EP word of the week (#20): realizador/a (de cinema)

[O] Cinema, commonly referred metonymically as [a] Sétima Arte (“the seventh art”, a term first used by early 20th century film theoretician Ricciotto Canudo, and common in the Press in the Old World) is a very important industry in Portugal: while Portuguese cinematic output is relatively scarce (especially in comparison to Hollywood and world cinema imports), both Lisbon and Porto are several cinemas that provide access to blockbusters, indie films and oldies alike.

Of those, I would highlight [a] Cinemateca Portuguesa, which shows classic films for a fraction of the value paid for a ticket at a commercial  (3,20 € for one film ticket, with discounts for students, people over the age of 65, and the unemployed; prices in commercial venues over around the 5-7 € range). It’s relatively close to our downtown (on a street adjacent to our Avenida da Liberdade); if you happen to be around and are a fan of good cinema (I’ve watched Casablanca, Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and La Dolce Vita there – just to name a few), feel free to check it out (from Mondays to Saturdays, except in August when it closes for the summer) and/or mention it to your friends and family who may come to Lisbon on holiday: with government support dwindling, any extra income is important to make sure people have access to good cinema (:

All of this to say that film directors have different terms in EP and BP: over there they are called [o/a] diretor/a de cinema; in Portugal the term used is – you guessed it – [o/a] realizador/a (de cinema). As you can imagine, the verb to direct (a film) also changes to account for this difference: in BP it’s dirigir (um filme), in EP it’s realizar (um filme). Both variants share a second term for a filmmaker[o/a] cineasta.

Continue reading

Grammar Tips (#1): The problem with ç

The c-cedilla (ç) – [o] cê-cedilha ou [o] cê cedilhado in Portuguese – is usually a tricky letter to get a grasp on early on, unless you’re a speaker of French, Catalan and Occitan which use it in much the same way as Portuguese (albeit with certain differences).

In any case, here are the rules governing ç in Portuguese:

#1: It’s a variant of the word c, meaning it’s not a letter in its own right.

That’s an important detail for two reasons:

  1. It makes you understand the rules regarding its usage better if you just think of it as a variant of c;
  2. When you’re trying to find a word in a dictionary, words with ç are ordered together with words with c.

#2: It’s used only before a, o, and u, to turn a hard /k/ sound into a soft /s/ sound.

Note: all of the following pronunciations are based on the standard EP spoken in Lisbon

Before a, o, and u (and consonants), the letter c is pronounced with a hard /k/ sound (the c in cat): 

  • [a] cama (bed): kˈɐ.mɐ
  • [a] colina (hillside): ku.lˈi.nɐ
  • [o] caldo (broth): kˈaɫ.du
  • [o] porco (pig): pˈoɾ.ku
  • ficar (to stay): fi.kˈaɾ
  • encravar (to get something stuck/ to jam): ẽ.kɾɐ.vˈaɾ

Before e and i, it’s pronounced with a soft /s/ sound (the c in city):

  • [a] cidade (city):  si.dˈa.dɨ
  • [a] cereja (cherry):  sɨ.ɾˈɐ.ʒɐ
  • [a] polícia (police):  pu.lˈi.s
  • inocente (innocent):  i.nu.sˈẽ.tɨ

Since C already has a soft /s/ sound before e and i, Ç is only used before vowels that would give C a hard /k/ sound without the cedilla, i.e., the first group (a, o, u):

  • [a] caça (hunt, hunting) / [o] caça (fighter plane):  kˈa.sɐ
    • compare with [a] caca (poo, dropping):  kˈa.kɐ
  • [o] braço (arm): IPA bɾˈa.su
    • compare with fraco (weak):  fɾˈa.ku; or [a] broca (drill, borer):  bɾˈɔ.kɐ

Continue reading

EP Music Mondays (#4): Rui Veloso

Like most novelties, rock & roll reached Portuguese shores a tad later than everywhere else: the first few bands and acts of the genre started springing up in the late 70s and early 80s, a clear break with what had come before (fruit of the Revolution, of which I spoke about when I talked about António Variações a month ago).

And the emergence of rock & roll wouldn’t make sense in any other conjuncture, and not just because its irreverence and style were derided by the authoritarian regime in the (social, religious, moral) correctness; it was also that socioeconomic (widespread poverty, illiteracy, child labor) and political constraints (repression of contrarian attitudes by the political police; drafting of many young men serve in Portugal’s Colonial War in Africa from 1961 to 1974) – all of which were caused by official Estado Novo policy – meant there wasn’t a true sense of fun or the opportunity to enjoy youth among most of Portugal’s teenagers and young adults.

Rui Veloso is one of the most enduring and beloved singers to have emerged from this new rock scene, and one who’s still working today (his passions have mellowed with age, but his voice and his clout in Portuguese music remain intact).



Continue reading

EP word of the week (#19): atacador

Most shoes (including tennis shoes) require shoelaces; if anything, there’s an anthropological and social imperative that associates laces with growing older (presumably old enough to tie your shoes). Until the velcro industry lobbies people’s hearts and minds,we’re going to keep seeing shoelaces everywhere (:

In EP, the word used for shoelace is [o] atacador (or [o] cordão, albeit less frequently); in BP, it’s [o] cadarço (a word I had no idea existed until I caught it on a page while I was doing some research on tennis shoes for our previous Word of the Week). The verb to tie (shoelaces) is also different; EP uses atar ou apertar [os atacadores] (one can say “atacar os sapatos/tênis/etc.”, but that’s not so common nowadays), while BP prefers amarrar [o cadarço].

Continue reading

Ask Luís! (#N/A): A Personal Message

While this message doesn’t really have a question attached (and such I won’t number it with the rest), I still feel the need to answer it since it’s a personal message to me. This one is from Peter Stockwell all the way from France:

Hi Luis,

I missed you on DL, so here I am.

Um abraço da França!

Tudo bem ?

Hello, Peter! It’s so nice to hear from you :) First of all, I’m sorry I didn’t answer your query right away – to be honest, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with it, especially how I could integrate it within the framework of this particular segment, but I knew I had to answer it somehow: I’m not the kind of person who just leaves someone hanging on like that.

Everything’s alright with me – the state of the world still troubles me immensely, and these last terrorist attacks really struck a chord with me because I’ve been to Brussels last October, I’ve passed by that metro station and that airport, but I’m trying not to get too carried away by emotion; when people do that, they usually just spout nonsense that only makes people more isolated and prone to feeling detached, and I don’t really want to live my life in fear – I like people too much to fall for that.

I’m also doing surprisingly well without Duolingo – it was part of my daily routine for 9 months, but I’m glad of the decision I made and how I made it. I’ve now gotten back to my Dutch, and I’m also trying to dabble a bit in Danish: my mind is always wandering to something else, it can’t be helped!

I hope all is well with you and your family over there in France, and I hope you keep following this blog so we can remain in touch :)

Um grande abraço de Portugal do


EP word of the week (#18): ténis

Full disclosure: I’m not an ordinary Portuguese citizen: [o] ténis (tennis) is my favourite sport, not [o] futebol (association football/soccer)! In a country where even tennis players and commentators are football fans, and where most news about “sports” are really about association football, this is an opportunity to be once again in the minority (I’ll be able to vent about why I don’t particularly like football some other time, I’m sure).

Returning to the goal of this segment, European Portuguese uses the same word for the sport and the tennis shoe (or any sports shoe in the vein of tennis shoes, especially running shoes) – [o] ténis. When pluralized (a pair of shoes, or at least more than one shoe), the word remains the same: [os] ténis. Other words ending in -s follow the same pattern: [o/s] lápis[o/s] cais[o/s] simples (either one-syllable words with diphthongs or words with their stress on the second-to-last syllable).

Continue reading

EP words of the week (#17): travão / embraiagem

After discussing differences between EP and BP in the names of vehicles, it makes sense to check some of the differences inside them before we move on! Most cars have three main foot pedals: clutch, brake and throttle (also known as “accelerator” or “gas pedal”). Of these, only the latter is shared between BP and EP: both variants call it [o] acelerador.

The clutch is known as [a] embraiagem in European Portuguese and [a] embreagem in Brazilian Portuguese (not so different, but still significant).

It’s in the middle, with the brakes, that we find the most obvious differences: we use the word [o] travão (verb travar), Brazilians [o] freio (verb frear). Likewise, hand brake is [o] travão de mão in EP and [o] freio de mão in BP.

Os pedais no carro dos meus sonhos. The pedals on my dream car.

Continue reading

EP words of the week (#16): camião / camionista

Continuing our recurrent look at the differences between EP and BP in the field of transportation (while I didn’t stress this at the time, the nouns autocarroelé[c]trico, and autoestrada aren’t used as such in BP, being replaced by ônibusbonde, and rodovia when applicable), we now change our attention to a different type of vehicle: the truck/lorry, known in EP as [o] camião and in BP as [o] caminhão.

In keeping with the changes in spelling and pronunciation, the term for truck/lorry driver also changes between the two variants, with the particularity of each using a different suffix to form the noun: in EP, the word is [o/a] camionista; as a suffix, -ista creates nouns with two genders (also known as epicene nouns), meaning the same term is used regardless of gender, with only the articles/pronouns/adjectives/demonstratives/possessives that surround it providing that information; another example of this rule in this field is [o/a] ciclistacyclist.

In BP, the word is [o/a] caminhoneiro/a; that is, [o] caminhoneiro (male driver) or [a] caminhoneira (female driver). Nouns related to people ending in -eiro are always masculine (across all variants), with -eira being its feminine counterpart; for example, [o/a] passageiro/apassenger (of a vehicle).


Continue reading

EP Music Mondays (#3): Deolinda

If the first decades after the 25 de Abril Revolution showed a reluctance from the younger generations to embrace fado and other traditional forms of Portuguese music, the new millenium (and a new generation, removed both from the hardships of the dictatorship and the whiplash effect of the smorgasbord of new influences discovered immediately after, including the first few English-singing bands in the late 80s and 90s) saw a rediscovery and reappraisal of fado.

Contributing to that reapprasial were both young fadistas of the traditional mould reshaped their sound to incorporate new sounds and rhythms (together with a more modern, lively uptake on life which toned down the dourness of fado and brought it to the new mainstream) and the appearance of fado-inspired bands, using some of its sounds while trying to reinvent its wheels, crafting funny, quirky and uplifting portraits of daily life – if only fado didn’t take itself so seriously!

Deolinda (a woman’s name, emphasizing the quirky aspect of the music and its Portugalness) is the band that encapsulates the best of these impulses. Their concerns are grounded in the quotidian, but they always find an engaging way of relaying the importance of the trivial and the wisdom to be mined from such situations – including an acute awareness of social injustices creating a lighter (but no less strong) social protest songs.



Continue reading

EP words of the week (#15): mil milhões / bilião

On Wednesday, we discussed differences between EP and BP in small integers (in the age group of John Hughes movies and YA novels); tonight, we go from micro to macro stage, dealing with numbers past the million stage.

And the changes are quite drastic: not only are there changes in vocabulary, but there are also changes in the actual notation of numbers themselves – that is, the same large number in EP (billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion) doesn’t equate to the same number in BP with the approximate name.

Regarding changes in vocabulary, they’re pretty straightforward: the ending -llion is rendering in EP as -lião (bilião, trilião, quadrilião/quatrilião, quintilião…) and in BP as -lhão (bilhão, trilhão, quadrilhão/quatrilhão, quintilhão…). It’s as simple as that!

The changes in the value of numbers are related to the different scales used to name integers powers of tenPortugal (and most of Europe and Latin America save for Brazil) uses the long scale, creating segments of millions of… numbers in between the -lião numbers I’ve written in the previous paragraph. Brazil (like the US and the British Isles) uses the short scale, which carries no such division (the number that comes after is always a thousand more than the one that came before). That means:

  • 1 000 000 000 (109) is mil milhões (EP), but um bilhão (BP)
  • 1 000 000 000 000 (1012) is um bilião (EP), but um trilhão (BP)
  • 1 000 000 000 000 000 (1015) is mil biliões (EP), but um quatrilhão/quadrilhão (BP)
  • 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 (1018) is um trilião (EP), but um quintilhão (BP)

And so on. You can take some time to assimilate all this before clicking to access the rest of the article (which is breazier, I promise). I completely understand your predicament!

Continue reading