Posted in English

C1 Expressions

I hit an exercise that had quite a lot of expressions I hadn’t heard before

Um amigo de Peniche – comes from a British action during the succession crisis of the 1580s. Nine years after the Spanish seized the portuguese crown, a force led by Francis Drake landed near Peniche ostensibly to restore the crown to Dom António, Prior do Crato, but really to prevent the Spanish launching another armada and, in the process, also doing quite a lot of looting and attempting to seize the Açores to sever the route if the Spanish silver trade. So an Amigo de Peniche is a friend who is only really looking out for what they can get out of the friendship and doesn’t really give much in return. Apparently people from Peniche are self-conscious about being associated with treachery and never miss an opportunity to tell you the true origin.

Please stop blaming Peniche for stuff England did
Peniche Truther
Drake, as far as we know, has never tried to invade Portugal
You used to call me on my cellphone, to help restore you to the throne

Um unhas de fome – a grasping, tight fisted person

Um atraso de vida – a harmful or annoying life problem

Um amostra de gente – a very small person

Um mãos-largas – a very generous person. Note that here (and in a couple of other expressions, the article “um” doesn’t seem to match the noun. That’s because this is a description of a person, and the default is singular and masculine, even if they are described as having wide hands – mãos largas – feminine and plural.

Um bom garfo – a gourmet

Um cabeça de alho chocho – if you are an old shriveled garlic head, you’re a forgetful, absent minded person.

Um bota de elástico – someone who dresses, acts, or thinks in an old-fashioned way

Posted in Portuguese

Uma Carta de Reclamação

Writing letters of complaint is a popular exam exercise. I’ve pinched a couple of phrases from a C1-level example, highlighted in the text

                    Londres, 5 de Outubro 2021

Assunto: Apagão* do site

Exmo Sr Zuckerberg

Venho por este meio*” apresentar uma reclamação relativa ao assunto em epígrafe***. Ontem, tentei entrar no seu site, Facebook, para ver memes sobre gatinhos mas o site estava em baixo. Ao falhar desta tentativa, dirigi-me ao Instagram mas isto também não deu êxito. Fui forçado a falar com a minha própria família e a ouvir as opiniões da minha esposa e da minha filha sobre o Squid Game.
Fiquei com marcas mentais que provavelmente nunca se curarão.
Devido a esta situação, gostaria de ser ressarcido pelo honorário do meu psicanalista e uma indemnização por danos causados. 2 biliões de dólares deverão ser suficiente.
Sem outro assunto de momento e aguardando uma resposta da vossa parte****
Com os melhores cumprimentos
_________

* “Apagão” “em baixo” are phrases I pinched from recent news articles but I don’t think the terminology is very fixed. The marker changed the latter to “tinha ido abaixo” But I’ve left it as it was since I guess the Jornal de Notícias has its reasons.

**This phrase is something like “I hereby”. Super-formal, obviously.

***This is referring to the title line so only works if you’ve written a subject at the top of the letter

****More formal boilerplate – Not having anything further to say and awaiting a reply in your part.

Zuckerberg reacting to a letter of complaint
The recipient reacts to my complaint letter

My wife tells me people really do write in this sort of formal style. Probably not about cat photos, but still…

Posted in English, Portuguese

Segue o Teu Destino

Translating one of the poems I’ve been learning. It’s by Ricardo Reis, one of Pessoa’s Hetronyms. I found it a bit inspiration-postery at first but it’s really grown on me, especially the last two lines of the first verse and the last two lines of the last:

Portuguese versionTranslation
Segue o teu destino.
Rega as tuas plantas.
Ama as tuas rosas.
O resto é a sombra
De Arvores alheias.
Follow your destiny
Water your plants
Love your roses
The rest is just the shadow
Of other people’s trees
A realidade
Sempre é mais ou menos
Do que nós queremos.
Só nós somos sempre
Iguais a nós próprios.
Reality
Is always more or less
Than we want
We alone are always
Equal to ourselves
Suave é viver.
Grande e nobre é sempre
Viver simplesmente.
Deixa a dor nas aras
Como ex-voto aos deuses.
It’s easy to live
It’s great and noble always
To live simply
Leave pain on the altar
Like a votive offering to the gods
Vê de longe a vida.
Nunca interrogues.
Ela nada podes
Dizer-te. A resposta
Está além dos deuses.
Look at life from afar
Never question it
It can’t tell you
Anything. The answer
Is beyond the gods
Mas serenamente
Imito o Olimpo
No teu coração.
Os deuses são deuses
Porque não se pensam.
But serenely
Imitate Olympus
In your heart
The gods are gods
Because they never think of themselves
Posted in English

Not Like That, Like That

Here’s another one of those posts where I find some weird thing in a book and I bring it to the blog and drop it on the doormat like a cat with a mouse. Check out this rodent corpse:

“Inspiras assim e expiras assado”

The first bit is easy: “You breathe on like this” but what’s with “Assado”? Assado means “roasted”. But according to Priberam, “assim e assado” is an expression meaning “like this and like that”. So breathe in like this and breathe out like that.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Robert Dinheiro’s Waiting, Talking Portuguese

I’ve been looking at words related to money and I’ve put together some short paragraphs that use them in context

This has absolutely nothing to do with the text, I just like puns, OK?

Os meus vizinhos oferecem alvíssaras (a reward) a quem forneça informações sobre o seu cão que desapareceu no domingo passado.

O governo já aumentou os impostos (taxes) apesar de ter prometido não agravar a carga fiscal (tax burden).

O meu contabilista (accountant) pratica honorários (professional fee) muito altos mas vale a pena

Além da propina (tuition fee) que pagava à universidade tinha de pagar uma joia (subscription fee) ao clube Marxista e manter a minha quota (periodic membership fee) em dia. Caso contrário, eu ficaria “cancelado”.

O meu avô recebe dividendos (dividends – not a hard one to guess, that!) modestos* cada ano em resultado dos seus investimentos (investments – another easy one!) . Comprou um por cento das ações (stocks. I’ve seen “títulos” and “papéis” used in this context. See here for example) duma empresa chamada “Apple” em 1978 e os lucros (profits) do seu capital cobrem as despesas (expenses) da sua humilde mansão numa pequena ilha privada no mar das Caraíbas.

A minha filha ganha (earns) bem com o seu serviço de ama mas vive connosco sem pagar renda (rent free: renda can also mean “income” in other contexts as well as rent). É rica. Penso em pedir-lhe um empréstimo (loan) mas a taxa (rate) de juros (interest) que ela aplica é bastante alta.

Depois de receber uma indemnização (compensation) do meu empregador, fui ao banco fazer um depósito (deposit, obviously) e depois à tasca praticar o levantamento do copo.

*This useage of “modesto” to describe something as small and unshowy, is not actually given in the dictionary but seems to be used as in English alongside the more normal use of modest to mean a person who is not boastful.

Posted in English

Not-So-Super Nova

I mentioned a couple of days ago that was a minor kerfuffle about the teacher on my Portuguese history course.

A History of Europe by Raquel Varela

It seems there’s was more to it than I thought. Some of her scholarship students have complained about her having abused power, apparently, and in one case even claimed she had plagiarised a big chunk of one of her books from a student essay. Blimey!

I don’t know what to make of this, and I’ll tell you why my cluelessness is interesting: when I’m online in my normal guise, reading about scandals in English speaking countries, I tend to have a pretty good idea of who is where on a sort of graph where one of the axes is ideology (where they are likely to come down in an argument between different points of view) and the other is honesty (whether they are prepared to bend the facts to fit their narrative, whether they fight dirty. Crucially, I can usually spot sarcasm, shitposting , spiteful ess and attention-seeking when some British ideologue (Owen Jones say) or American (Candace Owens, maybe) is doing what they do, but I am absolutely unable to read it in most Portuguese tweets. Unless people are very obvious, I dint really know what’s fake and what’s real. This one seems reputable but really, I’m a hopeless naive and maybe he’s a well-known partisan hack, shilling for some very Conservative paper that has targeted her for her opinions.

And I suppose its worth pausing at this point and asking who we trust online and why? I know there are a lot of sources I’d basically trust all the way. Like the BBC. They aren’t always right but they’re always trying. They’re not Fox News or Infowars and I trust their basic integrity as a source of facts. But there are other sources I’ve sort of grown to trust over the years but how well do I really know them? Are they just the people who have told me what I want to hear for so long that I’ve become blind to their biases? Yeah and not just me, reader. What about you, eh? I’m waving my finger at you as I type this. What about you, eh? How sure are you that the people in your social media feed are trustworthy?

Posted in English

Pret a Mossar

I came across this picture on the tweeters and was trying to de cypher it. Mossar is a real word but it’s meaning is pretty obscure. If I’m reading Priberam right, it means to clean the spikes of a mace with a cloth.

Um… OK…

After staring at it for a while I realised the message is supposed to say “Fui Almoçar” (I’ve gone to have lunch). I asked online whether there was more to it than that does mossar have some double meaning perhaps? No, it’s just laughing at an “analfabeto” (illiterate person). It’s a really crusty old meme, apparently so they were quite amused that I’d dredged it up.

Posted in Portuguese

A Pessoa Mais Inteligente que Conheço

Jeeves and Me

A pessoa mais inteligente que conheço é o meu mordomo, o Jeeves. A sua cabeça está inchada por causa do seu cérebro gigante. Acho que a sua inteligência vem de comer tanto peixe.
Infelizmente, apesar de ser o meu empregado, às vezes o Jeeves utiliza aquela inteligência sobrenatural para influenciar a minha vida. Há algum tempo, comprei um fato branco. Quando desfiz as malas, o Jeeves viu o fato. Levantou* uma sobrancelha como que me pedindo** “O senhor tem certeza?”. Um sinal ameaçador, sem dúvida. Eu sabia que deveria devolver o fato***. Caso contrário****, o Jeeves teria provocado um incidente envolvendo a minha tia Dahlia, o seu cozinheiro, um jarro prateado e uma carta roubada para fazer a minha vida um pesadelo. Fiquei com coração despedaçado porque adorava aquele fato, mas convém andar conforme os seus conselhos.

*Levantou, not levou

**A good expression involving a gerund: “as if he were asking”

***I put the words “para a loja” on the end of this sentence but you only need devolver. The rest is redundant. Where else would he be devolvering it to?

****I have a list of words and phrases that Portuguese people use a lot and that I always forget about because they are so different from the way we say things in English and I try to slip them into texts whenever I can. This is the first ever outing for this one. We don’t say “in the contrary case” in informal English conversation, but this is basically equivalent to a phrase like “otherwise” or “or else” and I hear it fairly often when I’m listening to podcasts and whatnot.

Posted in Portuguese

Toutinegra

Toutinegra, uma banda desenhada portuguesa

Toutinegra é uma banda desenhada portuguesa escrita por André Oliveira com ilustrações de Bernardo Majer. Conta a história de duas crianças de nove anos que moram numa aldeia esquecida. A mãe adoptiva do menino é uma louca que provocou um acidente de carro que causou a morte da mãe biológica dele e a quem, por alguma razão que não compreendo é permitido ficar com o bebé que ela encontrou no carro.

Os dois encontram uma criatura negra num moinho abandonado na floresta que “traz más notícias” a quem vai morrer ou a quem vai perder alguém. A influência da criatura inicia uma série de eventos trágicos. Gostei do estilo e dos desenhos (bastantes simples e ingénuos) mas acabei por não me sentir satisfeito com a história. Quase deu em êxito mas… Sei lá… Ficou muitas coisas* por explicar e o enredo parece um pouco rebuscada e incompleta.

*This is a weird one. A lot of people will just say “muita coisa” in spoken portuguese, just like “muita gente”, or like you might say “a lot of stuff” in English. But it is meant to be plural according to Ciberduvidas.

Posted in English

My History Course Turns Out To Be Both More and Less Interesting Than I Thought

I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a post on the course I’m taking about the history of Portugal, but today’s Twitter news has made me finally stretch my thumbs to do it now because… Wow, I was not expecting this!

The course is bi-weekly, presented online by the Bertrand chain of bookshops. I missed the first one so I’ve only actually attended one class so far. It’s taught by a woman called Raquel Varela, who is Portuguese, and a Brazilian guy called Roberto Della Santa. I was a bit non-plussed by the session I attended. It was about the origins or liberalism and the unification of the national market in the 19th century but there weren’t many references to actual historical events; the bulk of the lesson was given over to explaining Marx’s theories about capitalist production. OK, well, Marx does set out to explain historical processes so yeah, fine, but it seemed likes strange digression for a course on Portuguese history, going into abstract realms of economics and historiography without much reference to the real sequence of events. It felt more like a come-to-Jesus, or rather, a come-to-Karl… appeal than a lesson. That’s OK though, I’ve studied Marx at uni, and I’m quite happy to listen to other people’s points of view. I’d have asked a question if my grasp of the language was more secure but no, not today!

I’m not complaining – I enjoyed it. I hope the remainder of the course will be less abstract though.

Anyway, fast forward to today. I open twitter and there’s a tweet right at the top of my feed with a link to an article and a picture that looks familiar. It takes a while to realise it’s one of the course teachers, Raquel Varela, and the article is about a petition signed by “more than a hundred intellectuals” in support of academic freedom in general and of her specifically. It turns out she is quite a well-known figure. This surprised me because the price of the course is so low I’d assumed the teachers were just keen amateurs they dragged in from the store’s popular history counter. I wasn’t expecting star power! Its like attending a year-long study group at your local Waterstones for a hundred and forty quid and finding it’s being run by Simon Schama. You’d go “bloody hell, i wasn’t expecting this!” She’s a kind of public intellectual, attached to the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, author of several books and occasional TV pundit. She’s taken a lot of fairly controversial positions, not least on covid, but that’s another story for another day.

Anyway the reason she was in my twitter feed was to do with a public hoo-ha that has been going on for a couple of weeks now. It started when rumours began appearing on social media that her academic CV had been inflated by repeating items multiple times to make it seem like she had more academic clout than she really has. I don’t know where these rumours came from originally but she refers to them in her blog in July, describing them as a “campaign of defamation”. The matter came to a head around the 20th of September when the newspaper Público reported that the Instituto de História Contemporânea had withdrawn its support for her candidacy in a scheme run by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia called the Concurso de Estímulo ao Emprego Científico Individual after checking the allegations and finding that she appeared only to have published about half as many articles as she claimed. Now, I know inflating your cv is not exactly uncommon, but integrity is a big deal in academic circles, especially when you are using your track record as a platform for competing against other academics as in this case.

Varela didn’t take this lying down, instead using her legal right of reply to demand (the verb is “exigir”) an apology from Público,

Varela Claps Back

But it didn’t come and they continue to report on the progress of the ongoing investigation.

This brings us back to the present day where Sapo’s i online site reports on the letter of support from a hundred or so writers and academics. Their petition refers to a “campaign of character assassination”, involving Público, which it accuses of “promiscuity” with anonymous sources spreading misinformation. It also mentions other, more unpleasant allegations in “ultra-Conservative” sources and throws in a reference to “o crescimento de fake news e da extrema-direita”. In one particularly weird flourish of denunciation they say “Este é um caso exemplar de como o nepotismo dentro de um sector da academia e a necrofilia de alguma imprensa procura silenciar uma intelectual”. Wait… What? Nepotism? Necrophilia? Calm down lads.

The effect seems to be to associate the (perfectly legitimate, it seems to me) story in Público with some more shadowy stuff online, implying they are somehow part of a co-ordinated smear campaign. This seems a little unfair, since whatever the online muckrakers are doing, Público are at least reporting on matters of public record: either her CV is padded or it isn’t, and that question is being adjudicated by the relevant scientific bodies. Whether they find in her favour or not is up to them but fairness and transparency seem to be essential in upholding trust in the scientific process. Mixing it up with conspiracy theories doesn’t help either side.

Anyway, I will certainly carry on attending the course and I’ll enjoy it a lot more knowing the backstory!