Separated by a Common Language

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A few days ago I was talking to some friends about the Portuguese language. Other Brazilians and I were trying to explain the differences in our accents to our non Portuguese speaking friends, as we are not from the same states in Brazil. Somehow the conversation got to the differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese and I told them about an e-mail I recently received.

It was a response to an e-mail I had sent earlier to a blogger. It sounded so formal and decorous in comparison to the one I had written, that I checked the senders details once more. Then I realized why the email sounded odd to me: the sender was from Portugal.

As I mentioned before in the article “Do you speak Portuguese?”, the differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese are visible and audible, but they do not make one version better than the other or prevent Portuguese speakers from understanding each other. Of course sometimes we feel we are separated by a common language, as George Bernard Shaw once said. He was referring to England and America, but it may also be the case in Brazil and Portugal.

While “train” in Portugal is “comboio”, in Brazil it is “trem”. As there are almost no active railroads to transport passengers in Brazil, we usually travel by bus, which for us is “ônibus”. But “ônibus” in Portugal is “autocarro”.

Luis Felipe Scolari, also known as Big Phil, is Brazilian and the former football coach of the Portuguese national team, has recorded a commercial with the differences in vocabulary between the two countries. The words mentioned by him and some others that differ in the two countries are the following:

PORTUGAL BRASIL
fato terno
atacador cadarço
hospedeira aeromoça
talho acougue
telemóvel celular
peão pedestre
matraquilhos pebolim ou totó
estipado resfriado

Another curious word is “camisola”. While in Brazil it means nightgown, in Portugal it means t-shirt, specially those used as a team uniform. Have you ever thought of playing football wearing a nightgown? That’s how it sounds for Brazilians when we first think about it. One last thing: if you are learning Brazilian Portuguese, don’t be afraid if someone in Portugal asks if you’d like to eat “prego” (nail). For them it’s just a delicious steak sandwich!

[Português]

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