Idiomatic Expressions 2

In this Learning Note we’re going to show you a few more Portuguese idioms.
És uma cabeça de alho chocho. You’re a knucklehead.
This expression literally means “you’re a head of spoiled garlic”, which means you are not very bright. Although originally meant for people who are easily distracted or forgetful, it has a become an endearing way of calling someone dumb.
O negócio ficou em águas de bacalhau. The deal fell apart.
In the past, Portuguese fishermen sailed all the way to Greenland and Newfoundland looking for cod. While fishing in those “cod waters”, many of them lost their lives, boats, and cargo and that is, supposedly, the origin of this expression. It can mean that after a great deal of work, nothing happened, something was lost, or that an agreement could not be reached.
A pensar morreu um burro. Decide-te! A donkey died thinking. Make a decision!
This is an expression used when someone says they’re thinking, but all they really need to do is to take some action. The word burro can also be used as an insult for someone you think is stupid or not very bright, but that’s not the meaning of the word in this context.

O Pedro ficou a ver navios. Pedro was left hanging.
When a person didn’t get what they wanted, they were left “watching the ships”. It can also carry the meaning of having been deceived and feeling particularly disappointed by not getting their wish granted.
Isso não passa de conversa fiada. That’s nothing but lip service.
We all know someone who make promises you know they won’t deliver or talks only to gain the trust of a person or group of people. This is one meaning of conversa fiada.
Não sei fazer conversa fiada. I don’t know how to do small talk.
The other meaning is small talk or chitchat. It all depends on the context in which it appears.
Ele está sempre a puxar a brasa à sua sardinha. He's always doing things for his own benefit.
The idiom above can also appear with chegar instead of puxar. It literally means “to push the coal towards my sardine”, which makes sense given that sardines are a very popular fish in Portugal. If someone is always “a puxar a brasa à sua sardinha” (pushing the coal towards his/her sardine), he/she is a selfish person. It can also mean someone is taking advantage of a situation to make personal gains.
Eles construíram a torto e a direito. They were building left and right.
To do something a torto e a direito is the same as saying blindly or indiscriminately.
You’ll get the chance to practice these idioms in this unit and even learn a few more! 🙂

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