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cards: the oldest kind is known as [o] bilhete de identidade (i.e. identity ticket/paper/card), which has been replaced by new card holders and renewals (from 2007) with a newer version known as [o] cartão de cidadão (i.e. citizen card).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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EP words of the week (#90): razia / vândalo

Some words carry their expression not only from the meaning we associated them with now, but also from their connection to history, to some event, group or place which helps uncover its primal association.

That’s the case of today’s words of the week, two words still used in Portuguese but whose origins go further back, and both of which are serendipitously connected to a specific region (we’ll get to that later).

[A] razia comes from the Italian razzia, which ultimately originated in Algerian Arabic غزية, ghaziya, “raiding”, a word used for the corsair raids throughout the Mediterranean and North Atlantic during the Middle and Modern Ages, where pirates from Northern Africa (what was then known as Barbary Coast) attacked coastal settlements mainly to capture slaves for the Ottoman and Arabic markets. This idea of a violent raid became so entrenched that several languages beside Italian (and which include French and Hungarian) now have razzia as a synonym for “raid” or “plundering”, or in general any violent attack.

Portuguese is also one of these cases, but the most common use of [a] razia is in the figurative sense; here, it takes the meaning of “wipeout; devastation, destruction”, you can use it even when talking about trivial things like eating meals (a wipeout of food) or about the razing of a field/orchard by the elements, as does Portuguese children’s writer António Torrado in his book 100 histórias à janela («100 stories by the window»):

“Ainda se aquele pomar ficasse perto da estrada que leva à escola, talvez houvesse quem se tentasse e fizesse a colheita por sua conta… Mas como ficava num sítio isolado e pouco acessível, ninguém deu pelo pomar ao abandono.

Vieram os pássaros. Vieram as lagartas. Vieram os inse[c]tos. Foi uma razia.

Depois, o terreno do pomar não teve quem o lavrasse.” (p. 50)

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EP word of the week (#89): telemóvel

Ubiquitous gadget of the contemporary age, cellphones/mobile phones are obviously something that people refer to a lot during their day-to-day lives. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them, but we certainly can’t live without them anymore :)

In Portugal, we call them [o] telemóvel, a portmanteau of [o] telefone (telephone) and móvel* (mobile, capable of moving or being moved from place to place), which unsurprisingly yields mobile phone.

In Brazil, the preferred term is [o] celular, short for [o] telefone celular, just like cellphone is short for cellular phone. While the words are wildly different, they do make some sense inside their internal logic – and since both have cognates in English, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to pick them apart!

Três telemóveis empilhados. Three stacked cellphones
* As a noun, [o] móvel means “piece of furniture”; [os] móveis in the plural mean furniture (in general).

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