EP word of the week (#100): pirilampo

It has been a long road to get here – almost 16 months – but it feels amazing to present to you the 100th EP word of the week!

Today, we go into the animal kingdom for a lesson of comparative entomology: different words for firefly in Portuguese! In Portugal, the most common word for this beautiful, bioluminescent insect is [o] pirilampo; in Brazil, you’ll hear more the word [o] vaga-lume; but the other may be used in regionalisms (that is, pirilampo in Brazil and vaga-lume in Portugal). Another interesting regionalism is [o] luze-cu, which literally means “shine-ass/arse” or “shiny ass“, a funny reference as to how light seems to come from fireflies’ backsides :)

But in Portugal, the month of May is also associated with a tradition about a different sort of firefly: it involves buying and giving Pirilampos mágicos (lit. “magic fireflies”) [1, in Portuguese]. They are small, round and fluffy “animals” of no specific species (clearly an invention), but the end of their curly antenna is coloured with luminescent paint – so that it can glow faintly in the dark, just like a firefly. Every year there’s a different colouring to their plumage (as you can see here [2], up to 2015), which makes them a good collector’s item; they are sold to support FENACERCI, a National Federation of social work institutions dedicated to providing education and support to children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families.

More than a fun small plush toy one can use to adorn their room (my old childhood room has around 10 of them lying around) and make nights a little less darker, they also insure that people in need will also benefit from them. An absolute win-win, and a great opportunity to teach children about accepting differences and to bring the issue of special education to the public each year.


Finally, let me thank you for making this 100th Words of the Week post possible – I really couldn’t have gone this far without your support! Thank you so much for your continued readership :)

Enjoy your week – see you next Wednesday for more Words of the Week!

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