Are you familiar with the word “bother”? That’s b-o-t-h-e-r, bother. When you bother someone, you disturb them, basically. If you’re bothering someone, maybe you are irritating them, or causing them some kind of trouble, even. Or maybe you’re just… disturbing their peace a little. You could say “Something about this just bothers me”. There’s something about this whole situation that just bothers me. You might be talking about your new job – let’s say you just found out you have three bosses. Three. You now report to three different people. That’s right, you go to work every day, and you do your job, and then you have to talk to three different managers about your work, and not just once. All the time.
In the beginning you thought it sounded like a good idea, but after two weeks you feel a little… strange. Something about this arrangement bothers you. All three managers seem like good people, but the whole situation just bothers you. You’re used to having only one boss, reporting to only one person, and working for three different people just bothers you. So, in this case, when you say something about it bothers you, you mean that you don’t feel comfortable about it, you feel this is odd, it just bothers you that you have to report to three different people at work.
Now, when someone tells you “Don’t bother me!”, that’s a bit stronger. That means “Leave me alone, go away! You’re annoying me”. Quit bothering me, I’m trying to study.
Here’s my favorite meaning for “bother”, though… It’s when you use it like this: let’s say you’re helping a friend move. Let’s say you friend is moving house tomorrow and right now you’re lending him a hand – let’s say your friend’s name is Paul. So you’re lending Paul a hand and you’re helping him pack up his stuff. And then you open a drawer in Paul’s nightstand, and it’s full of papers. You turn to Paul and ask him “Should all these papers go in your backpack?” And Paul says “Don’t bother. Those are just old bills”.
What does that mean? Paul said “Don’t bother”. That means, it’s not necessary to do what you were thinking about doing. It is not worth the trouble, it’s not worth the effort. The effort you would make in order to put those papers in a box, or in Paul’s backpack? That would be way too much effort for the result you would get: just a pile of old bills in the new house… that are basically useless. So, why go through all the trouble of grabbing those bills, taking them out of the drawer and putting them somewhere else? Don’t bother, just leave them there. Don’t bother taking them out of the drawer, don’t even bother touching them. Not worth the trouble. And, just as a reminder, when we say that something is not worth the trouble, that thing is not necessarily a problem, nor are you necessarily going to get in trouble for doing it. Taking old bills with to your new house is a perfectly OK thing to do, if you want to do it. But in this case? Paul thinks the bills are useless and that’s why he said “Don’t bother packing them. Just don’t bother”.
Here’s one more example: you signed up for French classes but you suddenly realize that classes start tomorrow and you haven’t bought the book yet. So you tell your friend Mary, who’s also a student at that school, that you’re going to call the reception desk at the school and ask if there’s an extra copy of the book that you could borrow for tomorrow’s class. So, again, you tell your friend Mary that you’re gonna call the reception desk. Mary, however, has been a student at this school for a couple of years, so she knows everything about the school. She glances at her watch and says “Don’t bother calling them. It’s five past four now… There’s no one at the desk. The receptionist leaves at four on the dot”.
So what’s Mary saying? Don’t bother calling the reception desk. It’s not worth the effort, because I know there’s no one there. It’s not necessary to dial the digits and wait, it’s going to be wasted effort, since the receptionist leaves at four on the dot. Don’t bother.
So, what are your examples? Let us know in the comments and talk to you next time.
- something about this bothers me
- quit bothering me
- don’t bother
you report to (someone) = você responde para (a pessoa que é seu superior no trabalho)
quit (bothering me) = para de (me encher)
lend (someone) a hand = dar uma mão a alguém
at four on the dot = às quatro em ponto