The years after the Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos or simply O 25 de Abril, since it started on April 25th 1974, now a national holiday) which deposed the 48-year old authoritarian dictatorship of [o] Estado Novo (lit. “New State”, in the way dictatorships have a way of fashioning themselves new and good when they’re anything but) brought on not just enormous political changes – multiparty democracy, pure universal suffrage, decolonization – but also great changes in the social mores of the country, especially amongst the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the revolution.
The 80s musical scene showcases these new ideas in an extraordinary fashion: unshackled from the tight constraints to both musical imports, young people started ditching fado and the Portuguese version of the French chansonfor bolder rhythms like rock and punk and a more intense lyrical exploration of the self, of the individuality that was regularly curbed during the dictatorship years (the música de intervenção, lit. “intervention music” – politically-charged tunes which were an active form of resistence against the dictatorship – had quickly become obsolete after the country settled into democracy).
While many singers could be named in this context, there’s no figure as ideosyncratic and fantastic as António Variações (1944-1984), who in his short-lived but incredibly iconic career lived many lives, and showed that it was possible to blend traditional sounds with modern tendencies (a gay hairdresser in a still deeply conservative country, he was nothing but brave in his openness to be himself more than anything, a path unfortunately cut short by AIDS), a feeling which captures really well the best of what Portuguese music can do.
One of the things Portugal has been known for since its accession to the EEC (now EU) is a proliferation of the number of constructed highways/freeways, with the progress in fast travel and road safety being sometimes shadowed by allegations of corruption in the construction process and the inclusion of tolls in previously toll-free roads.
[A] autoestrada is the name we give to these highways; in traffic signs, they’re recognizable by the blue background of the signs and the letter A followed by the road number. Autoestradas are also special due to the higher speeds one can travel there: a minimum of 50 kph (something unique to highways) and a maximum of 120 kph (the highest possible legal speed, which you’ll see infringed more often than not) for cars and motorcycles (trucks and buses operate at slightly lower speeds).
This word serves both as a difference from BP and as a false friend to English (languages sure are tricky, right?).
[A] constipação is the European Portuguese word for the commoncold, the staple of all respiratory systems during the colder months (and one extra thing that makes you long for the spring – unless you’ve got allergies like me: that means your sniffles last all year long!). Brazilians refer to this common viral disease as [o] resfriado.
Known for its tropical weather, gorgeous beaches, and a rich, mixed tapestry of cultures, the Caribbean are one of the most celebrated tourist destinations worldwide, and while us Portuguese can’t really complain about our weather, the word [as] Caraíbas is enough to give us daydreams about sandy beaches lined with palm trees and a crystal-clear ocean nearby (something to help us get through our Winter blues).
Sometimes the easiest way to understand a culture or art form is by showing, not telling; since the impact of music is so immediate – short in length, but at its best deeply meaningful and resounding – I couldn’t think of a better way to start trudging the waters of Portuguese Culture and Society, one of this blog’s segments, with a fortnightly revue of Portuguese music (that is, every other Monday), with only a few notes to guide you to the context of the pieces.
There’s no better place to start than with fado, Portugal’s unique contribution to the musical world, and no better artist exemplifies the form than Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999), an artist so revered in life she’s now entombed in Lisbon’s National Pantheon, the first woman to receive such an honor (that says a lot about the treatment of women by the powers that be, but the honor itself reveals how much Amália was loved by the Portuguese people, who pressured the government to grant her that posthumous recognition).
Brazilians refer to their North American brethren by the demonyms canadense and estado-unidense (or estadunidense) – the latter in no small part as a way to assert the independence of the identity of America the continent vs. the United States.
Far removed from this specific linguistic power play, European Portuguese still hews close to English and prefers the term americano/a in reference to people or subjects related to the United States of America.
On our first Ask Luís! series, I’ll be answering a question from Dries (thank you for your question!):
Just finished my Duolingo tree (now trying to make it completely gold), and I think your blog is just the thing I need to proceed my understanding of EP. Muito obrigado.
Questão: could you give me some simple instructions as to get a better feeling for the difference between levar and trazer. I looked it up at Ciberdúvidas but the answers were a bit too theoretical.
Suggestion for the grammar site: tips for the use of the Conjunctivo (presente e preterito imperfeito). We don’t use it anymore in Dutch (I’m from the Netherlands), only in proverbs or some expressions. Bom trabalho!
First of all, I’d like to thank you so much for your kind words (I believe most of my followers at this point have come from Duolingo, so I probably don’t need to explain why that was mentioned in Dries’ comment), and for your suggestions for grammar tips – I’ll place them on the top of my list; meanwhile, I’d like to refer you back to Duolingo and the very helpful Subjunctive Guide that one of its users wrote – it’s long and most sentences are in BP, but it’s a good way as any to start grappling with the tense and its many, many uses.
You’re also spot on in your assessment of Ciberdúvidas: it’s a really helpful website, but it does require an intermediate to advanced level of Portuguese to fully understand, especially since the answers use grammar terminology that’s harder to translate.
Without further ado (and as always, I feel like I’ve written a lot already), I’ll answer your main question after the jump:
After a trip to Central Europe, our trip around the world leads us to North America, to a country that coincidentally has a red-and-white flag like Poland – Canada! While all strands of Portuguese agree on how to spell the name of the country – [o] Canadá – they have their own minds when it comes to naming its people; Brazilians call Canadians by [o/a] canadense, while in EP we only use the word [o/a] canadiano/a.
A bandeira do Canadá. / The flag of Canada.
Justin Trudeau, o a[c]tual primeiro-ministro canadiano. / Justin Trudeau, the current Canadian prime minister.
If you’d been reading these segments religiously (which I hope you have), you know the word americano acquired more than one meaning in EP (we’ll cover the rest next Sunday on the next stop of our world tour), so you’ll be excited to know that so does [a] canadiana!