Posted in Portuguese

Lagartos Voadores

Second lizard-related post in a row. It’s a new theme…
Vislumbrei esta montra em Londres no passado sábado. Não parece, realmente, uma ave mas é uma forma bem conhecido: representa um fóssil dum dinossauro chamado arqueopterix (se não me engano, Arqueopterix é o nome do papagaio de estimação de Astérix o Galo, não é?). Arqueopterix era um dinossauro pequeno com penas em vez de escamas. É provável que voasse, ou seja esvoaçasse, de árvore para árvore. Apesar deste fóssil ter sido descoberto em 1861, não costumávamos pensar nos dinossauros e nas aves como primos até recentemente. O filme (e livro, não se esqueça!) “Jurassic Park” popularizou a teoria. Hoje em dia, os cientistas já averiguaram que até o poderoso Tiranossauro tinha penas. Imagine! Que segredo constrangedor: o rei dos lagartos armou-se em ferocidade mas todos os seus amigos, o brontossauro, o tricerátopo e o anquilossauro tomaram-no, e riram-se. “Olha” diz o estegossauro (os estegossauros eram brutos, realmente, pá) “Aqui vem uma galinha”. Pobre Tiranossauro

Posted in English

Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

youre-a-lizard-harry-36247804One of the exercises in “A Actualidade em Português” is about superstitions and there are five that are similar to “knock on wood” or similar – phrases for warding off the effects of bad luck. By far the coolest is “Lagarto, Lagarto, Lagarto” (Lizard, Lizard, Lizard). I have no idea why that means what it means. Ciberdúvidas isn’t much help and neither is Andreia Vale’s “Puxar a Brasa à Nossa Sardinha”. Even m’wife didn’t know, only guessed that maybe it was because witches use lizards in their spells.

Anyway, while I was researching it, I came across this freaky advert for an art show which uses an old song from the 70s by Banda do Casaco called “A Ladainhas Das Comadres” which includes the phrase. Confusingly the first line is in latin (the portuguese equivalent would be “Afasta-te, Satanás” or “Vai para trás, Satanás”)

Vade retro Satanás [get thee behind me Satan – Latin]

T’arrenego Belzebu [I abjure you, Beelzebub]

A Jesus Cruzes Canhoto [To Jesus, crosses left-handed]

Lagarto, Lagarto, Lagarto! [Lizard, Lizard, Lizard!]

That “Crosses left-handed” is a similar phrase used to ward off evil, sometimes extended to “Cruzes, canhoto! Longe vá o agouro!”

Similar phrases include

  • Isola
  • Diabo seja cego, surdo e mudo
  • Vira para lá essa boca
  • Salvo seja


Posted in English, Portuguese

Dialogue Coach

Spotting interesting ways of describing dialogue instead of just He said, She asked, He replied. These are from Vaticanum by Jose Rodrigues Dos Santos. I’ve just pulled the interesting lines out at random from an extended conversation about corruption in the vatican bank, in no particular order – in other words, they’re not supposed to form a coherent conversation on their own, so don’t even try.

250x“Mas isso não tem pés nem cabeça” explodiu a auditora

“Nunca poderemos ter a certeza” sublinhou

“Como”, admirou-se

“É essa o problema”, reconheceu ela

“Isso já eu sei” devolveu Tomás

“Como queira” retorquiu

“Ah bom”, aprovou o historiador

“Isso é uma chico-espertice indigna de gente séria e de uma instituição de bem” protestou

Tomas empertigou-se: “Como se explica que nada tenha mudado desde os tempos desse bandidolas do Marcinkus?” quis ele saber

“Que ladrão” exclamou ela, escandalizada.

“Isso não é resposta” contestou

“Não foi isso que eu disse”, precisou o português

“Irónico, não é”, observou

By the way, José Rodrigues Dos Santos is sometimes compared to Dan Brown, which is a terrible slur on the poor man, but I think the point of similarity is probably in the way he describes dialogue. Although he doesn’t go as far as “The famous man looked at the red cup”*, in his efforts to avoid pronouns, he seems to describe people in some slightly clunky ways. The dialogue will be peppered with “said the chief of COSEA” or “said the auditor” or “said the french woman” – and those are all referring to the same person and all in the same conversation between two people!

*=yes, I know DB never wrote this, Stewart Lee just made it up, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Posted in English


54512070_576231809537279_6800739437273309113_nIf you’re reasonably familiar with portuguese names, you’ll notice a lot of them end with “eira”: Pereira (m’wife’s maiden name), Nogueira, Oliveira, for example, and if you’re even more switched on, you’ll know that these, along with a few other names – Carvalho springs to mind – are names of trees*.

It seems as though there’s some doubt over the origin of these names. One theory is that they were adopted by the “Conversos” – Jewish people who converted to Christianity in the late 15th and early 16th century when the inquisition unexpectedly rose to prominence. Doing a little digging, this theory seems to be a bit unsatisfactory. Although a lot of jewish people adopted the names, they already existed before that time, and not all jewish converts chose them either, so… basically, we aren’t much further forward, are we?

While I was looking into this, I found something else that probably should have been obvious: that a lot of names ending in -es such as Nunes, Alvares, Gonçalves and Fernandes were originally patronimics, like Robinson and Robertson. So it wasnt a wasted effort after all.

More here on Wikipedia.

*By the way, can we talk about the fact that “Mangueira” means both “Mango Tree” and “hosepipe”? What sort of well-run language would allow a single word to mean both those things, for heaven’s sake?

Posted in English

A Próclise, A Mesóclise e a Ênclise e o Rock ‘n’ Roll

Próclise, Mesóclise and Ênclise are words used in grammar lessons to describe the position of the adverb relative to the verb. In Brasil, Próclise is far more common than either of the other two, but in Portugal it’s the exception rather than the rule, These notes are taken from a Ciberdúvidas post.


The pronoun goes before the verb

  1. After certain common adverbs such as bem, mal, ainda, já, talvez, apenas, também, não, sempre, só (according to Wikipedia, “Hoje” is a pronoun that fits this bill too, believe it or not!)
    • Sempre o vejo
    • Ainda me rio quando penso nisso.
    • Hoje me convidarão para a solenidade de posse da nova directoria
  2. After indefinite subjects such as “ambos” or “alguns”
    • Ambos o odeiam
  3. In subordinate clauses
    • Quando a ouvi, não acreditei
  4. In coordinate clauses – basically where you’ve referred to a thing in a sentence already, then you use a conjunction like “and”, “but” or “or” to join to another clause where you refer to it again
    • Ou tens o bolo ou o comes.
  5. Where the subject of the verb goes after the verb it wold be crowded to have the object pronoun there too
    • Isso te digo eu


The pronoun goes inside the verb like an insane pronoun sandwich, which seems… peculiar…. until you realise that it was originally because the future and conditional tenses were made up of the infinitive and a form of “havere” the version of latin that eventually became the portuguese language. Actually, it’s still peculiar, but knowing the reason behind it is some consolation, I suppose.

  1. Future tense [where none of the próclise conditions apply]
    • Contar-lhe-ia uma história
    • Comê-lo-ei
    • BUT Quando sairmos do UE, não o arrependerá?
  2. Conditional tense
    • Dar-lhe-ia
    • BUT Se encontrasse Boris Johnson, nao lhe falaria



The pronoun goes after the verb

  1. Basically
  2. All
  3. Other
  4. Times
Posted in English

Let’s Get Bruxism Done

giphyI went to the dentist today. I’d rather not talk about it.

Anyway, while I was there, I noticed a leaflet about “Bruxism” which is just the technical term for excessive grinding of the teeth. I didn’t even know there was a word.

Anyway, checked priberam, and sure enough, “bruxismo” já existe! This interested me because “bruxo” or “bruxa” is the portuguese word for “witch”, so I checked the alternative meanings and, yes, this one, slightly arcane word, means both: “Mania ou acção inconsciente ou involuntária de ranger os dentes, normalmente durante o sono” (mania, unconscious action or compulsion to grind the teeth, normally during sleep*) and “Crença em bruxas ou em bruxarias” (Belief in witches or witchcraft).

giphy (1)Assuming the tooth-grinding term is as uncommon in Portugal as it is here, I bet this has caused a fair bit of confusion over the years. I’m imagining the dentist telling some catholic parents little João needs to be put to bed in a mouthguard because he’s engaging in bruxismo all night and them taking him straight to the priest for a swift exorcism.

*incidentally, this definition makes no sense. If you’re asleep. how can you be said to be suffering from a “mania”, and how can it be anything other than “unconscious”?