Posted in English


I came across a word the other day that I hadn’t really thought about much but seems to have more depth than I realised. For some, it’s just as much a national characteristic as “saudade”. The word is “desenrascanço“. Its root is “enrascar” which means to twist or tangle. So it’s basically the ability to untangle things, and it’s more-or-less equivalent to English words like improvisation, hacking, kludging, or pulling a MacGyver*.

Just to be clear though, as far as I can tell, it’s the quality of a person who is resourceful, not an individual act of improvisation, although I can see some online definitions that have explained it that way. So it’s more like “the quality of being good at improvising” or maybe “MacGyverishness”. And hence, some Portuguese people see it as an important national characteristic in the same way we brits value our ability to “muddle through”

*=confession time: I’ve never actually seen MacGyver, but I gather he was someone who always managed to get out of a tight spot by winging it with whatever was available. Or so my wife tells me.