Nominal regency

It’s fun to see what parts of Portuguese sort themselves out as time passes. The current theme is the gender of nouns (a task of memorization), and even more so remembering to match the adjectives to the noun. This latter part (called ‘regência nominal’) is not about memorization, but about real-time phrase generation and planning. Of course, it is dependent on the former problem, since if one doesn’t know the gender of the noun, no amount of planning will produce the right string of preceding adjectives.

I am not usually conscious of what noun I am going to say until I arrive at it, and by then I’ve already said all the adjectives, and now, if the noun turns out to be feminine and I just said a bunch of masculine adjectives (the most common problem), then I have to go back and re-say half the sentence. I think in time one must have at least an unconscious anticipation of the upcoming noun such that one can pre-match the gender of the adjectives before arriving at the end of the phrase.

Brazilians find this particular difficulty hilarious. ‘O PUC’ (pronounced oh pooky) once left a godson in stitches, and he couldn’t stop bringing it up for months. PUC is the abbreviation for a local university. University is feminine. It should therefore be ‘a PUC’ (ah pooky). He said o PUC sounded like the name of a dog. Here pooky, pooky. I give him credit for being one of the few people to ever correct me. I have carried on with silly errors for years, sometimes, because no one had the courage to point it out. The other day a gentleman I barely knew corrected me without hesitation, and it was so unexpected that I simply stared at him in confusion and someone else had to explain. Godchildren are the best for the correction, once they’ve gotten over thinking they have to be polite around me. Then they just mock my every error and have no fear of piping up in front of anybody to tell me what ridiculous thing I just accidentally said. Thanks be to God.

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