EP word of the week (#98): ferro de engomar

When you’re learning a foreign language, you develop an almost instinctive desire to know words for different objects, especially those you use on your daily life. Have you ever wondered what’s the European Portuguese word for clothes’ iron? If your answer was yes, then your quest (provided you didn’t remember checking it in a dictionary) is over!

In Portugal, our most common word for the iron is [o] ferro de engomar; [o] ferro means iron (the mineral, just like in English) and engomar is the verb, to iron. It’s actually a quite interesting formulation since the verb refers to [a] goma, the starch used in the ironing process to stiffen parts of the fabric. Nowadays that’s not so common anymore (and some irons allow you to go both processes at once), so it’s used only in the sense of ironing.

In Brazil, the most common term is [o] ferro de passar. You’d probably hear this in Portugal too, but since we also say passar a ferro as a synonym of engomar (even more so the former than the latter, I suppose), it would sound a bit redundant ([o] ferro de passar a ferro) – to my ears at least.


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Lost in [PT] Translation (#1): Star Wars: The Plurals Strike Back

Today I’m inaugurating a new blog section, delving in matters of translation into and/or from Portuguese. It will serve as an opportunity to discuss matters of translation and comparative translation, especially in the realms of media and culture (get ready for a lot of geeky posts about my favourite TV shows/films)!

For today’s installment, I couldn’t think of a better topic than the hype surrounding the new Star Wars film, The Last JediWhen the film’s title was first announced, on January 23rd last [1], I immediately assumed that it referred to a singular Jedi, namely Luke Skywalker, but more shrewd observers wondered whether the Jedi in the title was singular or plural (since Jedi can be both singular and plural) [2].

Given the secrecy surrounding the film, how could a translator working on this title know how to translate it into an inflected language where the rest of the sentence fragment – the definite article The and the adjective Last – could potentially give away these plot points?

©StarWars.com / Disney / LucasFilm
The Last Jedi title card, courtesy of StarWars.com

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EP words of the week (#97): baloiço / balancé

Today’s EP word of the week is all about nostalgia! Unless you still use swings on a regular basis – I won’t judge; some parks are built with adults in mind too – it’s probably something you remember fondly from your youth! I was never a big fan of swings (always too afraid to fall), but I obviously recognize how fun they are :)

In European Portuguese, any kind of swing is known as [o] baloiço; in Brazilian Portuguese, the preferred word is [o] balanço. In EP, the latter means swing in the sense of motion (the sway of something back and forth, like a boat), rhythm (as song or dance’s groove); tomar balanço means to swing your body before starting a run (“to gain momentum” in English).

I’ve heard some people use [o] balanço in Portugal, so it could be a regionalism somewhere. I wouldn’t use it as much because it’s too similar to [o] balancé, our word for seesaw/teeter-totter. In Brazil, they use [a] gangorra – a word I’d never heard before until I started preparing this article!

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Ask Luís! (#12): Translation of “claro” / Text revision

Hello, everyone! Here’s a new question from Yuliya (and for all of you, of course):

Olá, Luís!

Vou perguntar te de novo. Esta vez sobre do verbo para a palavra “claro”. Como é que é correto “está claro” ou “é claro”? Na Internet vejo ambas formas usadas.

E segunda pergunta é sobre o tempo passado que deve ser usado para dizer “It was clear”. Foi claro? Era claro? Ou esteve(estava) claro?

Se não te importares, gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem.
Obrigada, Yuliya

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EP words of the week (#96): Estou? [and other ways of picking up the phone]


Hi, everyone! Sorry for greeting you pic first, but given today’s topic, I could see no other way of introducing myself properly!

In Portugal (and therefore EP), we have a series of different words and expressions you can use when starting a conversation after you’ve received a phone call from someone – when performing a translation, these would all be replaced by the simple, yet powerful “Hello” (just follow the sage guidance of Adele and Lionel Richie on this one) :)

The simplest forms are Estou? and Sim? The first is nominally a form of verb estar (literally it would mean Am I?); the second, as you all know, just means Yes?

Other ways of starting a call include Estou sim? (a combo of the two); Está lá? (something like Is anyone there?). A common follow-up expression could be Quem fala? (Who’s speaking?, in the sense of Who is this?).

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EP word of the week (#95): ginásio

Spring is now full swing all around temperate climates in the Northern Hemisphere, and I can’t find a better time to start doing some exercise! I very much prefer outdoor activities, particularly tennis, but doing some cardio at the gym has never hurt anyone (unless you’re lazy like me – then it hurts you quite a lot).

Well, awkward revelations aside, let’s say going to gym is also a different experience on both sides of the Lusophone Atlantic (and not just because it’s Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere!); yes, you’ve guessed it already, we have two different words for gym! In Portugal, you can call them [o] ginásio or [o] clube de fitness; in Brazil, the common terms are [a] academia or [a] academia de ginástica.

Pessoas a fazer exercício no ginásio. People working out at the gym.


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EP words of the week (#94): adesivo / penso rápido

A (long) while ago (when talking about taparueres and esferovite), we discussed how some languages usually take some registered trademarks (or words associated with certain brands) and turn them into general terms – common nouns or verbs used to describe a certain action.

Today we’ll add two more items to that list, but this time with the generic trademarks being used only on Brazilian Portuguese! The EP word for surgical tape (used to hold together bandages and other medical dressings over woulds) is [o] adesivo; it can refer to both the tape used independently from a bandages and the self-sticking dressings (with are bandage and tape all-in-one). In Brazil, the equivalent is [o] esparadrapo, a borrowing from French sparadrap, with the same meaning.

Our words for Band-Aid are also different: EP uses [o] penso rápido, while BP sticks with the brand and prefers [o] bandeide or [o] band-aid.

Do you know any other generic trademarks that are different from EP and BP? Would you be interested in becoming a featured writer for the blog? Send me a message and maybe one of your articles could become the next EP word of the week!

EP words of the week (#93): bilhete de identidade / cartão de cidadão

Portuguese people are used to two different kinds of identification cards: the oldest kind is known as [o] bilhete de identidade (i.e. identity ticket/paper/card), which has been replaced by new card holders and renewals (from 2007) with a newer version known as [o] cartão de cidadão (i.e. citizen card).

This new version is not just an identity card, but actually a 4-in-one card: apart from the identity card, it replaces the health card ([o] cartão de utente, used to have access to the country’s national health service), the social security card ([o] cartão da Segurança Social) and the fiscal ID card ([o] cartão de identificação fiscal). Instead of having four different cards in your pocket, now you have just one, with the respective ID numbers of each former card placed in the front (personal ID) and the back (the other three) of the new one. It’s a much more convenient way to get by, especially when your wallet is already full of different cards!


In Brazil, the word used is [a] carteira de identidade; not a big difference, but still important just in case you want to be understood by a Brazilian Portuguese speaker.


EP word of the week (#92): carta de condução

While former colonies usually tend to imitate their former power’s institutions when they become independent (v.d. the choice of electoral and judicial system by the newest decolonized countries in Africa and Asia in the last half of the 20th century), it’s normal that with time they’ll develop their own burocracies and specificities when it comes to specialized legal/administrative terminology.

Brazil, having being independent since 1822, has obviously had enough time to move away from Portugal’s influence (and, truth be told, Portugal’s administrative and judiciary system has changed quite a bit as well).

Then, It should come as no surprise that terms related to things that couldn’t possibly have existed in the third decade of the 19th century also have different names in each variant. For example, think of driver’s licenses – cars, trucks, motorcycles and even bicycles didn’t exist back then!

In Portugal, we know them as [a] carta de condução; in Brazil, it is known as [a] carteira de habilitação.

Carta de condução portuguesa. Portuguese driver’s license.

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EP words of the week (#91): registo / rasto

Hello, everyone!

Today’s Word of the week is once more a twofer, this time to show you another singular feature of the EP-BP continuum of differences: how Brazilian Portuguese adds an r to some words after st-.

The two words I chose for the feature are [o] registo (registry, registering, register) and [o] rasto (track, trail, trace [of someone or something], which in BP and some dialects of EP become [o] registro and [o] rastro. To be fair, it’s EP who seems to be doing some dropping instead of BP doing some adding, since the Latin cognates registrum (“register”) and rastrum (rake) have the r; this indicates that BP, having its origins in an earlier form of Portuguese, kept a consonant that was lost in EP.

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