Posted in English

No Such Thing As Society

I came across this paragraph in a book I read recently. It hit me because it’s a familiar quote but I also realised i didn’t know how to say “there’s no such thing as…”

“For the right-wing libertarian “there’s no such thing as society” (Margaret Thatcher) and liberty is individual or not at all”. And “Não existe tal coisa” is the key phrase meaning “there’s no such thing as”

Incidentally, that “direita” is causing me some headaches in the book I’m reading now “A Construção da Democracia em Portugal”. My confusion comes from the fact that one of the socialist leaders is a law professor – “Professor de Direito” – because “direito” means right as in right hand but also means right as in “human rights” and by extension, law. But I keep thinking he’s a Professor de Direita – ie, a right-wing professor, which is a bit weird if he’s helping lead a socialist movement. Direita isn’t a different word from direito, it’s just shorthand for right-wing, and wing is “ala”, which is feminine so the ending has changed.

There you go: quite a lot to unpack there! I have quite a few of these little nuggets saved up from the last few weeks of reading so I might do a few more of these posts. They help me to remember them and maybe they’re useful to other people too.

Posted in English

An Apple A Day

The portuguese equivalent of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is pleasing because it rhymes just like the english version

Uma maçã por dia, não sabe o bem que lhe fazia

It isn’t usually used in that form though. If you look for the second part online it’s more often used with “um livro por dia”, “uma música por dia” “uma panda por dia” or any other noun you care to name

Posted in English

Friends With Bem Feitas

I watched a YouTube video yesterday about the French language, which turns out to vê useful for Portuguese too. She was taking about the use of the phrase bien fait. It literally means “well done” but although it is sometimes used to mean that as part of a larger sentence, when it’s used in its own, it doesn’t carry the same significance as it would of an English person said “Well done”. In other words, if you see a French person makes a heroic effort, saves a kitten from drowning, say, getting soaked in the process, bien fait is not the phrase you need.

The reason is that they use it to mean “serves you right” or “you got what you deserved”, so our heroic kitten-rescuer in the previous paragraph would think you were mocking her or saying she deserved to suffer through dampness because of being so reckless as to try and save a kitten.

So this morning I was reading Winepunk (a sci-fi short story compilation based on an alternative history of the Monarquia do Norte in the early twentieth century) and I came across this passage

“Among them, the engineer sees scores of war-wounded, still in uniform. [Bem Feita] for signing up in the hope of an ephemeral moment of glory”

It’s pretty obvious from. The context that “bem feita” here means the same thing as bien fait: “It serves them right”. He thinks the war wounded deserved to be injured for signing up to the army in pursuit of glory.

Posted in English

You Say Patati, I Say Patatá, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

One of my favourite booktubers recently started a new channel in Portuguese, after switching to English on her main channel. It’s called “As Revoltas da Manganet” if you’re interested. In the middle of the debut video she makes a noise that jumped out at me like “e pa ta ti pa ta ta”. It didn’t sound like anything that made sense but on the other hand, it sounded a bit too deliberate to be a random noise, so I hunted around and it turns out that the expression is “patati patatá”. It is roughly equivalent to “yada yada” or “blah blah blah” or just “and so on and so forth”.

The reason it took a little bit of digging was partly because it seems to be used in French and Spanish too, and partly because there’s also a Brazilian TV show called Patati Patatá, so on some sites it seems like they’ve translated it using the names of better-known (to English audiences) double-acts like “Frick and Frack”. But I think “yada yada” fits best in the context of the video, so I’m mentally shelving it as a useful little phrase to have up my sleeve for later…

Posted in English

Close Encontros

Another nugget from the book I’m reading: this time, it’s two phrases that are similar and can be easily confused

Ir ao encontro de = to agree with – “A minha opinião vai ao encontro da tua” (my opinions agree with yours)

Ir de encontro a = crash into – “O ciclista foi de encontro ao muro” (The cyclist went into the wall)

So in the mistake: “Concordo com o narrador e a minha opinião vai de encontro ao que ele afirmou” the student is saying they agree with the author and their opinions collide with his

Posted in English

Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

youre-a-lizard-harry-36247804One of the exercises in “A Actualidade em Português” is about superstitions and there are five that are similar to “knock on wood” or similar – phrases for warding off the effects of bad luck. By far the coolest is “Lagarto, Lagarto, Lagarto” (Lizard, Lizard, Lizard). I have no idea why that means what it means. Ciberdúvidas isn’t much help and neither is Andreia Vale’s “Puxar a Brasa à Nossa Sardinha”. Even m’wife didn’t know, only guessed that maybe it was because witches use lizards in their spells.

Anyway, while I was researching it, I came across this freaky advert for an art show which uses an old song from the 70s by Banda do Casaco called “A Ladainhas Das Comadres” which includes the phrase. Confusingly the first line is in latin (the portuguese equivalent would be “Afasta-te, Satanás” or “Vai para trás, Satanás”)

Vade retro Satanás [get thee behind me Satan – Latin]

T’arrenego Belzebu [I abjure you, Beelzebub]

A Jesus Cruzes Canhoto [To Jesus, crosses left-handed]

Lagarto, Lagarto, Lagarto! [Lizard, Lizard, Lizard!]

That “Crosses left-handed” is a similar phrase used to ward off evil, sometimes extended to “Cruzes, canhoto! Longe vá o agouro!”

Similar phrases include

  • Isola
  • Diabo seja cego, surdo e mudo
  • Vira para lá essa boca
  • Salvo seja


Posted in Portuguese

Return of the Mackerel

A Portuguese friend left a comment on one of my Instagram posts today where I was bragging about my skills in (a) pumpkin husbandry and (b) soup wrangling.

“Armado em carapau de corrida!”

Which is like um… Armoured in racing mackerel. Or something.

This took a bit of deciphering but basically I think she thought I was showing off and pretending to be an expert. Fair enough. It seems to be a common expression but I’d never heard it before. There’s an explanation here.

Posted in English

It’s Time To Master “Bater”

I keep seeing constructions like “bater mal” and “bater certo”, and couldn’t quite see why “bater” was being used. I asked and (after a brief kerfuffle with some brazilians who tried to tell me that it disn’t exist and made no sense) found out that it is an informal expression. Bater is the verb used for the beating of a heart or the ticking of a clock, and if it starts going wrong that’s bad, so if someone “bate mal” after – say – a blow to the head, he’s not quite himself. You can also “bater bem” (being in good form) and things can “bater certo” (be exact, precise, spot on).

There’s an example of Bater Mal near the beginning of this song by the Greatest Band Ever

Posted in English

Two New Expressões

Agradar a gregos e troianos – “please the greeks and the trojans”. Obviously means find a solution that pleases everyone

A vida é uma corda bamba – “life is a tightrope”. Pretty obvious really.