Out of Tune? No, Bossa Nova

At times, English seems so limited, despite its enormous vocabulary. Many languages say in one word what can’t possibly be directly translated into English without extensive explanation.

‘Desafinado’ is a bit of a word puzzle. In Portuguese and Spanish, ‘afinar’ means ‘to sharpen’ so the past tense, ‘afinado’ means ‘sharpened.’ The ‘des’ prefix is the same as ‘dis’ in English; it reverses the meaning. So ‘desafinado’ would literally mean ‘not sharpened.’ But it this context it really means that the musical notes haven’t been sharpened; therefore, ‘not tuned’, ‘discordant’, something along those lines.

Portuguese being a much more romantic language than English, it seems that the discord in the song isn’t merely an inability to carry a tune; there’s a hint that much more is at stake:

 Se voce disser que eu desafino, amor, Saiba que isso em mim provoca imensa dor

 If you say that I sing out of tune, love, Know that this causes me great pain

and later

 O que voce nao sabe, nem sequer pressente,