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Idiomatic Expressions 2

April 13, 2020

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.

Idiomatic Expressions 1

October 18, 2019

Expressões Idiomáticas Idiomatic expressions, or idioms, are expressions that you shouldn’t interpret literally. Portuguese idioms have a symbolic meaning, which is rarely maintained upon literal translation into other languages. These expressions reflect the customs and history of the country and are part of all conversations of the Portuguese, rich or poor, from North to South of Portugal. They often incorporate slang words and can be used to convey irony, exaggeration, or impatience, or even just to save time.

Or, as we say in Portugal:

Poupar o nosso latim Spare our Latin

This expression, Poupar latim Spare Latin, is itself idiomatic, and is based on the fact that Portuguese is a language originating from Latin.

During the 1755 earthquake, two convents collapsed in Lisbon, one with the name Carmo and one with the name Trindade. It was here that the expression Cair o Carmo e a Trindade appeared, which initially implied terror and panic. Although it still retains that meaning, nowadays it is often used in an ironic tone, when you fear the consequences of something unimportant. For example:

Ui, parece que caiu o Carmo e a Trindade! Yikes, it looks like the crap hit the fan