Posted in English


Beto (Lauro Corona)
Beto (Lauro Corona)

I’ve heard the word “Beto” or its diminutive, “Betinho”, being used a few times as a sort of derrogatory word for a rich, posh person – someone the kids today would call privileged. I think I first came across it in 1986 A S√©rie but didn’t really wonder where it came from. Apparently it’s from the early eighties when a Brazilian Telenovela called Dancing Days first aired on portuguese TV. There was a character in that called Beto, who was the son of well-off parents. He was played by Lauro Corona. The series aired in the late seventies and made its way to Portugal in the early eighties, so it still would have been quite a new word in 1986 when Nuno Markl puts it into the mouths of his protagonists.

Anyway, here’s a clip from the original series. It has strong eighties vibes to me, but I guess these trends don’t fit precisely into decades, do they?

Posted in English

Don’t Risk it for the Biscate

Episode 8963 of the series “words that mean wildly different things on different sides of the Atlantic”

Biscate seems like a useful word to have in your back pocket, but use it with care. In Portugal it refers to a side job, side huddle, or short term job. In the world of the gig economy, it seems like a good one to know.

Olha, aquele √© mec√Ęnico nos estaleiros, mas faz uns “biscates” de electricidade por fora!

When this came up in online discussion, some Brazilian contributors found this funny because that’s not what it means in Brazil at all. Over there it refers to a woman who has lots of sexual partners – so equivalent to slut or slag or other derogatory terms.

A menina que ficava com todos garotos do colégio era chamada de biscate.

Navigating slang is more complicated in Portuguese than in English because there seem to be quite a lot of examples of differences like this.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese

C√©sar from the Homo Causticus blog gave me a challenge a few days ago, to write about Brazilian Portuguese. Since this is a blog about European Portuguese, I thought the best way to do that would be to compare the two flavours. I’ve written it in English and then translated each paragraph into Portuguese as I go, just for the challenge. Thanks to dani_morgenstern and butt_roidholds for the corrections, but it’s quite long so if I have missed any errors, that’s all on me.

I quite often see people online asking what is the difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese and sometimes people will reply “there’s no difference, it’s just the accent”. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. The accents certainly are different, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If you’re starting out on your Portuguese journey, you should definitely stick to just one version at first, at least until you have a good grounding in the language, because in addition to the accent you’ll find Brazilian Portuguese has quite a lot of differences in vocabulary, slightly different grammar, differences in spelling, even after the Acordo Ortogr√°fico. They even have different ways of saying “you”. Brazil is a larger country with a more powerful media industry so I think Brazilians are probably less aware of the differences than Portuguese people are because they are less likely to be exposed to TV or movies in the other dialect.

Muitas vezes, vejo pessoas online a perguntar qual √© a diferen√ßa entre Portugu√™s brasileiro e Portugu√™s europeu, e √†s vezes a resposta √© “n√£o h√° diferen√ßa, s√≥ h√° sotaques diferentes. Hum… At√© certo ponto, Senhor Cobre*. Os sotaques s√£o mesmo diferentes mas h√° mais do que isso. Se estiveres no in√≠cio da tua “viagem” portuguesa, recomendo que permaneces com um √ļnico dialeto do idioma at√© ficares mais confiante porque, al√©m do sotaque, ir√°s achar que o portugu√™s brasileiro tem diferen√ßas de vocabul√°rio, uma gram√°tica ligeiramente alterada, algumas varia√ß√Ķes de ortografia (apesar do AO) e at√© uma outra maneira de usar o pronome da segunda pessoa singular. Brasil √© um pa√≠s maior com uma m√≠dia mais ativa, portanto acho que os habitantes est√£o menos conscientes da dist√Ęncia entre os dois, porque est√£o menos expostos aos meios de comunica√ß√£o do outro lado do Atl√Ęntico.

*=This is what sparked this blog post from a few days ago

Accent /Sotaque

Of course, both countries have a range of accents, but in very general terms, Brazilians tend to be a lot easier to understand. They pronounce a lot of things in really surprising ways, but once you tune into it, it’s at least pretty clear. They don’t swallow as many letters, and you don’t find yourself struggling to pick out four or five words that have all been run together. The main thing that sounds weird to European ears is the way Ds and Ts sound when they appear before an E or an I. The D in a word like Divertir, say, sounds like a hard J, or like the DG sound in the English word “edge”. Meanwhile, the T in the same word sounds like the CH sound in a word like “Chips” . Check this page for an example. Brazilians also tend to hit vowels with a bit more emphasis, including the last syllable in a word ending in e. A word like “verdade” for example would be a two syllable word in Portuguese because the final E practically disappears and the D has a pleasing breathy quality to it (I really like it!). The same word in Brazilian has three syllables and sounds like “verDADgee”. There are examples of both on this page for you to compare. The effect is that Brazilian Portuguese has a “bouncier” rhythm to it.

Claro que ambos os pa√≠ses t√™m um leque de sotaques, portanto n√£o faz sentido falar de “sotaque portugu√™s” e “sotaque brasileiro” mas, regra geral, os brasileiros s√£o mais f√°ceis de entender. O seu modo de falar tem aspetos muito estranhos (aos nossos ouvidos angl√≥filos), mas uma vez que nos acustomamos aos sons e aos ritmos, √© bastante claro. N√£o engolem tantas letras e n√£o deixam as palavras aglomerarem-se umas com as outras, dizendo “qu√©q t√°zafazer” em vez de “O que √© que est√°s a fazer”. O que mais marca um aluno europeu √© a sua maneira de pronunciar os Ds e os Ts que v√™m antes dum √Č ou dum I. O “D”, numa palavra como “Divertir”, soa como um J duro ou o DG de “edge” em ingl√™s. Os brasileiros tamb√©m pronunciam os vogais com mais stresse, inclusive a √ļltima s√≠laba duma palavra que termine com E. Uma palavra como “verdade”, por exemplo, tem duas s√≠labas em portugu√™s de Portugal. O “E” final quase desaparece e o “D” soa suave e ofegante (adoro!). No Brasil, a mesma palavra tem tr√™s s√≠labas distintas porque o “E” √© mais forte. Al√©m disso o “D” antes do “√Č” muda para DG como j√° disse: verDADgee. Isso significa que o portugu√™s brasileiro tem um ritmo mais…hum… saltitante, digamos assim…?*

*Throughout this paragraph I originally used feminine articles for the names of letters “a D” and so on, because the word letra itself is feminine, but apparently when you use the name of the letter in its own you’re really indicating symbol /sign so you use male articles “o D”. I was referred to a Ciberd√ļvidas article on the subject.

You /Tu

There are lots of different ways of addressing someone in the second person. In European Portuguese it’s usually Tu for informal situations but there are gradations of formality that require “voc√™” ou “o senhor” or whatever, and the verbs all get conjugated in the third person. There’s also this weird pronoun “v√≥s” that most textbooks just ignore. Let’s try not to even think about that one. In Brazil, on the other hand, it’s just voc√™ across the board, and you only really need to learn first and third person verb endings. These people learning Brazilian Portuguese have it easy eh?

H√° muitos m√©todos de falar com algu√©m na segunda pessoa em portugu√™s. Em Portugal, √© geralmente “tu” no dia-a-dia, mas em situa√ß√Ķes mais formais, usa-se voc√™ ou “o senhor” ou algo do g√©nero, que exige um verbo na terceira pessoa. Ainda por cima existe o pronome v√≥s que se usa em determinados contextos (embora a maioria dos livros sobre gram√°tica portuguesa para estrangeiros o ignorem) mas nem pensemos nisso. No Brasil, pelo contr√°rio, usa-se sempre voc√™. Aquelas pessoas que aprendem portugu√™s brasileiro t√™m uma vida f√°cil, n√©?

Vocabulary /Vocabul√°rio

Like US English, Brazilian portuguese has evolved slightly differently and diverged from its European cousin. In some cases, it has retained aspects of the language that the Portuguese have dropped (sorry, I’m not going to give any examples of this because I’d be out of my depth but I’ve been told it’s true). In other cases, they have developed new words over the course of years, based on preference, contact with other languages and just the sheer passage of time. Of course, this is going to be most obvious in slang. My favourite example of diverging vocabulary is the translation of “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. In Portugal it’s called “A Rapariga No Comboio” but nobody in Brazil says Comboio, even though it’s a legitimate word in Brazilian Portuguese, they say Trem instead, and although Rapariga does exist it’s… Not a nice word. So the book is called A Garota No Trem instead.

Assim como o ingl√™s americano, o portugu√™s do brasil evoluiu diferentemente e afastou-se do seu primo europeu. Em determinados casos, ret√©m aspetos antigos da l√≠ngua, que j√° desapareceram do portugu√™s europeu (desculpa, n√£o tenho exemplos mas ouvi falar disto). Noutros casos, desenvolvem-se novas palavras e express√Ķes ao longo dos anos, por causa de prefer√™ncias regionais, do contacto com outras idiomas e da passagem de anos. Claro, este fen√≥meno √© mais √≥bvio no cal√£o. O meu exemplo preferido de diverg√™ncia de vocabul√°rio √© a tradu√ß√£o do “The Girl on the Train” de Paula Hawkins. Em Portugal, o t√≠tulo do livro √© “A Rapariga no Comboio” mas no Brasil ningu√©m diz “comboio”, mesmo que a palavra exista, antes dizem “trem”. E rapariga existe tamb√©m mas no Brasil, √© uma palavra feia. Portanto o livro foi intitulado “A Garota No Trem”

Grammar /Gram√°tica

There are only a couple of differences in the actual grammatical structure, so far as I’m aware, but feel free to shout out any others in the comments. Firstly, in Brazilian Portuguese, the object pronoun basically always comes before the noun, so it’s more consistent. So “I bought it” = “o comprei” in Brazil and “I didn’t buy it” is “n√£o o comprei”, whereas in Portugal it would vary according to context: “comprei-o in most cases, but it flips in negative sentences (“n√£o o comprei”) or a few other contexts (more detail here if this is not familiar).

The other big one is the use of the gerund. Again, I’m afraid this is another area where Brazilian is probably easier than European Portuguese, at least for English speakers. In European Portuguese if you want to say “I’m talking” you say “estou a falar”, which is fine, but falar is an infinitive so if you translate it literally you get “I am to speak”. Brazilians just say “estou falando”. Falando is a gerund, so it is really equivalent to “talking”, in English, so in short, it’s much more like English grammar.

Tanto quanto sei, há apenas duas diferenças de gramática. O primeiro tem a ver com a próclise e a ênclise. A próclise aplicar-se quase sempre em português brasileiro Рou seja, o complemento vem sempre antes do verbo (O comprei /Não o comprei) . Em Portugal, por outro lado, a posição depende do contexto (Comprei-o /Não o comprei)

A segunda diferen√ßa √© o uso do ger√ļndio em tempos verbais do presente cont√≠nuo. Este √© mais um exemplo dum aspecto da l√≠ngua no qual o portugu√™s brasileiro √© mais f√°cil (para n√≥s angl√≥fonos) do que o europeu. O brasileiro “estou falando” soa mais parecido com o ingl√™s “I’m talking” ao contr√°rio ao portugu√™s europeu, no qual se usa o infinitivo, tipo “estou a falar” que soa estranho aos nossos ouvidos.

Spelling / Ortografia

And so finally we reach spelling. Well, that’s easy, the AO has sorted it all, right? Sadly, no, there are still a few spelling variations around. Brazilians seem to like circumflexes (^) more than the Portuguese do but there are far fewer than there once were.

Finalmente chegamos à ortografia. Foi tudo resolvido pelo AO, certo? Infelizmente não, porque ainda existem várias diferenças de ortografia. Acho que os brasileiros gostam mais do acento circunflexo, mas, hoje em dia, não há assim tantas diferenças entre os dois dialectos.

Posted in English

Buarque Life

Cover of the album "construção" by Chico Buarque
Cover of the album “Constru√ß√£o” by Chico Buarque

Continuing to fanboy about this song. Here’s a translation, highlighting the “Proparox√≠tono” words.

I’ve borrowed pretty heavily from some of the many versions on Lyricstranslate. They’re all by brazilians, I think, and they’ve done a great job, so I’ve cleaned up the english and made a few other changes but generally assumed they know more than I do about the point of the song. I found “fl√°cido” really difficult to translate. It obviously means “flaccid” but that word just sounds so wrong in a song. I’ve gone for “sagging” since it fits in both the lines it’s used in. I think that’s the best I can do but this is the sort of thing that makes you realise how hard the job of the translator is.

A couple of interesting things to add:

Firstly, I didn’t notice when I heard it but the first two lines end in the same word. That’s a bit of a cheat, Chico, come on! It’s the only example of that though.

Secondly, he keeps the rest of the line unchanged almost all the time but there are a few other small changes, which I’ve highlighted in orange. The fact that portuguese doesn’t use many subject pronouns helps in this regard. In the first line, “fosse” goes from “it was” to “he was” with no need for other changes. You just get it from the context, because “√ļnica” changes gender, meaning it is now referring to the man, not to the (a) vez.

Amou daquela vez como se fosse a √ļltima
Beijou sua mulher como se fosse a √ļltima
E cada filho seu como se fosse o √ļnico
E atravessou a rua com seu passo tímido
Subiu a construção como se fosse máquina
Ergueu no patamar quatro paredes sólidas
Tijolo com tijolo num desenho m√°gico
Seus olhos embotados de cimento e l√°grima
Sentou pra descansar como se fosse s√°bado
Comeu feijão com arroz como se fosse um príncipe
Bebeu e soluçou como se fosse um náufrago
Dan√ßou e gargalhou como se ouvisse m√ļsica
E tropeçou no céu como se fosse um bêbado
E flutuou no ar como se fosse um p√°ssaro
E se acabou no ch√£o feito um pacote fl√°cido
Agonizou no meio do passeio p√ļblico
Morreu na contram√£o atrapalhando o tr√°fego
He made love that time like it was the last time
He kissed his wife like she was the last woman
And kissed each child like they were the only one
And he crossed the street with his timid steps
He climbed the construction like he was a machine
He built up four solid walls at the next level
Brick after brick in a magical design
His eyes were crusted with cement and tears
He sat down to rest like it was Saturday
He ate rice and beans like he was a prince
He drank and sobbed like he’d been shipwrecked
He danced and laughed like he was listening to music
He tripped on the sky like he was a drunk
And he floated on the air like he was a bird
And he ended up on the ground like a sagging package
He agonized in the middle of the public pavement
He died on the wrong side of the road disrupting the traffic
Amou daquela vez como se fosse o √ļltimo
Beijou sua mulher como se fosse a √ļnica
E cada filho seu como se fosse o pródigo
E atravessou a rua com seu passo bêbado
Subiu na construção como se fosse sólido
Ergueu no patamar quatro paredes m√°gicas
Tijolo com tijolo num desenho lógico
Seus olhos embotados de cimento e tr√°fego
Sentou pra descansar como se fosse um príncipe
Comeu feij√£o com arroz como se fosse o m√°ximo
Bebeu e soluçou como se fosse máquina
Dançou e gargalhou como se fosse o próximo
E trope√ßou no c√©u como se ouvisse m√ļsica
E flutuou no ar como se fosse s√°bado
E se acabou no chão feito um pacote tímido
Agonizou no meio do passeio n√°ufrago
Morreu na contram√£o atrapalhando o p√ļblico
He made love that time like he was the greatest
He kissed his wife like she was the only one
And kissed each child like they were the prodigal son
And he crossed the street with his drunk steps
He climb the construction like it was a solid
He built up four magic walls at the next level
Brick after brick in logical design
His eyes were crusted with cement and traffic
He sat down to rest like he was a prince
He ate rice and beans like it was the greatest meal
He drank and sobbed like he was a machine
He danced and laughed like he was the next one
He tripped on the sky like he was listening to music
And he floated on the air like it was Saturday
And he ended up on the ground like a timid package
He agonized on the middle of the shipwrecked pavement
He died on the wrong side of the road distrupting the people
Amou daquela vez como se fosse m√°quina
Beijou sua mulher como se fosse lógico
Ergueu no patamar quatro paredes fl√°cidas
Sentou pra descansar como se fosse um p√°ssaro
E flutuou no ar como se fosse um príncipe
E se acabou no chão feito um pacote bêbado
Morreu na contram√£o atrapalhando o s√°bado
He made love that time like he was a machine
He kissed his wife like it was logical
He built up four sagging walls at the next level
He sat down to rest like he was a bird
And he floated on the air like he was a prince
And he ended up on the ground like a drunken package
He died on the wrong side of the road disrupting Saturday
Construção РChico Buarque

The song was written in the seventies, during the dictatorship when Buarque was living in exile. There are a lot of theories about exactly wht he’s trying to do, but he hasn’t really spelled it out, preferring to let people speculate. There’s a definite shift between the three stages: the first one seems quite factual, the second sort of carefree, the third nightmarish. The social criticism is about the fact that, at the time, a lot of people were moving to the cities in search of a better life but finding that living conditions and working conditions were pretty terrible.

Posted in English


This ūüĎá

Is exactly the sort of thing I love. The writer is Ricardo Ara√ļjo 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 “proparox√≠tona”* and nor would they understand that the word “proparox√≠tono” itself is proparox√≠tona**. And he’s right: it is a lovely song and when I read this in bed last night I had no clue what Proparox√≠tono 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 – √°vel or – √≠vel 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.

Proparox√≠tono means that the stress falls on the antepenultimate (last-but-two) syllable. These always have to have an accent because they break the normal rules, like b√™bado (B√ä-ba-do) and m√°gico (M√Ā-gi-co) and s√°bado (S√Ā-ba-do) and √ļltima and √ļnico and t√≠mido 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 Portuguese

S√≠sifo – Greg√≥rio Duvivier e Vinicius Calderoni

Sísifo РEnsaios obre A Repetição em Sessenta Saltos By Gregório Duvivier and Vinicius Calderoni


Oi galera, estou escrevendo um comentário sobre um livro brasileiro embora eu aprenda português europeu. Blz!

Eu j√° conheci a obra de um dos autores, Greg√≥rio Duvivier por causa de uma conversa p√ļblica com Ricardo Ara√ļjo Pereira e ouvi falar dos seus programas televisivos. A cara √© legal!

Neste livrinho, os dois rescrevem o mito de S√≠sifo, mesclado com outros fios culturais: Hamlet, a crise ambiental, memes, o teatro do absurdo. Nas palavras do Duvivier “‘A hist√≥ria se repete’ dizia Marx, ‘a primeira vez como trag√©dia e a segunda como farsa’. Acrescentamos ‘a terceira vez como um gif'”. Para mim, esta explica√ß√£o vale o pre√ßo do livro em si. Fez-me rir “kkk” disse eu. uh-oh, vem a√≠ o cancelamento. “kkkkkk”, acrescentei, porque tr√™s c√°s* s√≥ n√£o d√° para ganhar amigos no mundo angl√≥fono.

Apparently in Brazil K is written “c√°”, not “capa” which makes sense because c√°c√°c√° sounds like laughter whereas capacapacapa just sounds like a bunch of rooks fighting over a bag of chips.

Posted in Portuguese

Contos de Lima Barreto

Ouvi este Audiolivro sem saber nada sobre o autor. ‘t√° bem, suponho que seja brasileiro… O sotaque do narrador √© brasileiro tamb√©m mas isso n√£o me assustou assim tanto porque fala de modo t√£o claro que percebi todas as palavras mesmo que algumas fosem desconhecidas, e deu para entender o enredo sem problemas!

Parece que os contos são satíricos. Confesso que não sei nada sobre sociedade brasileira daquela época, portanto é provável que tenha perdido muito do humor mas o seu estilo é divertido e tanto quanto entendi, gostei.

Posted in English


Quite interested to see this word “esquerdoide” or “esquerdoido” pop up a few times on Portuguese language twitter on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems to be the equivalent of the word “leftard” used by obnoxious maga types. It’s used in more-or-less the same way: identify some stupid thing said or done by one person or a small group of people on the other side. If it’s apocryphal or even if you just made it up, it doesn’t matter much. Then generalise that to characterise everyone in the other party as sharing the same opinion and being a bunch of leftards /esquerdoidos who aren’t smart like what we is. Sad.

The guy in the original tweet here is some Bolsonaro fartcatcher, so in American terms, this is like – I dunno – Stephen Miller, or Zac Goldsmith in the UK, mouthing off and one of their supporters jumping in and going “Yes, yes, they are all crazy aren’t they! Shit in my mouth please” or whatever people say when they wholeheartedly support the government in the face of all the evidence and are willing to let them get away with absolutely anything.

Side-note. “Coringa v√≠rus” is presumably a reference to the movie Joker which is called Coringa in Brazil.

Posted in Portuguese

Dom Casmurro – Machado de Assis

Li este livro com os meus olhos e os meus ouvidos. Tentei lê-lo há alguns meses mas não consegui. Desta vez, experimentei uma versão traduzida em inglês e, de vez em quando, fez uma pausa e escutei um audiolivro lido por um brasileiro. De forma geral, evito sotaques brasileiros porque estou a estudar português europeu mas claro está que esta história é um clássico da literatura brasileira e é melhor ouvir no seu sotaque nativo, acho eu.
A pergunta incontornável é esta: será que a mulher do narrador, Capitu, traiu Bentinho ou não? Cá para mim, acredito que não. Há uma altura, muito cedo no enredo, em que eu reparei numa inconsistência no discurso dela que pode ser uma mentira, mas além disso, não parece provável. A ideia da infidelidade dela era uma preocupação dele logo no início, e acho que precisou pouco para se tornar obsessão.
Depois da “descoberta” da trai√ß√£o, a personalidade do Bentinho mudou, e tornou-se ainda mais “casmurro”. Recusou escrever o nome da sua m√£e no t√ļmulo dele, e justificou esta decis√£o duma maneira inchada. N√£o queria ter nada a ver com Capitu. Quando ela faleceu, Bentinho mal a mencionou, e at√© a morte do seu filho deu em al√≠vio em vez de tristeza. Isso, sobretudo, chateou-me porque, mesmo que eu n√£o tenha raz√£o sobre a trai√ß√£o, o rapaz √© uma crian√ßa que n√£o merece nada de mal. No final, o narrador pareceu-me menos simp√°tico do que anteriormente. Por√©m, adorei a “maquinaria” da hist√≥ria, o estilo e a maluquice deste homem ins√≥lito que estragou a sua pr√≥pria vida por causa da teimosia.