Word Jumble

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At seven months of living in Brazil, my languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese) are still a bit of a mash-up. It’s a wonder that I manage to communicate at all. Portañol will only get you so far. It’s as if someone up there with a devilish sense of humor cross-wired these languages on purpose.

In Portuguese you play jogos (games) but when you jogar something, you are throwing it away. If you want to play, you brincar, which happens to be the word “to jump” in Spanish. If you want to jump in Portuguese, well, that’s pular (pronounced: PULL-AR) and if you want to pull, that’s puxar (pronounced: PUSH-AR).

If you want to brush your teeth or your hair in Portuguese, grab your escova. However, in Spanish escoba is a broom. In Portuguese, “broom” is vassoura (pronounced: BASSORA) which sounds just like the Spanish word for trash, basura. Don’t get confused, though, trash in Portuguese is lixo.

Largo means long, not large, and longe means far, not long. Cumprimento is used to describe how long something is, unless you’re taking measurements of a 3-dimensional object, then it’s how high. Width is largura.

Lagartinho is a lizard (as it is in Spanish: lagartijo), however a lagartinha is a caterpillar. Until I learned this distinction, Brazil had a strange breed of lizards that infested trees and ate all the leaves!

To turn off a light, you must disligar (disconnect) it instead of the Spanish apagar, which happens to mean “to erase” in Portuguese.

If you want to get something in Portuguese, you should pegar it. Pegar in Spanish means “to glue,” and yet “to glue” in Portuguese is colar. Colar in Spanish means “to strain through.”

All of this is enough to drive you to drink, but be careful with how you serve it–un vaso de vino in Spanish will get you some odd looks in Portuguese, where vaso is the toilet bowl and a cup can only be copa.

Maybe instead you should just to sit down, and respirar um pouco (the same as Spanish–whew!). However, to sit in a chair you must sit on a cadeira, which is the Spanish word for hips. Your hips in Portuguese are cuadrilla, which means “team” in Spanish. Of course, the Portuguese word for team is time (pronounced: TEAM-EH) just like the English, so maybe it is logical after all.



    • The numbers are the same. You can remember those. The colors–almost. “Red” is “vermelho,” not “rojo.”. So most of the time I confuse “vermelho”with the sounds of “verde” (green in both languages), which leads to some very unfortunate confusions. Keep the numbers & present tense verb endings. Toss the rest out.

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