You spend a few years in Portugal and then disembark in Brazil – just to learn you cannot communicate with the locals.
England and America are two countries separated by a common language – said the oft quoted George Bernard Shaw. The same is true for Brazil and its colonizer, Portugal. Only, the gap gets worse in the Portuguese speaking world. Several European Portuguese versions of common words have sexual connotations in Brazil. In fact, as my American husband noted, most words have, in a way or another, a sexual connotation in Brazil. Go figure.
Anyway, here is a little commented dictionary of concepts that are named in different ways in both sides of the Atlantic. The first column refers to the meaning in English; the second offers a version in so-called “Português de Portugal”, while the third column is its “translation” into “Português do Brasil”. It begins, of course, with the spiciest ones, more prone to foment jokes and misunderstandings.
1 – little box / boceta / caixinha
OK, I never heard any Portuguese using this one – so it might be an urban legend. In Brazil, boceta is, as you may know, the street name for the feminine genitals.
2 – line, queue / bicha / fila
This is not a myth – I heard uncountable Portuguese friends say something like “peguei uma bicha“, which means “I stayed in line”, while in Brazil it indicates that you had sex with a gay man. Even the most mature among us, Brazilians, burst into laughter when they hear this one.
3 – panties / cueca / calcinha
This is another wonderful difference. Cueca is female underwear in Portugal and male underwear in Brazil. Think of the many vaudevillian situations that can result.
4 – injection / pica / injeção
Once again, a perfectly innocent Portuguese word is corrupted by Brazilians. Pica, as you may know, is a pretty ugly name for the playground of the masculine body.
5 – boy / puto / menino
One more example of bizarre linguistic divergence. Puto in Brazil might refer to a male prostitute (although normally you would hear another word, michê). Or you might bump into the expression “estou puto da vida” (I am pissed).
6 – wig / capachinho / peruca
Another delight. In Brazil, capachinho would be a little mat.
7 – butcher shop / talho / açougue
8 – flight attendant / hospedeira de bordo / aeromoça
9 – bleach / lixívia / água sanitária
10 – jellyfish / alforreca / água-viva
11 – antiques / velharias / antiguidades
This is delicious. In Brazil, velharia is the derogatory way of referring to antiques. In other words: if I have an old desk to sell you, I will refer to the piece as antiguidade, but you would prefer to call it velharia to lower the price.
12 – retiree / reformado / aposentado
Reformado, in Brazil, would refer either to a piece of furniture that was refurbished or retired army personnel.
13 – course pack / sebenta / apostila
Another fun one. In Brazil, the word sebenta refers to a woman that doesn’t bathe often.
14 – bathroom / casa de banho / banheiro
15 – life saver / banheiro / salva-vidas
So, banheiro is bathroom in Brazil and life saver in Portugal. It makes sense.
16 – windbreaker / camisola / blusão
17 – tram / eléctrico / bonde
In Brazil, if you say something like “Pegarei um eléctrico” (“I will take a tram”, in Portugal), people will ask: which electric? The radio? The TV set?
18 – tacky / piroso / brega
Piroso doesn’t have any meaning in Brazil, but sounds like the crossing of pirado (slang for crazy) and gostoso (yummy or sexy). Like in the phrase: my husband Lenny is definitely very piroso.
19 – convertible / descapotável / conversível
20 – plumber / picheleiro / encanador
21 – adhesive plaster / penso rápido / esparadrapo
22 – to park / aparcar / estacionar
23 – stapler / agrafador / grampeador
24 – inflatable / insuflável / inflável
25 – socks / peúgas / meias
26 – fine, ticket / coima / multa
27 – bus / autocarro / ônibus
28 – pedestrian / peão / pedestre
This one might puzzle more than one. In Brazil, peão is someone that works in a farm (or, sometimes, that has a lower job in a factory).
29 – bottle opener/ tira-cápsulas / abridor de garrafas
30 –small cup of coffee / bica / cafezinho (usado mais em Lisboa)
This might be a little confusing, because bica, in Brazil, means a source of drinkable water.
Do you have any additions to this list? Do you think foreigners have a harder time learning European or Brazilian Portuguese?