Posted in English

Children of the Corno

I see the word corno a lot on social media in different contexts so I thought I’d dig into it a bit.

Me so corny

Ordinary, standard meanings are pretty straightforward:

  • A horn – ie, what a cow has on its head (you’ll also see “chifre” and “galho” especially in relation to a deer’s antlers, but the distinction between horns and antlers seems a little permeable…?)
  • By extension, various other things that are a bit like horns (antennae, tentacles, bone spurs and so on) will sometimes be referred to as cornos. You’ll also see “corno de abundância” or “corno de Amalteia” for cornucopia, or corno de sapato for shoehorn, for example.
  • A horn on a car (I’ve never seen this in the wild – buzina is the more usual word – but this definition exists in priberam).
  • One of the points at either end of a crescent moon.
  • A kind of plant – careful though, its not what we call corn (that’s milho), but a family of shrubs in the cornacea family.

But when I see it on social media, it usually means one of two things, depending on whether its singular or plural.

When it’s in the singular, it usually means cuckold, either in the original sense of a man whose wife is unfaithful, or the more modern one of someone who enjoys watching his wife be unfaithful. So when you see it online it’s often by the sort of person who would use the word “cuck” as an insult in English. They tend not to be the loveliest people, I’m afraid.

And in the plural, it usually means the face or head – so “um tiro nos cornos” =a bullet in the head, “levou uma pá nos cornos” = he got hit in the face with a shovel, and you’ll see various combinations of levar/ apanhar/ dar + nos cornos meaning various types of damage being inflicted above the neckline. In some cases it’s figurative – if someone loses a war or an argument or a football match, say.

There’s also “passado dos cornos”, gone in the head, meaning maluco or doido.

Calm down, lad!

So there you go. I hope you have enjoyed this dose of hardcore cornography. I feel like I should set homework for you. Try going in twitter now and searching for the expression “nos cornos”. Browse through a few examples and see if you can work out what the tweeter is trying to imply – whether they’re describing an actual physical injury or just some sort of defeat. Tell me your favourite example in the comments.


Just a data nerd

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