Achismo – New Word

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From Dicio: “achismo (achar+ism) – Tendency of evaluating situations according to one’s own opinions or intentions, many times unjustified.”

Dicionário Informal: “Culture of making groundless comments, without knowledge, deducing by personal experience something that you’re not sure of.” Examples are when people say things like: “Acho que não se deve correr riscos desnecessários, acho que vai dar certo...”


We all know the verb “Achar”, but did you know it has an “-ism”? On WordReference, I found some possible creative suggestions for translating it into English, one was “as-we-now-knowism” and “as-I-now-thinkness”. On Orkut, I found someone suggesting “armchair quaterback” (which means “a person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no expertise or involvement”) and another person simply said “assumption”. Linguee, on the other hand, suggests “guesswork”. Perhaps something more along the lines of “presumptuousness” or the made-up “assumptivness” would work, too.

The problem with most of the Portinglês suggestions is that none of them speak of a tendency to do such things. In the comments of this post, “self-opinionated” was suggested. Fits pretty well.

Bad Words vs. New Words

Starting with the bad words (I mean negative news), I give you another ‘latest news (I haven’t read)’ snapshot from Folha.

And then there’s the new words, which aren’t many. Pinga-pinga is the same as ônibus (bus), only it’s apparently the kind that always is stopping to pick up more passengers (source). Second, ‘Gre-Nal’, the nickname for matches between Grêmio and Sport Club International, both from Porto Alegre (source). Seemingly on par with a ‘Fla-Flu’ (Flamengo vs. Fluminense) match, though I’ve never been to a soccer game, so what do I know? For a second, I almost thought ‘Gre-Nal’ when spoken was grená (source), or a dark red color, but the context didn’t fit.

See comments*

Moods – Vocabulary

I remember the first time I heard my carioca friend say “alto astral“, I thought to myself, “what in the world could that mean?” She tried to explain it to me in simple terms, saying “it’s-a like-e when you are in a good-a mood-je”. Apparently, one can be in a good mood (estar de alto astral), bad mood (baixo astral) or need their mood uplifted (levantar o astral).

A good question to raise is how does one’s ‘astral’ differ from their ‘humor‘ (bom humor/mau humor)? I assume there isn’t much of a difference.

“Apanhar” Takes a Beating

“Dictionaries do not always take note of the semantic extensions that the verb “apanhar” has acquired in Portuguese.

When walking on the street and going into a store in any Brazilian city, it’s hard not to hear enunciations every once in a while like “você vai apanhar!” (you are going to get hit!) or “você quer apanhar?” (do you want to get hit?), as they are frequently said loudly by parents and those responsible for small children whose behavior in public leaves a lot to be desired.

The verbal interaction between child and adult, in most instances, remains as a threat only because no one physically hits anyone, thankfully. Not even a slap! Until now, I never saw a child respond affirmatively to the question about if he or she wants to get hit or not! A real communicative skill sometimes is to remain in silence. The “question” functions as a threat that leads to nothing.” – Source (in PT)

My Take

At almost the same time that I was considering writing a post on the verb “apanhar”, I came across an article on the matter in the Brazilian magazine, Língua Portuguesa. I learned it is often said in jest or as the article above points out, as a mere threat. My ex-girlfriend, a paulistana, used to say it to me (in jest, of course!) and at the time I didn’t know what the word meant but I understood the gist. Using my Portuguese knowledge at the time, I decided it was or should be reflexive and would use it in such a manner (saying “vou te apanhar”), not realizing I was in effect ‘beating up’ the verb in my own way.

The verb has other meanings, which can be seen on Google Translate or in Portuguese at Wikcionário.

Alto/a – Vocabulary

Alto in Portuguese has a few meanings that you are sure to come across, the most basic of which are ‘tall (or high)’ and ‘loud (or loudly)’. On the other hand, when you use it in the feminine and proceed it with the verb ‘receber‘ (to receive), it means to be discharged or released, as in from a hospital. Technically, the phrase should be ‘receber alta hospitalar‘, where hospitalar means ‘that which pertains to a hospital’, but no one uses it in my experience. As for why ‘alta’ is used and not something more seemingly sensible, at least from a native English-speaker’s standpoint, like ‘descarga‘ (discharge), I haven’t the slightest (though ‘receber descarga‘ might be understood as a ‘…descarga elétrica‘, or electric shock).

Ex. Ele recebeu alta do hospital ontem.
Ex. He was released from the hospital yesterday.

Describing the Brasileira

There’s a phrase in Brazilian Portuguese that a man might say about a woman with a nice Brazilian body and that’s “que saúde!” (literally, ‘what health!’). I’ve always found it interesting how a Brazilian woman describes herself physically and how health plays a role in that description.

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or beer holder, as the joke goes), the Brazilian concept for what is beautiful is quite different than our own here in the US. For instance, a Brazilian woman isn’t considered healthy if she isn’t forte (strong) and conversely, a normally thin woman (I’m not talking about model thin) is considered unhealthy, weak or possibly even sick. A thin woman, or one who has lost some weight, will receive comments from other women in her life about how she looked better when she was ‘strong’ and they’ll probably ask if she’s been feeling alright lately.

When Brazilian women speak of being forte, they aren’t speaking of raw strength as we would initially think when thinking of the word ‘strong’ in English. To Brazilians, the kind of strong they are talking about would be bordering what we might call ‘thick’ (grosso, in Portuguese) in the US, except that the Brazilian woman who is forte is supposed to be forte in all the right places, so to speak. So forte is a more general term for a woman who is healthy (or ‘with some meat on the bones’ as we also say) while grosso is more used for speaking about one’s thighs (coxas, in Portuguese) or perhaps lips.

If we were to look for a Portuguese term that was similar to ‘hour-glass figure’, the best bet would be corpo violão (or ‘guitar body’ when directly translated) which emulates the shape of the base of a guitar and in real terms correlates with the ‘perfect’ shape of a 0.7 hip/waist ratio. In Brazil, the typically thought of female body (corpo padrão) is a small ‘upper body’ with a large ‘lower body’ while most American men consider a woman with a large upper body to be ideal (or perhaps it’s just the media putting thoughts in their heads). Hip-hop culture, for one, suggests that a beautiful woman is a combination of both the American and Brazilian concepts.

As far as hair (cabelo) goes, it can get complicated so I’ll try to stick with some basic terms. In Brazil, it seems that most women who don’t naturally have straight hair seek out ways they can straighten it, which probably has to do with how beauty is portrayed in the Brazilian media. In terms of the different types, there’s liso (straight), cacheado (wavy/curly) and crespo (frizzy/really curly). Tell me if I’m wrong, but an afro hairstyle (afro/’black power’ in ‘Portuguese’) is basically the same as crespo. Lastly, highlights are luzes.

If there’s anything I missed in terms of differences in our concepts of beauty, let me know. My main point was the whole forte thing and how being healthy is seen differently, nonetheless it’s important to remember that research says that only 4% of real women have a body that reflects the idealized bodies in the media.

The Elderly – Vocabulary

There’s a few terms in Portuguese for the elderly and one is not as nice as the others. First, there’s what most Portuguese learners would use, which is ‘velho‘ which can be used both as an adjective and a noun. This is considered the least nicest term. Next, there’s ‘idoso‘ which is translated as ‘elder’ or ‘elderly’.

The third term is more about the time in their life when they reach a certain age (usually 60), where in English one might rudely say someone is ‘over the hill’, in Brazilian Portuguese one could a general term known as ‘terceira idade‘, which translates to ‘third age’. The idea is that the first age is one’s infancy and adolescence while the second age is adulthood.

One term in English that isn’t portrayed in Portuguese is ‘senior’ or ‘senior citizen’, which we use yet I’m not sure how ‘acceptable’ it is to those who are. One term in Portuguese that is rarely, if ever used is ‘ancião‘, or ancient.

Here’s a random question, are there ‘golden birthdays’ in Brazil? For example, I was born on the first of the month so my golden birthday is my first birthday, so it’s when your birthday matches your age. It doesn’t really hold much significance but for those who are curious, it was developed in 1955 by Joan Bramsch who one day just had the idea and it spread from there.

More Info

Article about 3rd Age (in PT)

Either/Or – Vocabulary

In Portuguese, expressing ‘either…or…’, you use the equivalent to ‘or…or…’ (ou…ou…). Likewise, you will catch Brazilians using ‘or…or…’ in English and if you are like me, you will allow them to do so without correcting them because you, in turn, think in Portuguese.

Ex. Ou você vai aprender com os erros dos outros ou com seus próprios erros.
Ex. Either you are going to learn from others’ mistakes or from your own.

It can be said that the either/or statement is a fallacy in any language because the speaker is forcing the listener into one of two choices, when often more than two exist. The fallacy persists when the speaker gives two opposing options, which obviously makes one of the options seem a lot better.

Até as By – Vocabulary

To me, até, which is normally used to mean ‘until’, will always and primarily mean just that. Over the last few years, I’ve come across another meaning which is ‘by’, as in ‘Fisk planeja gerar 500 empregos até dezembro‘ (Fisk plans to generate 500 jobs by December). Again, to me, that sounds like Fisk, a language school chain, will somehow generate 500 jobs until the month of December comes, at which point I wonder what will happen to those jobs. Apparently, for all my vocabulary and training, there are some things that still try to trip me up.

Here are the uses of até according to Babylon,

’till, until, by, up to, to, as far as, even’

Torpedo & Zapping – 2 for 1

There are two strange terms in Portuguese that are used in the media. One is torpedo which means ‘text message’ and the other is zapping which means ‘something that creates a lot of interest’ (although it is pretty much strictly used for entertainment news).

I’ve never seen ‘zapping’ used in a sentence, rather just as a header on news sites. I think it should be called penugem (fluff), or perhaps besteira (absurdity) fits best. ; ) Let’s see if I can make a sentence…

“Recebi um torpedo sobre um zapping que mencionou um outdoor que mostrou um smoking que posso comprar num shopping.”

And some people say anglicisms are not hurting the Portuguese language…but just for fun, I’ll do that in English while using German words in place of the anglicisms (although ‘smoking’ for ‘tuxedo’ seems to be more universal). Given the sentence below, I would assume the speaker and the listener were bilingual and code-switched with regularity.

“I got a Kurzmitteilung about a Promi-News that mentioned a Reklametafel that showed a Smoking which I can buy at the Einkaufszentrum.”