EP words of the week (#30): mamã / papá

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day ([o] Dia da Mãe) in Portugal (it always falls on the First Sunday of May; in Brazil it’s celebrated on the Second Sunday of the same month, just like in the United States). After [o/a] bebé, it just feels right to note the differences between EP and BP in the words for mom and dad (Father’s Day – [o] Dia do Pai – is celebrated on March 19th every year).

While both European and Brazilian Portuguese share the same words for father and mother – [o] pai and [a] mãe, respectively – they have different ways of saying the words for dad/daddy and mom/mommy (that is, the more informal, familiar versions of pai and mãe). In Portugal, the words are [o] papá and [a] mamã; in Brazil, [o] papai and [a] mamãe, respectively.

After the jump, there’s a sample of a children’s book so that you can test your EP skills! I hope you enjoy it!

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EP word of the week (#29): bebé

Portuguese has two different words for babybebé in Portugal and bebê in Brazil.

The word was brought from French bébé; while the Portuguese took the accent at face value (keeping the same accent from French, but applying Portuguese rules to the accent, therefore making the e an open vowel), Brazilians decided to keep the phonetics intact (since the acute accent in French is used for the exact same purpose as the circumflex in Portuguese: to close a vowel).

Um bebé. A baby.

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Grammar Tips (#8): Collective nouns

Just like English, Portuguese has a series of nouns that are used in the singular but in reference to a group of people, animals or things; Portuguese grammar calls them [os] nomes cole(c)tivos. While you don’t run into a swarm of bees, a herd of cows or a fruit orchard everyday (unless you’re in the agriculture business, that is), getting a list of these nouns is always a good way of learning new vocabulary and making associations between words, which I find the best way to remain engaged in the language you’re learning.

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EP Music Mondays (#6): Zeca Afonso (e outros músicos de intervenção)

Today is April 25th, a holiday in Portugal remembering the Revolution that brought down the Estado Novo dictatorship.

Music was also a pivotal part in the country’s resistance to the dictatorship: while the authoritarian regime was particularly fond of songs and artists who displayed either adherence to tradition (like fado) or socially unengaged songwriting and songcrafting (the apolitical chanson was quite popular in official circles, and its influence can be seen in most of the songs Portugal took to the Eurovision Song Contest up until 1974), but there were many singers and songwriters who were engaging in social fighting, suffering the usual political persecution and imprisonment because of it.

Of these, José “Zeca” Afonso is arguably the most well-known, with his song “Grândola, Vila Morena” (Grândola is a town in Alentejo, enhancing the song’s commitment to “power to the people” by referencing a stronghold of the then-illegal Communist Party) becoming enthroned in Portuguese history after been used as a signal (broadcast via radio) to the revolting forces during that April 25th 1974 to start the country-wide revolution.09112302_obvious-pt_zeca

Important info: From now on, the EP Music Mondays feature will debut new entries only once every month.

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EP word of the week (#28): cravo

While the Portuguese word for carnation is the same everywhere – [o] cravo – only in Portugal does it have important symbolic value. Today – April 25th – is a public holiday, marking the day in 1974 when an armed (but mainly peaceful and deathless) revolution brought about the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship, which had begun in 1933 (the country had been under military dictatorship since May 1926, meaning the country was under some form of dictatorial power for 48 straight years).

One of the symbols of that Revolution – known either as O 25 [vinte e cinco] de Abril ou [a] Revolução dos Cravos – was the spontaneous decision of a flower seller in Lisbon who greated the insurgent members of the military by placing carnations on their rifles, an action which was later emulated by other people who, fed up with status quo, decided to embrace change; since they were mainly red carnations, that flower became the symbol of the revolution and with it the broader values of peace (and peaceful protest), hope and democracy in Portugal; red carnations are still bought and worn in demonstrations and official ceremonies marking this day, and the symbolic act of placing a flower on the barrel of a rifle still resonates strongly with supporters of freedom and democracy.


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Ask Luís! (#3): Uses of the gerund in EP

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well!

This time around, I’m answering a question from Michael Tavares all the way from New Zealand (a message to Portugal doesn’t travel farther than that, since NZ is on the opposite side of the world vis-a-vis the Iberian Peninsula). I believe Michael has some Portuguese blood, so this is an extra special assignment! Anyway, here’s the message:

Olá Luís,

Could you please explain the usage of the gerund in EP?

I already know when NOT to use it in EP, I know it is not used in the progressive sense as it is in BP, Estou bebendo/Estou a beber, but I know that it is used in EP at other times.

Please enlighten us all on when it is used in EP.

Muito obrigado,

Michael Tavares na Nova Zelândia.

Hello, Michael! Thank you so much for reading the blog and for this very pertinent question. I’ll try to be as concise as possible with my answer, which will follow after the jump.

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EP word of the week (#27): pastel de nata

A Portuguese delicacy of worldwide renown, [o] pastel de nata is a staple of any Portuguese snack bar or pastelaria. To call it a simple custard tart is to underappreciate its amazing taste and different textures: a sweet, gooey custard topped by a burnt and bitter crust supported by a crispy, crumbly, consistent pastry. A delight in all senses of the word.

Lisbon has many well known shops and cafés selling pastéis de nata – probably the most well-known is the famous Pastéis de Belém shop near the riverfront in Belém (and close to four important landmarks: the 16th century [o] Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and [a] Torre de Belém, a monastery and tower constructed to celebrate Portugal’s key role in the Age of Discovery, [a] Era dos Descobrimentos – or simply [os] Descobrimentos – in Portuguese; [o] Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a 20th century monument serving as a ode to the same events, erected during the Dictatorship; and [o] Centro Cultural de Belém, a modern museum, garden and cultural center).

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Grammar Tips (#7): Homographs, homophones, homonyms, and paronyms

This post will present you with four different types of word pairs that will hopefully help you understand the relationships between orthography (the spelling of a word), phonetics (its sound/pronunciation) and semantics (its meaning), an essential part of acquiring vocabulary without getting boggled by the quirks any natural language presents.

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EP words of the week (#26): golo / baliza

Soccer/Association football – [o] futebol – is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Portugal; the only thing more popular than playing football is watching it, couch potato style – maybe that’s the most popular “sport” around here (:

Even though Portugal and Brazil share the same passion for the sport, there are several different terms between the two languages that can befuddle those who first notice them. For example, the word goal (both the shot scored and the area where players are supposed to aim) is commonly known in Brazil as [o] gol; in Portugal, the method of scoring is known as [o] golo, while the place where players score is solely known as [a] baliza.

Quando a bola entra na baliza, quer dizer que uma equipa marcou um golo. When the ball enters inside the goal, it means a team has scored a goal.

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