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I want to translate 'black panther', as in the Marvel character, but I'm having difficulty understanding which translation of 'black' would be appropriate. As I understand it, preta refers to things (and animals), but it's rude to call a person that. But given that, in this case, 'black' refers to the fur colour and not skin colour, would it still translate to 'pantera preta'?

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    "Pantera Negra" in Portugal, "Onça Preta" in Brazil. – Rodrigo de Azevedo Jun 4 '16 at 13:26
  • @RodrigodeAzevedo please avoid answering in comments. – ANeves Jun 6 '16 at 3:41
  • Pantera Negra o nome do personagem no Brasil. Onça-preta por se tratar de uma onça-pintada de pelo preto (sim, ela tem as manchas). É rude tratar as pessoas pela cor da pele dela, ou usar expressões como "aquele preto". Para falar de cor de pele usamos negro; ideologicamente as 'esquerdas' decidiram que por tratar pessoas de peles claras por 'brancas' deveriam tratar pessoas de peles escuras de 'pretas'; mas negro significa escuro ou de cor escura, isso torna a aceitação do termo preto para cor de pele questionável. – André Lyra Jun 6 '16 at 19:17
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The black panther translates as "pantera negra". Certain uses of "preto" and "negro" are idiomatic. There are no rules and one has to learn them.

  • a pantera negra está ameaçada de extinção.
  • tu és minha asa-negra, estás sempre a dificultar tudo para mim.
  • nuvens negras no céu são um prenúncio de temporal.
  • o quadro-negro na sala de aula.
  • a nação rubro-negra. (os torcedores do Flamengo Futebol Clube)
  • a peste negra foi a pandemia de peste bubônica que assolou a europa no século XIV
  • a África Negra é uma outra denominação da África Subsaariana
  • magia negra é o uso de forças sobrenaturais para propósitos maléficos
  • ela é a ovelha negra da família
  • vou trocar meus Euros no câmbio negro.
  • humor negro faz piada com situações consideradas de mau gosto ou politicamente incorretas
  • mercado negro é um mercado clandestino e informal
  • vou por teu nome na minha lista-negra
  • o Mar Negro
  • o ouro negro (petróleo)
  • a viúva negra é uma aranha extremamente venenosa, do gênero Latrodectus

.

  • o feijão preto
  • em preto-e-branco
  • preto-velho
  • azeitonas pretas
  • gato preto
  • chá preto
  • cerveja preta
  • a caixa preta de uma aeronave
  • Ouro Preto é uma cidade no interior de Minas Gerais
  • O rei preto (no xadrez)

From these examples you can easily perceive that "negro" tends to have a negative connotation whereas "preto" refers more frequently to color. Yet, "negro" has been chosen as the politically correct word to refer to Afro-Brazilians whereas "preto" is considered a racist word in such contexts.

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    caixa negra in Portugal – suriv Jun 4 '16 at 3:04
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    There’s also cabelo preto being rather more common than cabelo negro — plus the latter can mean the hair of negros and not just for its color. Beard color naming should match that of hair, so barba preta, but Blackbeard the pirate is Barba Negra, perhaps for the negative connotation of pirates. The colonial term lenda negra (“convertendo-se numa das fontes de nascimento da "lenda negra" do Império Espanhol” ) certainly caries a negative connotation, although there's a book called Lendas Negras about African tales. – tchrist Jun 4 '16 at 15:14
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    I'm seeing a breakdown between the two that is more about figurative vs. literal. Thus, preto to refer to people would be incorrect because they are not actually black, but brown--it is a figurative usage. If I am right, then while ovelha negra refers to the idea of a family member that misbehaves and is disapproved of or is somehow marginalized, ovelha preta would refer to an actual black sheep. – ErikE Jun 6 '16 at 16:05
  • @ErikE interesting; I wonder if this is what Júlio Reis is getting at when he says "subjective and poetic"? – Dan Getz Jun 6 '16 at 19:06
  • @DanGetz I read his answer after posting my comment, and agree with you and him. – ErikE Jun 6 '16 at 19:34
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I don't have the right personal experience to comment on the animal vs. human, or rude vs. polite distinctions.* But you probably can't go wrong with Pantera Negra, because this is how whoever originally translated the name of the Black Panther Party translated Black. In Portuguese, they're o Partido dos Panteras Negras, or "os Panteras Negras" for short.

Checking Wikipedia again, this is indeed how they have translated the comic book character: Pantera Negra.

(*In Cape Verde, the natural way to refer to people's color is with preto and preta, even when used as a noun. But there most people's mother tongue is a Portuguese creole, not standard Portuguese.)

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    I've always heard the animal referred to as pantera negra, never preta. I've found pantera negra given as examples in two of the best dictionaries, Houaiss and Academia das Ciências de Lisboa. – Jacinto Jun 3 '16 at 15:09
  • @Jacinto even better reason, then. – Dan Getz Jun 3 '16 at 15:10
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    And my old Lello Ilustrado is really interesting. It has an illustration with the caption: Panteras 1. Comum 2. Negra. But in the text it has: «algumas panteras são completamente pretas». So, you use negra for the name, even though to describe the colour of anything it is more common to use preta. – Jacinto Jun 3 '16 at 15:14
  • pantera é um aportuguesamento do nome científico, sendo a palavra usada para designar a onça-preta; a onça amarelada é chamada de onça-pintada; trata-se do mesmo tipo de animal de cor de pelo diferente e com as mesmas manchas; alguns outros felinos chamados de onça no Brasil tem outro nome regional ou "global": por exemplo, a onça parda pode ser chamada de suçuarana ou puma (nome científico) – André Lyra Jun 6 '16 at 19:09
5

It could have been called pantera preta. After all, we generally say that a cat is preto, because preto is the most common word when describing the color.

On the other hand, negro is more used in other senses, which tend to be of a more evaluative nature: in some set expressions, like lista negra, viúva negra; to mean something close to sad/adverse, like in futuro negro, realidade negra, and also to mean dark (nuvens pretas are just nuvens escuras) and black people. With respect to this last point, I'd risk saying preto is the most common word, even if people might hesitate to use it in public.

So why pantera negra and not pantera preta? It possibly just happened; some people preferred that word. The evaluative nature of negro could have played a part, but note that the animals (not the comic character) are also called negro, but only the leopards, not the jaguars (onça preta).

4

«Preto» is objective and prosaic, «negro» is subjective and poetic. This is just a rule of thumb, as language isn’t exactly black and white (pun intended) :)

  • If something is indeed of the colour black, you tend to say «preto». A black car = «um carro preto»
  • If you are being very matter-of-fact, you say «preto». The situation is bad = «A coisa tá preta»
  • If you are being poetic, you say «negro»: «Com mãos de veludo / negras como a noite» (“With hands like velvet / dark as the night”)
  • Panthers are not exactly completely black, they are very dark but you can still see the spots, hence maybe why it has to be «pantera-negra»… although there are other dark brown animals such as the Common Swift, whose Portuguese name is «andorinhão-preto».

So, go figure… My rule of thumb helps, but you still have to memorize which is which.

The poetic vs. prosaic registers can be demonstrated by translating “a man dressed in black”:

  • «Um homem de negro» = evokes the semantic connotations of “dark”: mysterious, associated with the night, maybe dangerous, psychologically charged with meaning, wistful
  • «Um homem de preto» = evokes quite simply the colour black. ‘Does what it says in the tin’ :)

Enjoy the Portuguese language!

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