utter dismay as my train pulled in two platforms away and beeped cheekily as I dashed to catch it – major fail. So it took me almost two hours to get home last night, and was in no mood to figure anything out anymore. I am just glad that today is Sexta-feira.

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