EP word of the week (#83): matraquilhos

Since the Portuguese love football so much (some of us just bear it, but the topic is almost unavoidable), we try to make sure we find new words to set us apart from our rivals across the pond!

On a more serious note (I hope you really didn’t believe we changed words because of sports rivalries), yes – this is another post about differences between EP and BP when it comes to [o] desporto rei (the king of sports), but this time we’re talking about the table variety, i.e. foosball / table football.

Over here, you can find them in almost any tasca or snack-bar (around Lisbon, the dolls are usually painted with the green and red jerseys of Sporting and Benfica respectively, the two biggest football teams of the capital – see below), and we mostly call it [os] matraquilhos (colloquially [os] matrecos), while in Brazil it can be called either [o] totó[o] pebolim or [o] pacal depending on the region.

Never use [o] totó in Portugal, though; here it’s an adjective/noun meaning “fool, silly, halfwit” :)


Once again, this shows how varied and rich each single dialect or regional variant is in the words they choose even for the most mundane of objects; while still part of the same global language, any changes help colour a given way of speech and make it unique – it both gives a specific identity to the speaker (who becomes part of a certain community when he chooses a certain word instead of any word) and serves as an identifier to the listeners (who, knowing why this person is using a certain word, will be able to tell where they’re from, or at least wonder about their story).

How about you? Have you ever felt this interest in understanding why some people use certain words? And how does it make you feel when you hear a strange word being uttered in your language?



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