Posted in English

Tia Angústia

I used the phrase “Tia Angústia” as the original title of yesterday’s post and that made me wonder if there really was a Portuguese equivalent to the English expression “Agony Aunt”, that would be better than my all-too-literal translation. I asked…

Acabei de usar esta frase no meu texto dia. Foi uma piada, porque aposto que a expressão não existe em português mas “agony aunt” em inglês significa alguém que dá conselho, principalmente sobre amor, por exemplo num jornal ou numa revista. Tipo: “Cara Tia Joana, Amo um rapaz mas é casado com um caranguejo. O que é que devo fazer?” / Já consideraste vestir-se a vermelho e andar de lado para chamar-lhe a atenção? Será que tais pessoas existem/iam lá? E se existem mesmo, qual é a… Sei lá… O título deste cargo…?

A Revista Maria
Yeah yeah, we believe you, José Nuno Martins

Anyway, it turns out that, no, agony aunt columns were never really a thing in papers, but that seems to have been largely because there was a magazine called Maria, launched in 1978 that absorbed all this action. People would address their letters to “Maria” and so having another personality, an agony aunt figure, wasn’t really necessary. A lot of this is based on people speculating so it’s not an authoritative answer or anything.

Maria still exists but it has modernised and moved on to fashion and lifestyle tips, but you an find old advice from it if you look around. Here, for example. Apparently the letters were real, and the people who answered them were psychologists, according to the magazine’s own account of itself.

So, bottom line, nobody will know what you’re on about if you refer to a Tia Angústia but if you need a cultural reference point in the same sort of area to drop into conversation, a revista Maria is probably the right one to reach for.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Toy Story – Com Diogo Cabeça-de-Batata

No texto de ontem falei do vídeo do Diogo Bataguas/Batuta/Batman/QualquerCoisa*. Mas não mencionei a maior estrela do vídeo, o Toy. Para ser sincero, nunca antes tinha ouvido falar desse senhor, mas andei à procura de vídeos das músicas dele. Parece que é boa música de festa mas não senti me uma grande pulsão* em comprar os seus álbuns.

Mas percebo o génio de contratar um cantor famoso daquele estilo de música para gravar o tema duma rubrica dum programa televisivo.

*=in the original version of yesterday’s text, I got Diogo Bataguas’s name wrong and called him Diogo Batuta.

**=not really the right word. I’m reading a book that has Sigmund Freud as one of its characters and he uses this word – it means an urge, in the psychological sense. It would have been better to say something like “não me senti compelido a comprar…”

Thanks to Dani for the grammar corrections. She’s also given me some factual corrections which I’ll pass along so as not to give the wrong idea:

The video is a web series, not a TV show. Diogo Bataguas is “um moço singelo” (a simple, innocent lad) who asks for contributions from his fans in order to be able to pay his team – namely, Sandro, who is always hungry

Toy doesn’t just sing party songs as I’ve described here, he also does emotional ballads and TV soap opera theme songs but he’s also known for being an interesting personality. He gave away tickets to his wedding to random fans and he… Invented a style of driving with his knees…? Speaking as a cyclist, this doesn’t exactly endear me to the bloke, to be honest, but apart from that he seems OK. One fellow learner told me (s)he had met him in a seafood restaurant in Azeitão and he had spoken warmly and at great length of his love for Canadian audiences. Telling this story later, (s)he found out that virtually everyone who has ever been to any restaurant in Azeitão has had a similar experience because he is “um senhor bastante gregário”.

He wasn’t hired to do the song, (it’s at about 7:55 in the video I linked to yesterday) Bataguas just mentioned he’d like to get Toy to sing it and fan pressure did the rest.

Some examples of his work:

Party music


Knee driving

Posted in English

Early Impressions of the Official C1 Course

I said, a few days ago, that the official C1 course I was taking through the Camões Instituto de Cooperação e da Língua was being hampered by network troubles. They’ve been sorted out now. It must just have been a temporary glitch. I’m still not convinced though. It’s not hugely expensive as these things go, so I’m not too traumatised or anything but it’s worth setting out the pros and cons for the benefit of anyone who is considering following the same path.

First of all, the pros: the course is designed by the same people who design the exams, so the topics it covers are likely to come up as discussion topics in the exam. So it’s a good way of getting familiar with that kind of vocabulary. It has several hours’ worth of content, intended to be studied week by week, but it’s delivered on demand so you can go faster if you like.

Now the cons: the app is broken. That’s OK though, you can take the course in a web browser and there have been a few times I’ve had to do that just to progress, because I simply couldn’t scroll to the answer in the app, or because it gave me an error message every time I tried to move onto a page. Just don’t even bother with it. Save yourself the headache and do it in the web browser instead.

The actual content isn’t especially challenging. For example, I’ve just done a quiz about health. You’re supposed to start with a text about healthy lifestyles then answer a series of questions like “Physical activity is essential for a healthy life – True/False”. Well um, I don’t really need to go back to the text to answer that, thanks.

The introductory lecture of the Camões Institute C1 course
The introduction to the first unit

Maybe the reason for the ease of the questions is that there’s quite a strong emphasis on culture. The health topic is perhaps not the best example to use, but in the very first section, there’s an exercise about local shops and their role in poor communities. The questions were sort of ridiculous, considered purely as a matter of language. In one, we’re shown a picture of a man, standing in a shop holding a book with people’s names and the various things they’d been given in credit, so he could keep track of who owed what. The challenge was to pick out words from a list that could be used as a caption for the picture. You’re not told how many to pick. I chose “mercearia” and “comerciante” but I should also have picked “proximidade”, “bairro” and “comércio local”

In the next question, you’re asked what makes it possible for a neighbourhood to feel like a large family. And the options are a confiança, o afeto, a proximidade or o tempo. The answer is not given in the text, you just need to think about it. The correct answer is “o afeto”

So… Okay… It felt a little random, and didn’t really challenge my vocabulary skills, but I suppose they’re trying to get you to think of what neighbourhood means in Portugal, and to understand the ties that bind local communities as well as just purely being able to use grammar correctly. So there’s an element of comprehension of the text, but also an expectation that you’ll use empathy to comprehend the actions of the individuals.

So I think my early review would be that the course is worth taking if you intend to take the exam seriously and want to be prepared for the conversation topics, and it’s definitely worth taking if you are considering citizenship and want to get to know the culture. But I don’t think it’s enough on its own, at least to judge from what I’ve seen so far, you’d also need to go through a textbook, because you’ll need something else to really stretch you linguistically and, from what I’ve seen so far, this ain’t it.

Posted in Portuguese

A Banda das Três Ordens

Thanks to ThisCatIsConfused and Dani Morgenstern for corrections

Provavelmente já alguma vez viste alguma vez uma fotografia do presidente da República portuguesa, Marcelo Rebelo de* Sousa ou um dos seus antecessores, vestido de modo formal durante uma cerimónia qualquer. Há um item muito curioso de roupa enfiado entre a camisola e o casaco: uma banda constituída por três faixas: uma roxa, uma vermelha e uma verde.

Presidente Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa e a Bandas das Três Ordens
Presidente Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

Porque é que o presidente se veste assim? Tem a ver com o Natal**? O Senhor Rebelo de Sousa é um pres(id)ente que alguém vai desembrulhar? Espero que não. A banda é uma condecoração chamada A Banda das Três Ordens. Cada faixa representa uma das três antigas ordens monástico-militares: a de Cristo, de Avis e de Sant’Iago da Espada. As três ordens têm as suas raízes na idade média e o Grão-Mestrado de todas foi concedida à coroa portuguesa pelo*** Papa Júlio III. Após a implantação da República, no início do século XX, esta honra passou para a presidência após uma um intervalo de 8 anos (1910-18). Acho isso ligeiramente estranho: o povo rejeitou a monarquia mas reteve os sinais de uma estrutura ainda mais antiga e ainda mais obscurantista, mas talvez faça sentido: demonstra a continuidade do estado português e a sua autoridade, apesar do afastamento da monarquia…?

A banda foi concedida a vários outros chefes de estado estrangeiro ao longo dos anos, incluindo Francisco Franco da Espanha, a Rainha Isabel II, Hailé Selassié da Etiópia, é o Rei Leopoldo III da Bélgica mas a partir de 1962, a banda passou a ser exclusiva do chefe de estado português.

*=I wrote this with a capital D but that’s a no-no.

**=natal with a lower case n is also a no-no. Or a No-No.

***=pelo, not por. Not “By Pope Francis”, but “By the Pope Francis”

Posted in Portuguese

A Crónica Dos Bons Malandros

Ontem à noite vi a última parte d’A Crónica dos Bons Malandros. A série estreou na RTP há um ano. É fixe / legal (há uma personagem brasileira e uma piada recorrente é o fingimento por parte de várias pessoas que não compreendem os sotaques de outras).

Há muuuuiiito calão na série e as personagens falam muito depressa* mas não faz mal porque há legendas que ajudaram-me** entender. Além disso, desenrola-se nos anos oitenta, portanto há muitas referências à cena daquela época: terrorismo, política, cultura, futebol e música pop. Aprendi muito por pesquisar várias palavras e frases.

Vi alguém a descrever a série como, e cito “Ocean’s Eleven à Portuguesa”. E acho que esta é uma descrição adequada, até certo ponto. Os protagonistas são menos competentes e a história inteira enfatiza o lado engraçado em vez de imitar o estilo do Clooney e Pitt, mas é suave na mesma. Gostei tanto quanto de uma série da Netflix, por exemplo.

*i used “rápido” but it’s describing the word “falam” which is a verb so we need an adverb, not an adjective.

**Another example where a change of mindset is needed, at least in my case I wrote ajudou instead of ajudaram. In English you’d just say “which helped”, and there isn’t a difference between single and plural versions of “helped” so i suppose I’d always thought of that as meaning “the fact (singular) that there were subtitles helped” but in Portuguese it’s a lot starker that no, actually, “the subtitles (plural) helped” so the verb has to be plural to match.

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!

Posted in English, Portuguese

Rústica – Florbela Espanca.

I mentioned a few days ago that I was trying to memorise poems in both English and Portuguese. Well, today’s is a Portuguese one: Rústica by Florbela Espanca. As with so many of these poems, reading it through once a couple of years ago, I was my usual poetry-reading self: “Yes yes, very poetic. Next!” But now that I’m immersing myself in them, I’m starting to get the point of poetry. Here is the original:


Ser a moça mais linda do povoado.
Pisar, sempre contente, o mesmo trilho,
Ver descer sobre o ninho aconchegado
A bênção do Senhor em cada filho.

Um vestido de chita bem lavado,
Cheirando a alfazema e a tomilho…
– Com o luar matar a sede ao gado,
Dar às pombas o sol num grão de milho…

Ser pura como a água da cisterna,
Ter confiança numa vida eterna
Quando descer à “terra da verdade”…

Deus, dai-me esta calma, esta pobreza!
Dou por elas meu trono de Princesa,
E todos os meus Reinos de Ansiedade.

Rústica, Florbela Espanca, from Charneca Em Flor

Florbela Espanca

There are a few unfamiliar words in it so I’ll have a go at translating it:


To be the prettiest girl in the village
To walk contentedly on the same trail
To see descending on the cosy home*
The blessings of the Lord on every child 

A calico** dress, well-washed
Smelling of lavender*** and thyme 
With the moonshine quenching the thirst of the cattle****
Giving the doves the sun in a grain of corn

To be pure as the water in the cistern
To believe in a life eternal 
When I go down to the land of truth*****

God, give me this calm, the poverty
I’ll give them my princess throne
And all my kingdoms of anxiety

*=The word used in the original is “ninho” which means nest, but I think in this context its just a folksy way of saying home.

**=my paper dictionary says chintz, but I think chintz is made of calico (?) and that calico goes more with the vibe of the poem. But I’m not an expert in cloth, so I could easily be wrong.

***=I’ve been saying “lavandas” for lavender but I think that might be a brazilism because according to the wiki this is the word used in Portugal.

****=matar a sede means kill the thirst, literally, but quench seems better. And it’s not “a sede do gado” (the thirst of the cattle) but ao gado (to the cattle) , another example of Portuguese speakers using prepositions in a way that are just a little different to what an english speaker would expect.

*****=Descer in this sentence is the future subjunctive, not the infinitive, and I believe its “when I go down” not “when he/she/it goes down” but I can only get that from context since there no way of telling grammatically! I’m not sure what the land of truth means here either. If it’s heaven, why is she descending and not ascending? I’ve read the bible and spent a lot of time in church but this makes no sense to me I’m afraid.

Here’s an analysis I wrote of the poem, in Portuguese, for today’s writing challenge (thanks to Dani Morgenstern for the help)

O Poema de hoje é Rústica de Florbela Espanca. O poema fala do anseio da poeta por uma vida mais bucólica, numa aldeia onde ela seja “a moça mais linda” e o ar seja perfumado de ervas e flores.
Este desejo, esta saudade duma vida sem ansiedade e sem problemas é, no entanto, pouco realista porque a vida numa aldeia tem as suas próprias ansiedades e nem todas as moças podem ser a mais linda. Mas isso não contraria a mensagem do poema nem a vontade que todos nós temos de afastar-nos da vida moderna.
O poema tem quatro versos: dois de quatro linhas e dois de três, e tanto quanto sei, este padrão é muito comum na obra desta poeta. Usa imagens da natureza (o que é pouco surpreendente neste caso!) e temas religiosos. Aliás, a religião não é apenas um tema: a saudade da religião faz parte da saudade da vida simples. É como se Deus não tivesse poder nenhum na cidade e só soubesse tocar o coração de quem vive nalguma quinta.

Posted in Portuguese

Um Excesso de Politicamente Corretismo?

Summary of an article in Observador with notes at the bottom

Este artigo no site do jornal Observador lembra-nos que determinadas temas surgem em todas as sociedades modernas hoje em dia. Há quem prestam atenção às letras de cancões infantis e detetam os traços de um passado mais cruel que a presente. O artigo fala destes traços sob a rubrica de “politicamente incorreto” mas para ser mais exato, as letras contêm referencias a violência domestica, crueldade para com os animais* e racismo. Há muitos exemplos no artigo, alguns triviais (tal como “atirei o pau ao gato”) e alguns mais nojentos.

A cat is hit by a flying stick, thus triggering a more sensitive, woke moggy

Claro que cancões, rimas e brincadeiras que fazem parte da cultura de cada pais contém ecoas de uma época menos simpática e não queremos reforçar a opinião que assedio contra mulheres é aceitável por exemplo. E é evidente que qualquer professor de pré-escola que ensinasse aos alunos aquela lengalenga** sobre “o preto do Guiné” perderia o emprego e poucas pessoas sentiria simpatia nenhuma. Isso não se trata de uma questão de o que é que é politicamente correto, nem de censura, nem até de branqueamento*** mas sim de não repetir os insultos do passado nas orelhas dos estudantes negros em 2021.

Mas por outro lado, as tentativas bem-intencionadas para tornar as letras mais aceitáveis dá frequentemente em cancões pirosas e sem esforço. Até certo ponto, um bocadinho de choque, um pedaço de horror nos nossos contos de fada e nas cancões não magoa ninguém. Isso do gato não vão tornar ninguém psicopata, e não é preciso entrar em pânico ma afinal concordo com Dora Batalim: “mais vale não a cantarem, têm muitas por onde escolher”, ou seja, estas rimas racistas merecem desbotar e desaparecer. Não precisamos deles.

*=”crueldade para com os animais” is an interesting contruction. There are two prepositions in there. Literally, it would be “cruelty for with the animals”, which sounds weird to anglophone ears, but does seem to be legit. A bit of research and a question on a r/Portuguese shows that it’s a prepositional phrase meaning “in relation to” – Ciberdúvidas article here. It appears in the wikipedia article about cruelty but the main title of the article is just “Crueldade Com Animais” so obviously both make sense. By the way, it’s worth noting that brazilians spell “pára” (meaning “stop”) without the accent and in theory portuguese people should spell it that way too now, but it’s the most-ignored aspect of the Acordo Ortográfico because it’s so confusing. However, you might come across a phrase like “para com isso” which means “stop that”, so try not to get confused if you do!

**=I struggle to come up with a good translation for “lengalenga”. I’ve seen it explained as a kind of rhyming mnemonic, but I don’t think it’s that: it seems to refer to repetitive chants like rhymes that aren’t quite nursery rhymes – like “ip dip sky blue, it is not you” or “i see England, I see France, I see Colin’s underpants”. That kind of thing, I believe.

***=hm, branqueamento = whitewashing or sanitising something but in the context of imposing racist songs on black students it sounds like a pun which wasn’t my intention when I wrote it

Posted in Portuguese

Lembram-se de Restaurantes?

Será que alguém no site se lembra “restaurantes”? Tenho saudades deles. Eram parecidos com a casa do meu avó, mas em vez de uma velha há uma equipa de pessoas vestidas de branco que cozinham os pratos e trazem-nos* para a mesa. Não se lembram? Bem, perguntam a alguém mais crescido.

Ontem, vi um vídeo antigo, gravado antes da quarentena, em que um “chefe de cozinha” (acho que este senhor era um género de super-herói ou padre) fez um Bacalhau à Brás. Infelizmente, como estava doente de um delírio, em vez de batatas, andava a usar outros ingredientes como abóbora, cenoura branca e carne de macaco.

*=interesting switch from imperfect to present here. “They WERE like my granny’s house but instead of an old lady there IS a team… that COOKS the dishes and BRINGS them” feels a bit wrong but the person who corrected this on italki was sure it was right.

Posted in Portuguese

Bordalo ii

Bordalo Segundo é um artista plástico – literalmente! Faz esculturas de animais com materiais do lixo e principalmente, trabalha com plásticos de alta densidade, como cadeiras, caixas e embalagens. Se visitares Lisboa, é provável que vejas algumas obras dele: um texugo, uma abelha ou um macaco, fixado ao lado de uma loja ou uma casa. Talvez a sua obra-prima seja o lince ibérica no Parque das Nações. É muito fixe! Mas a sua arte tem uma mensagem também: convém lembrarmo-nos que toneladas deste tipo de lixo estão a ser deitadas fora dia após dia e se não se torna arte, torna-se poluição.