Posted in English

No Such Thing As Society

I came across this paragraph in a book I read recently. It hit me because it’s a familiar quote but I also realised i didn’t know how to say “there’s no such thing as…”

“For the right-wing libertarian “there’s no such thing as society” (Margaret Thatcher) and liberty is individual or not at all”. And “Não existe tal coisa” is the key phrase meaning “there’s no such thing as”

Incidentally, that “direita” is causing me some headaches in the book I’m reading now “A Construção da Democracia em Portugal”. My confusion comes from the fact that one of the socialist leaders is a law professor – “Professor de Direito” – because “direito” means right as in right hand but also means right as in “human rights” and by extension, law. But I keep thinking he’s a Professor de Direita – ie, a right-wing professor, which is a bit weird if he’s helping lead a socialist movement. Direita isn’t a different word from direito, it’s just shorthand for right-wing, and wing is “ala”, which is feminine so the ending has changed.

There you go: quite a lot to unpack there! I have quite a few of these little nuggets saved up from the last few weeks of reading so I might do a few more of these posts. They help me to remember them and maybe they’re useful to other people too.

Posted in English

An Apple A Day

The portuguese equivalent of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is pleasing because it rhymes just like the english version

Uma maçã por dia, não sabe o bem que lhe fazia

It isn’t usually used in that form though. If you look for the second part online it’s more often used with “um livro por dia”, “uma música por dia” “uma panda por dia” or any other noun you care to name

Posted in Portuguese

Z – Manuel Alves

Um conto de ficção científica que demonstra uma axioma do livro “Superintelligence” de Nick Bostrom: logo que alguém crie uma entidade de  inteligência superior à de seres humanos, é o fim de jogo para a humanidade.
Neste história, um rapaz de alta inteligência está preso num laboratório controlado por cientistas. O método de medir está inteligência não me persuadiu: “Quantos sonhos cabem na palma da mão?” pá, essa pergunta não faz sentido nenhum. A resposta mais inteligente seria “O quê? Deixa de dizer disparates!”
Mas apesar disso, gostei do conto e comprei mais dois pelo mesmo autor.

Posted in English


I came across a word the other day that I hadn’t really thought about much but seems to have more depth than I realised. For some, it’s just as much a national characteristic as “saudade”. The word is “desenrascanço“. Its root is “enrascar” which means to twist or tangle. So it’s basically the ability to untangle things, and it’s more-or-less equivalent to English words like improvisation, hacking, kludging, or pulling a MacGyver*.

Just to be clear though, as far as I can tell, it’s the quality of a person who is resourceful, not an individual act of improvisation, although I can see some online definitions that have explained it that way. So it’s more like “the quality of being good at improvising” or maybe “MacGyverishness”. And hence, some Portuguese people see it as an important national characteristic in the same way we brits value our ability to “muddle through”

*=confession time: I’ve never actually seen MacGyver, but I gather he was someone who always managed to get out of a tight spot by winging it with whatever was available. Or so my wife tells me.