Posted in English

Come+A’s you are

Closely related to the post about vir and chegar: what’s the difference between “vir a saber” and “vir saber”? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Vir a saber, as you’ll know if you read “The Spy Who Chegged Me” is a way of saying that you came to know something, perhaps in a slightly roundabout way, by chance, but the light dawned and then you knew.

Vir Saber is more like “I came to find out”.

This is good because I had been wondering how to interpret a line in one of the poems (it’s a song, actually) that I learned a week or two back. the people in the next room either “finally got to know about us” or “came to find out about us”. Well, now I know so here we go with a translation of the whole thing

Bem te avisei, meu amor
Que não podia dar certo
Que era coisa de evitar
I gave you fair warning, my love
That this wasn’t going to turn out well
And it was something best avoided
Como eu, devias supor
Que, com gente ali tão perto
Alguém fosse reparar
Like me, you have to suppose
That with people so nearby
Someone was going to notice
Mas não
Fizeste beicinho
E como numa promessa
Ficaste nua para mim
But no
You made a pouty face
And as if in a promise
Got naked for me
Pedaço de mau caminho
Onde é que eu tinha a cabeça
Quando te disse que sim
Bit of a wrong turn
Where was my head at
When I said yes to you
Embora tenhas jurado
Discreta permanecer
Já que não estávamos sós
Although you had sworn
To remain discreet
Since we weren’t alone
Ouvindo na sala ao lado
Teus gemidos de prazer
Vieram saber de nós
Hearing in the room next door
Your moans of pleasure
They came to find out about us
Nem dei pelo que aconteceu
Mas mais veloz e mais esperta
Só te viram de raspão
I didn’t even know what had happened
But being faster and smarter
They only caught a brief glimpse of you
A vergonha passei-a eu
Diante da porta aberta
Estava de calças na mão
I went through the shame
In front of the open door
With my trousers in my hand

It’s great isn’t it! Lots of really good stuff in there. The one line that I really had trouble understanding was the first line of the last stanza “A vergonha passei-a eu” which seems like he’s saying “I passed her the shame” as if he were trying to blame it all on the girl, but that doesn’t make sense for all sorts of reasons. The “-a” on the end of passei is actually referring to “a vergonha”. So it’s like “The shame, I passed through it”. Normally in conversation you’d say “passei pela vergonha” but poetic license applies. Here’s the full thing. I’ve probably posted it on here before but I just love it so much it’s worth repeating.

Posted in English

The Spy Who Chegged Me

Structures I’ve seen in books and never been quite sure how to parse. According to Ciberdúvidas,

Vir + A + Infinitive

Is a periphrastic form of a verb. Wait, wait, hold it right there, what is a periphrastic form? It just means you use extra words to give the verb a slightly different dynamic or even to change the tense. In english it’s things like “You shall go to the ball” or “I do like chips”. It might change the verb’s tense or it might just make it sound more complete and more dynamic. Maybe like in English: How do you come to be in a place like this? It has the sense of ending up somewhere by chance, and it sounds more interesting than “How did you get here?” or “Why are you here?”

There’s an example in the book I’m reading now. Talking about Bolsonaro’s attempts to blame minorities for everything Ricardo Araújo Pereira says “Acredito que a gente ainda venha a descobrir que há inúmeros gays negros e índios na Lava Jato”.

Chegar + A + Infinitive

“Chegar a”, on the other hand is more like “finally managed to…”. It’s stressing the end of the action coming after a long time or a strenuous effort. Searching for an example similar to the one above, I hit on this one which is from a religious website talking how, after a lot of prayer, the believer can finally come to understand the project that God has laid out:

A oração também se torna caminho para o discernimento vocacional, não só porque Jesus mesmo convidou a rogar ao dono da messe, mas porque é somente na escuta de Deus que o crente pode chegar a descobrir o projeto que Deus mesmo traçou: no mistério contemplado, o crente descobre a própria identidade, «escondida com Cristo em Deus»

Posted in English

Toe Long And Thanks…

Fazes-me tanta falta como o dedo mindinho

I felt sure when I saw this t-shirt from Cão Azul that it would turn out to be some sort of idiomatic expression but as far as I can tell, it’s not. “Fazes-me tanta falta como o dedo mindinho” just seems to be something they decided would be a cool slogan. Interesting vocabulary though

Fazes-me tanta falta como… = I miss you like

Dedo mindinho = little toe or little finger. You can specify “dedo mindinho do pé” if you like, but I guess they thought it wasn’t necessary with the picture.

I have already done a post about the names of fingers a little while ago but it’s not vocabulary I use very often so I’d forgotten all about it, and I see I used a different word – “Dedo Mínimo” at the time. I checked in priberam though, and either will do. Neither is brazilian or anything, it’s just like we use “little finger” and “pinkie finger”.

Incidentally, if you don’t already know this, walking around with a portuguese t-shirt on is a great way of announcing to everyone around you that you speak portuguese. That’s nice if you like boasting, but it’s even better if you want portuguese speakers you happen to meet out in the real world to say “Oh! Do you speak portuguese?” whereupon you can clutch at their elbow and not let them go until you have wrung half an hour of conversation practice out of them. For more terrible ideas like this, have a look at the portuguese language hacks page.

Anyway, the point is, I recommend Cão Azul as the internet’s most useful language learning resource.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Os Conselhos Que Te Deixo

I’ve been trying to tune my ears in to this series of videos. The character is called Bruno Aleixo and he has appeared in a few different shows. It’s sort of surreal humor. I would really like to be able to follow it but even with my wife’s translation there are big chunks I can’t make out. It’s got a really strong regional accent – you can hear the would “ouvir” has an extra syllable and sounds like ouviree, for example, and a lot of the words are run together so it’s hard to disentangle them.

There are two parts. I’ll put what she says it means and what I think I actually hear. Before she clued me in to what it meant I could only make out about a third of it, now I’m at about 80% but can’t quite make my ears hear the rest.

FIRST BIT If you have a brother, show him these tips (se tivesse algum irmão, mostra-lhe estes conselhos) / if you have a sister, don’t show her because they aren’t for girls (se something irmã não mostre something coisas something ouvir) / if your grandmother hears it she’ll hit me (se tua avó apanhe isto something-me)

SECOND BIT If you catch your uncle Horatio drunk, take the chance to steal his money (se apanhasse (? Tense?) o teu tio Horácio bêbedo aproveita para (re)tirar dinheiro) But careful, if he catches you he’ll hit you hard (Mas cautela, se ele te apanhe (? Tense) dá something… Oh wait, its cabeçadas isn’t it! com força) and the money is from France so you’ll have to exchange it at the bank (e a dinheiro é da França, tens something trocar ao banco – actually sounds like à banco but that can’t be right)


Posted in English

A Crónica Dos Bons Malandros – Vocabulary

I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Mário Zambujal’s novel, A Crónica dos Bons Malandros (the chronicles of the good… scoundrels…? hmm… it doesn’t sound as good in english though does it?), about a bunch of chancers who set out to steal some valuable jewels from the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. It’s on RTP1 and it has portuguese subtitles which helps when the dialogue is fast (most of the time) but even so, it’s really challenging. Lots of slang, lots of period detail from the early eighties. Here are a few words and phrases that I collected along the way. It’s pretty far from being a full glossary, but they were the things that caught my intetrest

Os Bons Malandros – the Portuguese Ocean’s Eleven

A trouxe-mouxe

In a disorderly manner, helter skelter

Isso são pilha-galinhas. Vamos embora

When the gang get arrested early in the series, the cops get a call on the radio a abiut a more serious crime and so they decide to let them go because they are just “pilha-galinhas”: small-fry, literally chicken thieves.


To steal something in a sneaky way. Nick it, pinch it, ‘ave it away.


A swarm of bees. You can’t really miss this one because when they release it there are bees everywhere


Usually means shelf but it comes up in a slightly surprising context. According to Priberam it can also mean “Os seios”

Isto é uma cena muito política, ‘tás a ver? Cunhas

Cunhas just means wedges, and when people use it like this it’s meant to convey that the person has contacts who can help them get a foot in the door. In other words, it’s a gripe about being treated unfavourably by insiders making way for their friends.

Carlinhos dança que se desunha

Literally “desunhar” is what it sounds like: unhas are nails, as in fingernails, so des-unhar might literally mean to remove someone’s claws or nails, but more likely, when used as a pronomial verb with se, as in the example, it means working so hard that your nails come off. So Carlos dances a lot, puts everything into it. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s good (although he seems to be that too!)

Trigo limpo, farinha Amparo

This one comes from an old advertising slogan for Amparo, a brand name of a kind of wheat meal popular in the seventies and eighties. I think when it’s used in the show he’s using it to mean it’s all good, nothing to worry about.


A public hair – or by extension any trivial, insignificant thing


Literally means a tassel, but can also mean a freebie. I’m not sure how informal this is though: the character who says it is asking a prostitute if she’ll “fazer uma borla” and I think he’s asking for a freebie as a regular customer. Whether you can use the same expression when asking your friend to fix your laptop for free, I don’t know. Caveat emptor.

“És anti-religiosa?” / “Nao, sou anti-mirones”

Said by Zinita when o doutor turns the statue of Jesus to face the wall. A mirone is a rubbernecker, peeping tom, lookie-loo, that kind of thing


This one comes up a few times and it means nickname


A film extra

Não enche meu saco

Don’t annoy me.


Nuffink, Nope


Forças Populares 25 de Abril was a left wing terrorist organisation in the eighties.


The nose, mouth area of an animal – the snout or the muzzle, so when the guy in the prison yard says he’s going to esmagar Flávio’s fuça he means he’s going to give him what PG Wodehouse would call “a poke in the snoot”


Something like “oh yes indeed” although I don’t think the justiceiro means it when he says this to the fascist banana seller because in the next line he reminds him that his father is…

A gritar bravos ao Botas no cemitério do Tarrafal

Tarrafal was a concentration camp in Cabo Verde where the Estado Novo kept its political prisoners, so if someone was shouting bravo there they were probably a collaborator or a lickspittle of some kind. I’m not sure who or what Botas was – I can’t find a reference to him in any of the pages I’ve seen.


The cops, the fuzz


Is just the name of a footballer. You probably already know gthat but I’m a bit slow on the uptake. I think the joke is that they’ve just heard about the robbery on the news and they ask Justiceiro his opinion but he’s distracted by another story, about the footie.


This one is pretty straightforward and just means to put something in a drawer (Gavete), but can also be used the way we might talk about “shelving” something – just put it aside and ignore it. In episode 6 there’s a scene where the police officer who has arrested Bitoque asks him if he will “engavetar” his grandmother and he’s using it in another sense, namely, to put someone in jail. So he just wants him to give them information about her crimes.

Defendo que Camarate foi um atentado

This comes during a really confusing scene half way through the last episode where there’s been a double cross, and nobody know where the jewels are or what’s going on, and people are pretending not to be able to understand each other’s accents and slinging around insults. Barbosa accuses his son in law of being an esquerdalha (leftist) and he replies that “I support the theory that the Camarate Case was an act of terrorism”. I’m not quite sure how this situates him on the political map TBH. The Camarate Case was a plane crash in the Camarate district outside of Lisbon in 1980. the then prime minister, Franciso Sá Carneiro and his finance minister, Adelino Amaro da Costa were both among the dead. This was shortly after the Carnation Revolution and there was a lot of shady stuff going on. Some think he was killed by the CIA because he was going to stop America from using the Açores as an air base, (that was a huge deal at that stage of the cold war), but I’ve also spent an awkward taxi ride listening to the taxista rant about how it was that bastard Mario Soares who had him killed. Soares was in the Partido Socialista whereas Sá Carneiro was in the Partido Social Democrata. You can read more about it here (Portuguese) or here (English). Or just ask a taxista.

Taxi drivers – they’re the same the world over!

Posted in English, Portuguese

Buarque Ode

I’ve really got quite evangelical about this Chico Buarque song, you know. I insist that everyone should learn Portuguese so they can appreciate its greatness. Here’s something I wrote about it in WritestreakPT, and this probably won’t be the last time I mention it either!

Acabo de ler um capítulo do meu livro (“Idiotas Úteis e Inúteis” de Ricardo Araújo Pereira) no qual o autor descreve uma canção do cantor brasileiro Chico Buarque chamada “Construção”. A letra da canção tem um ritmo ligeiramente diferente do que o padrão. Porquê*? Seguindo o Ricardo, é por causa de… Hum… uma palavra desconhecida. Ainda por cima, mal consegui pronúnciá-la! Estava a ler na cama e o dicionário na mesa de cabeceira também a desconhecia, portanto tive de aguardar até hoje de manhã.

A palavra era “Proparoxítono”**. Significa que a palavra tem o acento tónico na antepenúltima sílaba. Todas as palavras de cada linha são proparoxítonas. Em resultado disso, a canção soa muito diferente de qualquer outra canção portuguesa que já ouvi.
Que colheita boa! Num único capítulo, aprendi uma nova palavra, ouvi falar duma nova canção (que é mesmo bonita – acreditem!) e ganhei um novo ponto de vista sobre a língua.

* miraculously the corrector found only one single error in this entire thing except that they thought this should change to “por quê?”. This surprised me a bit because explanations of the various types of por/que usually have only 3 forms and “por quê” is not one of them. According to ciberdúvidas it can be used if you are asking “for what?” but it doesn’t mean “why” according to Elsa Fernandes’s book so at the risk of sounding arrogant, I don’t think the corrector was quite on the mark here. [UPDATE – A better corrector came along and agreed that yes, I was right about Porquê, but they have also pointed out some other mistakes which I have since corrected in the text above. It wasn’t terrible…]

** Amazingly there is a second word for this. Two words meaning “having the accent on the antepenultimate syllable”! It’s like the Eskimos and snow! The other word is Esdrúxulo.

And finally if you’re wondering what you call words that have the stress on the final or penultimate syllable they are oxítono and paroxítono respectively.

Posted in English


This 👇

Is exactly the sort of thing I love. The writer is Ricardo Araújo Pereira, comedian, columnist and all round good guy (well, as far as I know) Anyway, in the passage above, he’s describing a song I don’t know and saying that if a foreigner were to hear it, although they would rightly spot that it sounds lovely, they probably wouldn’t understand it and certainly wouldn’t notice that the last word of every line is “proparoxítona”* and nor would they understand that the word “proparoxítono” itself is proparoxítona**. And he’s right: it is a lovely song and when I read this in bed last night I had no clue what Proparoxítono meant but I knew I had to find out as soon as I woke up.

First of all, let’s hear the song

Oh my god, that is the good stuff alright. I know it’s Brazilian Portuguese, not Portuguese Portuguese but Jesus Christ it’s good. Inject it directly into my veins! There is something slightly strange about the rhythm of the verse though isn’t there? And I never would have spotted what it was.

Before I get I to it, let’s lay a bit of groundwork by thinking about where the stress falls in a Portuguese word.

The vast majority of words in Portuguese put the stress on either the final syllable (if the last letter is r, l, z, m, u, i or n) or the penultimate one (basically, all other letters). Any exceptions to the rule need an accent to be added as a hint to the reader. So for example there are a lot of words that end in – ável or – ível that are pronounced with the stress on the a and the i respectively. If the accent wasn’t there you’d have to say incrivEL and confortavEL. But it’s pretty easy and you get used to it, and before you know it, you’re just used to the rhythm of Portuguese speech without even being conscious of it.

Proparoxítono means that the stress falls on the last-but-one syllable. These always have to have an accent because they break the normal rules, like bêbado (BÊ-ba-do) and mágico (MÁ-gi-co) and sábado (SÁ-ba-do) and última and único and tímido and… Well, and every other word he finishes a line with in the song, which is why you get this effect that’s really unusual in a Portuguese song, where the last two syllables of every line are unstressed.

Oh my god, that’s so satisfying. I love it! It’s the most value I’ve ever got out of a single paragraph, I think: a new word, a new song and a new way of noticing the rhythm of Portuguese music.

Anyway, if you want to know more, this video has some good analysis. It’s in Brazilian Portuguese too, so be warned if you’re trying to avoid the dialect. It’s worth making an exception for though.

*it has an a in the end here, unlike in the title, because its an adjective and palavra is feminine

**Now I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that the stuff Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying think should be used to cure Covid?” Close, but no, it’s not that either.

Posted in English


Nothing to do with portuguese for a change but I’ve just been looking at the spam messages that WordPress has auto-deleted lately. Unbelievable amounts of it, mostly talking about v*pe shops (I’ve asterisked it so as not to encourage them). I wonder why they’ve picked here – and why the same spam bot tries over and over again even though not a single one of its hundreds of messages has made it through to the front page.

Posted in English

Trolling Mark Zuckerberg

Just to demonstrate the incredible educational potential of social media, how else would I have learned this new word?


(origem obscura)
nome feminino

[Portugal, Calão]  Esperma.

“meita”, in Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa [em linha], 2008-2021, [consultado em 29-10-2021].

Selada De Fruta had a take on it too, but I already knew this word so it wasn’t as useful

Posted in English

An Incident

I was interested in this passage from Maremoto, the book I finished the other day. In the passage, the protagonist, Boa Morte, is standing around near a bus stop when a guy he’s never met comes up and starts accusing him of stealing and generally giving him a hard time. Xingar is a good word here: to verbally abuse someone. O homem está a xingá-lo

Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida

“Chamou-me preto de Guinea, farrusco vai para a tua terra, escarumba eu sei lá que mais, aqui na rua há quem diga que pareço realeza, não sei se é verdade, o povo Cuanhama é conhecido pela sua majestade”

Maremoto – Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida

It’s obviously got a strong racial angle: preto being a word for black that is not exactly polite (“negro” is the more acceptable word). I’ve heard it described in a news program as the Portuguese equivalent of the N word, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be that, judging from the contexts I’ve seen it in. It definitely has a charge to it though. Likewise, Farrusco is related to skin colour, but its literal meaning is more like “sooty”. “Vai para a tua terra” means go back to your own country and Escarumba is just a general, derogatory term for a black person.

I was initially confused as to why he then goes on, in the second part of the sentence, to talk about royalty, but I was probably being stupid: he’s just turning the situation around. The guy haranguing him can only see his colour and is making all kinds of assumptions about him, but he says among people who know him better, he is considered to have a regal bearing. It seems quite a good way of dismissing the idiot as an irrelevant know-nothing.

When I asked about this online, quite a few people said it wasn’t necessarily a racist incident. Say what now? It’s true that the book doesn’t say for sure that the aggressor in the situation is white, but everything about the terms he’s using – three words in quick succession that make specific reference to Boa Morte’s skin colour – just make me think that the speaker doesn’t share that skin colour. I pointed this out, but the Portuguese peeps replied that there were rivalries and snobberies between black Portuguese people and Africans and then within the African community between different nationalities and tribal groupings and that it’s not unheard of for different groups to say ostensibly racist things to each other as a result. Nobody from within Portugal contradicted this point of view; nobody said it sounded like a racist incident. Every Portuguese person who expressed an opinion said it seemed ambiguous to them.

Mmweellll, I’m from outside the culture so I’m reluctant to flat out contradict them but I must say that gets a big 🤔 from me. If anyone else reading this knows the book, I’d love to hear how you read it and whether or not you agree.

Anyway, it all sounds a bit grim, doesn’t it, but Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida is a good enough writer that she can handle a pretty heavy subject with a lightness of touch. It’s quite a funny scene, believe it or not!