Maniçoba – Green is good for you, right?

Maniçoba is a festive dish in Brazilian cuisine, especially from the Amazonian region. It is of indigenous origin (from the Tupi mani, godess of Mandioca), and is made with leaves of the Mandioc / Cassava plant that have been finely ground and boiled for a week. To these boiled leaves (called “maniva” in Portuguese), salted pork, dried meat, and smoked ingredients, such as bacon and sausage, are added. The dish is served with rice and cassava meal (called “farinha”). The dish is most found in Belém. People usually eat “maniçoba” during the Círio de Nazaré, the city’s largest religious festival that takes place in October.

The ‘maniva’ actually contains hydrogen cyanide and therefore is cooked for at least 4 days before being okay to consume. After hearing that and seeing that it looks like grass stew, I’m a little taken aback by it but if presented with the chance, I’d have to have a taste because it’s a favorite dish in Belém.

Portuguese Words That Entered Into English

As many of you know, English has a long history of borrowing words from other places and times. Here is a list of English words borrowed from Portuguese, whether or not they originate from Portuguese itself.

from albacor from Arabic al-bukr (=”the young camels”)
from albino, with the same meaning, from Latin albus
an alteration of alcatraz, under influence of the Latin word albus (“white”);
(=”gannet”) from Arabic al-ġaţţās (“the diver”)
from Spanish or Portuguese (more probably from Portuguese, as the most widespread Spanish word is plátano); Spanish, from Portuguese, of African origin; akin to Wolof banäna banana
from barroco (adj. = “unshapely”)
(= “from Portuguese word brisa”)
from Tupi mukém
from caramelo, caramel, from Late Latin calamellus
from caju (a tropical fruit)
from cobra (snake)
from côco (boogeyman head, grinning skull, goblin, coconut)
from comando
from embaraçar
from ema (=”rhea”)
from French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço (“charm”, “sorcery”, “spell”), from Latin factitius or feticius
from Portuguese flamingo, from Spanish flamenco
from macau
from mandarim, from the Portuguese verb mandar and the Malay mantri, from Hindi matri, from Sanskrit
mantrin (=”counsellor”)
from manga from Tamil manggai
probably from Portuguese mangue mangrove (from Spanish mangle, probably from Taino) + English grove
from mandioca from Tupi
from marmelada, a preserve made from marmelo (=”quince”)
from melaço
from monção
Negro means “black” in Spanish and Portuguese, being from the Latin word niger of the same meaning. It came to English through the Portuguese and Spanish slave trade. Prior to the 1970s, it was the dominant term for Black people of African origin; in most English language contexts (except its inclusion in the names of some organizations founded when the term had currency, e.g. the United Negro College Fund), it is now considered either archaic or a slur in most contexts.
from pequenina or pequeninha
from piranha, from Tupi pirá (“fish”) + ánha (“cut”)
from sabe he knows, from saber to know
from tanque
from tapioca
from inhame from West African nyama (=”eat”)
from zebra, given after a kind of extinct horse living between Portugal and Galicia when these languages were the same

Tupi-Guarani – Tribes & Tongues

The Sound of Conquerers

There’s a book in Portuguese called “Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma” by Lima Barreto in which the main character (Policarpo Quaresma) is a nationalist who revolts against the Portuguese language, dismissing it as the language of the colonizers. His answer is for all Brazilians to return to their native linguistic roots, in this case, Tupi-Guarani.

A possible flaw in Policarpo’s reasoning can be found in the fact that the Portuguese, the Tupis and the Guaranis were all conquerers of “lesser” peoples and tribes. For all intesive purposes, Tupi-Guarani wasn’t the only native language of Brazil, but due to both the Tupi and the Guarani violent way of life, it was the dominant language of the time.

With the release of Barreto’s novel in 1911, there have been pushes by select groups of nationalists and linguists alike over the years to bring Tupi-Guarani back as the official language of Brazil. The issue has however only been taken as far as the educational system, where attempts have been made to get it accepted into the school systems as an elective class. The general marginalization of the tribes have taken their tongues with them making Tupi-Guarani virtually non-spoken among modern Brazilians.

The meaning of Tupi is “the great father” or “leader” and likewise, Guarani means “warrior”. Their language still can be seen in an extremely large number of geographic locations throughout Brazil. A few of these names were mentioned in the post on State Etymologies on this site. Tupi-Guarani is actually a sub-group of the Tupi langauges, which encompasses 53 langauges in 11 groups, of which Tupi and Guarani are the most widely used.

A Little History

When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, they found that wherever they went along the vast coast of this newly discovered land, most natives spoke similar languages. Jesuit missionaries took advantage of these similarities, systematizing common standards then named línguas gerais (general languages), which were spoken in that region until the 19th century. The best known and most widely spoken of these languages was Old Tupi, a modern descendent of which is still used today by Indians around the Rio Negro region, where it is known as Nheengatu, or the “fine language”.

In the neighbouring Spanish colonies, Guarani, another Tupian language closely related to Old Tupi, had a similar history, but managed to resist the spread of Spanish more successfully than Tupi resisted Portuguese. Today, Guarani has 7 million speakers, and is one of the official languages of Paraguay and Bolivia.

The Tupis, Guaranis and other tribes had many advantages over the Portuguese and could have put up quite a fight if they so desired, instead they aided in the founding and building of São Paulo (Portuguese for Saint Paul), or as it was known by the Indians, Piritininga (Tupi-Guarani for Dried Fish).

Some Tupi-Guarani Words

English speakers know…

– Jaguar

– Tapioca

Other examples include…

Capoeira – Old Forest

Carioca – White Man’s Hut

Tijuca – Mud

Guanabara – Bottom of the Sea

Ipanema – Bad Waters

State Etymologies

In conjunction with learning about Brazil’s different regions and states, I am going to add something that is rarely talked about, state etymologies. What I find interesting is the division between states named upon Spanish or Portuguese “discovery” versus the states named in the native languages of the time (mainly Tupí and Guaraní).

  • Acre – from a misspelling of Aquiri, a local river (documented); not from acre (a unit for territorial measurement).
  • Alagoas – plural of alagoa, a flooded field or swamp.
  • Amapá – from Aruak amapá, “the land in the end” (documented in Sir Walter Raleigh’s account of Guyana as Land of Amapaia).
  • Amazonas – after the Amazon river, which by its turn was baptized such by Spanish explorers who heard rumors that Amazons (female breastless mounted warriors; from Greek a- mastos, with no breasts) guarded the legendary city of Eldorado in the middle of the forest.
  • Bahia – from bahia, the ancient Portuguese spelling of baía, that is, bay or harbor. The actual name of the colonial province was Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay), for it was discovered in November 1, All Saints Day.
  • Ceará – from Tupi sy ara (mother of the day) because it is a sunny land with sparse vegetation (therefore, few shadows).
  • Espírito Santo – literally, Portuguese for “Holy Spirit”. The Iberian colonists were used to dedicate their colonies to Catholic entities.
  • Goiás – from the name of a long-extinct but once famous native people.
  • Maranhão – from the Spanish spelling of Marañón, another name for the Amazon River; from 1621 to 1709, the north of Brazil was styled the State of Maranhão, with its capital in São Luís.
  • Mato Grosso – literally, Portuguese for “thick grass”, or else “dense woods”, “dense jungle”.
  • Mato Grosso do Sul – seceded from the former in 1975, as its Southern (and wealthiest) portion.
  • Minas Gerais – literally “General Mines” (meaning of “state-owned mines” in early modern Portuguese). The province was originally part of São Paulo, but from the early 18th century on, colonists found out gold, diamond, and gems on its territory. Therefore, in 1709 the Portuguese Crown strategically separated the mining territory and placed it under its direct control (Captaincy of São Paulo and the Mines), as an immense mining district of several products (then, “general mines”).
  • Pará – from Tupi-Guarani pará (river). Probably called such because of the estuary of the Amazon river.
  • Paraíba – from Tupi pará (river) + aíba (rough, bad), probably meaning “rough river”.
  • Paraná – from Guarani paraná, “wide river” (the words for “river”, “large river”, “lagoon”, “sea” and “lake” have different meanings in Tupi, thus leading to the confusion that Paraná meant sea).
  • Pernambuco – from Tupi paranã (sea) mbuka (hollow), referring to the reefs that lie off the coast (hence also the state capital name, Recife, Portuguese for reef).
  • Piauí – from the Tupi word piau (a type of river fish) and y (river), so Piau/Fish River.
  • Rio de Janeiro – literally, Portuguese for “River of January”. The harbor where the city was founded was discovered in January 1, 1502, and taken for the mouth of a river (such as the Tagus estuary which forms a bay in Lisbon). The state was named after the city, now its capital and formerly capital of the nation.
  • Rio Grande do Norte – literally, Portuguese for “Great River of the North”.
  • Rio Grande do Sul – literally, Portuguese for “Great River of the South”. The first important settlement there, the town of Rio Grande, was probably called such because of the Patos Lagoon, mistaken for a river for its long and narrow shape.
  • Rondônia – after Marshal Cândido Rondon, explorer of the region. The old name for the state was Guaporé, Tupi for “pathway to the lake”.
  • Roraima – from Yanomami roro imã, which means, according to some sources, “thundering mountain”. The old name for the state was Rio Branco, Portuguese for “white river”.
  • Santa Catarina – after St. Catherine, a saint praised by both Portuguese and Spanish, who held the land for nearly 200 years.
  • São Paulo – after the Jesuit monastery called São Paulo de Piratininga (St. Paul of Piratininga), built to Christianize native peoples. The state was named after the city, its capital.
  • Sergipe – after the name of an Indian chief, Serijipe. Another possible origin comes from Tupi siri jibe, a “brook with crabs”.
  • Tocantins – from Tupi tukan (toucan, a South American bird) tin (nose), or nose of toucan. This is due to the confluence of Araguaia and Tocantins rivers, shaped in a curve which resembles a bird’s beak; the region is also named “Bico do Papagaio” (Parrot Beak). However, the river had this name long before maps revealed the shape of the confluence.
  • Distrito Federal – literally, “Federal District”. Until 1934, the municipal territory of the national capital was called either Município Neutro (Neutral Municipality, from 1834 to 1889), Corte Imperial (Imperial Court, from 1822 to 1834) or Capital Federal (Federal Capital, from 1889 to 1934).