EP word of the week (#38): comboio

I have no idea why I ended up not making this word one of my first features: I love trains and train trips: there’s something quite peaceful about the idea of being able to see the vistas without any cares (something you can’t do as a driver of a car, for obvious reasons), and I love the excitement and mystery of train stops: never knowing who might enter or leave at a given point, and where their lives are headed to and from that moment in time…

Well, as I’m sure most of you know, EP and BP have different words for train[o] comboio in Portugal, [o] trem in Brazil. European Portuguese uses the latter in other ways: for example, a set of kitchen appliances (pots and pans) is called [o] trem de cozinha, especially if bought as a piece; the landing gear of an airplane is called [o] trem de aterragem. As such, [o] trem can sometimes be used for any set of things that go together (the most common term for that is still [o] conjunto, though), just like a train is a group of wagons/compartments/carriages on rails.

Um comboio Alfa Pendular na chegada à Gare do Oriente, perto do Parque das Nações. An Alfa Pendular train on arrival at Gare do Oriente [Orient Station], next to Lisbon’s Parque das Nações
Related words:

  • [a] locomotiva: locomotive
  • [a] paragem: stop

EP words of the week (#37): esferovite

Oftentimes, brand names for synthetic products vary from country to country (see article about taparueres). This makes for interesting terms that you’re so used to hearing that you don’t even consider there may be distinctions between variants on this matter as well.

Such is the case of polystyrene ([o] poliestireno), specially its trademark form of styrofoam (polysterene foam, either used as blocks to provide insolation to heavy or fragile loads or as the material using to make disposable food containers). In Portugal, its trademarked generic name is [o/a] esferovite (different people use a different gender; when in doubt, use the feminine article). In Brazil, the common term is [o] isopor, which works for both the material and the recipients (also known as [a] quentinha, lit. “hot one”).

In Portugal, [o/a] esferovite works only for the material (or the insulating blocks when viewed as such); to make things clearer, you can and should use [o] bloco de esferovite (block) or [a] caixa de esferovite (container).


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EP Music Mondays (#7): Melech Mechaya

This one is a out of left-field choice, but one that exemplifies how varied and ecletic Portugal’s music output is nowadays, with a profusion of indie bands with different tastes and sounds.

The members of Melech Mechaya are all Portuguese, but their musical interests couldn’t be further away from the mainstream.

Their music is a mix of klezmer and Balkan and Romani folk music (which, unlike flamenco in neighboring Spain, can’t be considered “mainstream” sounds; in Portugal accordions are matched with Portuguese guitars, not cellos and oboes); it’s mainly instrumental, with the virtuosity of the players giving it the cadence and rhythms of a song; it’s playful and generally cheerful music you can dance to (or just be mesmerized by the artistry).

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of going to one of their concerts and it’s a really fun, interactive experience. People are actively encouraged to dance and to provide support for the songs, being provided with some moves and clap and shout cues to feel like you’re a part of the show, matching the celebratory roots and mood of its main influences. All in all, a great experience if you’re into trying new things and just going with the flow.

A selection of three songs will follow, as usual, after the jump (:


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Ask Luís! (#6): Modes of address in EP (Tu | Você) / Text revision (3)

Hello, everyone! I hope your Portuguese studies/life is going swell! I’ve been quite busy in the last few days, so I’m only getting up to speed with my messages now (it’s only just the one, so lucky me!). Don’t worry, I’ve written quite a few Words of the week in advance, so you’ll always have those two posts per week guaranteed at least until early July.

Now, here is today’s message from Yuliya:

Olá, Luís!

Tenho uma pergunta que é mais sobre hábitos em vez da gramática: “tu/você” emprego.

Em russo temos as formas formal e informal também. Se eu falo com uma pessoa desconhecida uso a forma formal, o mesmo na Internet ou cara a cara. Claro que há pessoas que usam em russo a forma informal na Internet também, mas não é o hábito geral. Mas em português, encontrei muitas vezes que a forma informal (tu) está utilizada na Internet mesmo falando com os estranhos.

Queria saber se “tu” forma é aceitável completamente para falar com os estranhos nos fóruns ou nas redes sociais? Ainda “você” fica pelas conversas cara a cara?

Muito obrigada pelos todos os materiais de estudo no teu blog. Se não te importares, gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem também. :)


Yuliya, thank you for your kind words (again) and the questions, obviously. I’ll answer them and rewrite your test after the jump.

P.S. If you’d also like your EP skills to be reviewed by me, send me a short message (2 to 3 main paragraphs) to my Q&A form.

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EP words of the week (#36): crípton (e outros elementos químicos)

If Chemistry was your Kryptonite in school, then beware of this post! It’s going to be full of it!

As I’ve discussed several times before, the changes between EP and BP are not all that many (at least at face-value, or in comparison with different languages), but they do add to a still substantial whole when you look at it with time (which is sort of my job here); I keep running into new words I’ve never heard about or remembering BP words that don’t exactly match our own, which is both exciting and daunting in equal measure (no wonder we don’t understand each other sometimes!).

The same is true when it comes to chemical elements; different translations, spelling conventions and phonetics mean we have different words for the exact same ideas.

Crípton: o gás, não o planeta. Krypton: the gas, not the planet.

A list of chemical elements (ordered by atomic number) and their translations to EP and BP will follow after the jump . Most chemical elements are masculine in Portuguese, so I’ll only add the article to the ones that are feminine. With the rest, just picture the correct article – [o] – behind them as you read (:

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EP words of the week (#35): pimento / pimentão / paprica / colorau

I’ve got some many words for you today! They are of course all related, being all products made out of bell peppers/capsicums. The differences between EP and BP in this matter are plentiful, so I’ll present you with each separately.

[O] pimento is EP for the fruit (that is, the bellpepper itself); [o] pimentão is commonly used for its products – almost always from its red variety: for example, [a] massa de pimentão is red capsicum paste, while [o] pimentão-doce is a native name for paprika, powder made from dried and ground red bellpeppers. While [a] paprica can be used, it’s not terribly common; besides, we have a second native word for paprika[o] colorau (check the link for [o] pimentão-doce if you haven’t already).

In EP, we also never use [a] pimenta in reference to any members of the capsicum family (including chili and other heat peppers), which is quite common in Brazil. For Portuguese speakers in Portugal, [a] pimenta is only used in reference to other spices (like members of the genus Piper, like black and white pepper; allspice, known here as [a] pimenta-da-jamaica; and Szechuan pepper, known as [a] pimenta-de-sichuan or [a] pimenta-chinesa).

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EP word of the week (#34): ananás / abacaxi

Most Brazilians only have one common word for pineapple[o] abacaxi. Like the English term, this one is an oddity versus the names picked by a series of other languages, which borrowed the term Ananas from Portuguese [o] ananás (which in turn came from Tupi nanas). In Brazil, [o] ananás is used in some regions for pineapples of inferior quality, or for sweeter pineapples.

In Portugal, both of these terms are commonly used – in fact, if you go to the fruit section of a supermarket you may see both ananases and abacaxis being displayed, and a variety of different pineapple by-products contain each of them. Many people disagree on what the difference is: [o] abacaxi is a sweeter variety, while [o] ananás is slightly tarter and acidic; the first is usually imported from the tropics (especially from Brazil), while the second is homegrown (in greenhouses or in the Azores); the fact that is a niche tends to make ananases more expensive, but that’s not usually a given.


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EP word of the week (#33): sésamo

Sesame, the plant made famous by Arabian folk tales, animated puppets, hamburger buns, and spa treatments (or Asian cuisine), is also a source of misunderstanding between Portuguese speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

While both variants recognize the word [o] sésamo, in BP the word [o] gergelim is also used in reference to the plant, its seed and its oil extract, and it is probably the word you’ll read/hear the most in Brazilian sources. In Portugal, only [o] sésamo is common, therefore that’s the word you should remember when you read (this time – and unlike kaki – it’s the EP word that shares an etymology with its English counterpart, making things slightly easier to remember).

When pronouncing [o] sésamo, don’t forget the rules about the sounds of s I’ve written about before; the first should sound like /s/, the second like /z/.


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EP word of the week (#32): dióspiro

Continuing this off-field journey through the natural realm, today is time to talk about a usually forgotten fruit, the kaki (or Japanese persimmon), whose scientific name is Diospyros kaki (bear with me for a moment, I’ll reveal the importance of this technical talk in just a second).

It turns out that Portuguese and Brazilians also have different names for this fruit, which are Portuguese adaptations of the names in the scientific name: EP uses [o] dióspiro; BP [o] caqui. Amazing, right?

Also of note is the fact that most people I know pronounce the word with the accent on the second-to-last syllable (pi), despite the accent on ós marking where the stress should be. Again, you’ll probably survive a trip to Portugal without hearing this word, but I always like to give out these little, seemingly irrelevant tidbits of information just to make sure you hold on to your knowledge when you need to, but also to make sure you know how to ditch it and adapt when a situation calls for it.


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Ask Luís! (#5): Assessment of Duolingo for EP learners / Text revision

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a great week – hopefully the weekend will be even better (:

Today, I have a query and a text revision assignment coming all the way from Russia. This one is from Yuliya:

Olá Luís!

Aprendo Português (EP) desde setembro passado. Tenho as aulas no centro da língua e cultura portuguesas. Mas quero ter mais prática e por isso uso curso de Português de Duolingo.
O questão é: acha que Duolingo é útil para practicar a língua no entanto sendo BP orientado? Pode prática de BP ter uma conseqüência negativa para um estudo de EP?

Muito agradeço (não ainda aprendí o tempo futuro :)) se você revisa esta mensagem também.


Hello, Yuliya! First of all, thank you so much for your comments and feedback – it’s always good to know there are people who are invested in learning EP and that my work is somehow making things easier for you.

An answer to your questions, together with a revision of your vocab and grammar like you asked, will follow the jump. This is a big one, so read it calmly and without stress!

P.S. If you’d like your EP skills to be reviewed by me, send me a short message (2 to 3 main paragraphs) to my Q&A form.

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