Posted in English


Interested to see this meme pop up on a Brazilian Monty Python fan account.

What’s so surprising? Well, bravo is a false friend. It doesn’t mean corajoso, it means raivoso: angry in other words. Or rude and uncouth.

I asked around and found out that bravo means either “brave” or “angry” in Brazil. And of course they chose the word in this meme because they were dovetailing it with the English words of the song. It actually can mean brave in Portugal too but its very, very unusual, as you can probably imagine – it must be confusing as hell to have one adjective that can mean two different things and could plausibly mean either of them in a lot of everyday contexts. It’s the eighth meaning given in the dictionary, so it’s worth knowing, but probably best avoided in everyday speech.

Even weirder, there is a regional word, brabo, which means angry and is a synonym (but not a mis-spelling, apparently!) or bravo and means angry (but definitely not brave!) it’s the first I’ve heard of it and only one (brazilian) guy mentioned it, so although it is in Priberam, this seems obscure enough that you can probably ignore it.

Update: a few more replies have come in and reminded me that, of course, bravo can also mean “well done”, just as it does in English.

I mentioned “rude or um uncouth” as possible meanings but maybe I should have gone for something like “rough” or “uncultured” since it can be used in relation to food to mean something like “wild” – espargos bravos =wild asparagus, carne brava= grass fed beef, etc. A sea can be bravo of it is rough and stormy, and there’s a type of apple called Maçã Bravo de Esmolfe. Yes, bravo, not Brava, even though maçã is feminine.

Posted in English

Easy as ABC

False friends are always fun to deal with, and I saw a pretty good example today in a social media post by a Brazilian who was trying to translate “Fui alfabetizado nos Estados Unidos” into English. Obviously as an English speaker, you automatically try and englishify it as “I was alphabetised in the United States”, imagining João arriving at the airport and being placed in an ordered list between Joana and Joaquim.

It’s a lovely image but no, it’s not that, obviously. Alfabetizar means to teach literacy – so he was taught to read and write in the United States. It’s not a very common word, but you’ll see a related adjective – analfabeto (illiterate) – quite often when people are criticising each other’s poor grammar online so hopefully it won’t be that hard to remember.

And are you ready for the word to use when you need to put your words in alphabetical order? It’s “alfabetar” without the iz. So not that different, but you probably want to keep them straight in your head or you’ll get funny looks when you explain to someone that you have been procrastinating from study by teaching your CDs to read. In fact, if they’re under 25 you night have to explain to them what a CD is first.

Posted in English


One of my pet theories is that every tech company has a guy somewhere in the organisation whose job title is “visionary architect of making everything slightly worse”. He (and I’m sorry to be one of those dudes who disses other dudes to ingratiate himself to his female readers, but yes, I’m sure he’s a he) is the one behind all those little changes to apps that make them look sleeker but leave the user frustrated and annoyed because they are harder to use. Anyway, the guy who holds that role at google translate has obviously been busy because its latest incarnation is hugely irritating. Well done, mate.

It remains quite useful though. I’ve just written a text about street food and I mentioned a disposable glove. As usual, when I finished, I pasted it into gtranslate to see what it thought I’d said. It translated it as “available glove” because I’d used a false friend: Disponível. The word is obviously related to disposable but it means available. It’s easy to see the link. If you’ve ever heard anyone say “I’m at your disposal”, the person wasn’t asking to be thrown in the bin, they were saying they were available to help. So the meanings must have drifted apart relatively recently but it’s worth knowing the difference.

What should I gave said? Descartável. That’s easy too. You can discard them.

E depois, queres um pastel de nata?

Posted in Portuguese

A Discutir Comigo Mesmo

Tiveram uma vez uma discussão* ou um debate com outra** pessoa que não entendeu o vosso ponto de vista ou que reagiu mal a alguma coisa que nem sequer disseram? Acho isso muito frustrante. Estou a passar a manhã inteira a repetir a discussão. É ridículo. Estou em risco de desperdiçar o dia todo porque não consigo focar-me noutras coisas. Preciso de esquecer. Felizmente sou um velhote e geralmente esqueço-me de coisas facilmente.

Mas… É que… Não quero. Sinto-me como se perdesse um dente e quero enfiar a língua*** no buraco onde estava. Digo-me a mim mesmo:

“Calma pá. Pega nos auscultadores, meu burro**** e escuta, mas é, uma música punk até a memória fica perdida”.

“Pois é”, respondo “mas antes disso, só quero praticar mais uma vez o que teria dito, e o que irei dizer se alguma vez inventar uma máquina do tempo e viajar no tempo até àquele momento…”

E assim se passa uma, duas, três horas a fio. Burro, burro, burro.

I am Jack's lazy tendency to post animated gifs based on Hollywood movies

* I made the schoolboy error of using “argumento” here but it doesn’t mean quite the same thing as argument and certainly doesn’t fit here.

** tempting to write “uma outra” (another) but you only need outra. The corrector said “Uma outra” is “um gallicismo oitocentista” – a French import from the nineteenth century.

*** a língua not a minha língua as per the post I wrote a few weeks back abiut how possessive pronouns are sometimes unneeded.

**** When I first saw this sort of construction “seu burro” I couldn’t see what was going on. Its an exclamation, calling someone “you donkey” not discussing their donkey, if you see what I mean. Anyway, you can say “seu burro” (or tolo or palermo or whatever) and you can say “meu burro” but not – for some reason – “teu burro”.

Posted in English

Champagne For My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends


I made a new Memrise Deck, which I’ll probably add to as and when. It’s about “False Friends” (“Falsos Amigos”) and I’ve been meaning to write it for a while, and not just as an excuse to steal this title which is the name of a song by Fallout Boy.

False friends are words that look like they should mean one thing but they actually mean something else entitrely. It’s here if you’re interested.


Posted in English

Dois Falsos Amigos

m000093415It’s been a while since I posted any of those “Key Learnings” from lessons and I should probably do it more to give my crap memory a bit of a nudge to do its job. So here are couple of things I picked up from today’s Aula. They’re both really close near-cognates with subtly different meanings:


This word looks like a straight-up cognate but it’s diverged slightly from the english meaning and stayed closer to “consensus” than “consent”.

É consensual no meio cientifica nao haver o direito de modificar o patrimonio hereditário da espécie humana.

…means something like “It’s agreed by everyone in the field of science that we don’t have the right to modify the human genetic heritage”


This word obviously comes from the same root as the verb “to present” but it isn’t used in the positive sense – presenting people with gifts or medals, for example, only ironically in negative situations.

O objectivo é conseguir substâncias capazes de corrigir os efeitos com que a natureza vai presenteado os homens

…means something like “The objective is to find substances that can correct the symptoms with which nature has presented people”