“Lata velha” (pronounced lat-ah vel-ya) is a Brazilian expression that, in English, literally means “old can” (old – velha; can – lata). In Brazil, we use that expression when we see a very old and crappy car.
You have to be careful when using this expression, of course. You wouldn’t say to a person “God, you have a really crappy car!”, right? I hope you wouldn’t! In Brazilian Portuguese, most of people also wouldn’t call someone’s car “lata velha” (not in their faces).
It’s easy to understand why the word “velha” (old) is used in this expression, since we’re talking about an old car. But why “lata” (can)? Cans are made of metal, and cars are also made of this material (right?), at least the outside part. So here the word “can” doesn’t mean the can itself, but its material.
It’s hard to explain a foreign language expression! I feel so silly sometimes trying to explain it.
Is there an American expression that matches this Brazilian one? Let me know what you think in the comment box; I couldn’t think of anything!