Brazil has 190 million Portuguese speakers, versus mother country Portugal’s 10.5 million, and it is Brazilian soap operas and game shows that dominate media in the language. Still, much like the national varieties of English that exist around the globe, Brazilian Portuguese has more than a few vocabulary distinctions that raise eyebrows in the streets of Lisbon.
banheiro vs. casa de banho
One of the most important distinctions between national varieties of a language involves the toilet (also known in various Englishes as the loo, privy, bathroom, restroom, washroom, or john). In Brazil, most toilets are called banheiros, though many are identified by the letters “WC” (for “water closet”) or denoted simply by the internationally recognized icons for women and men, and the adjectives “feminino” and “masculino.” In Portugal, people visit the bath house, literally: casa de banho. Also called quarto de banho—a literal translation of bath room—public toilets are typically referred to by the more universal “WC.”
time vs. clube or equipa
No, this isn’t the English word “time;” in Brazil, the word time is pronounced “CHEE-mee” and is a mutation of the English word “team,” only spelled according to Brazilian phonetics. While the Portuguese word clube is used in the formal names of sports teams in both countries, everyday Brazilians use time while the Portuguese go with clube or equipa.
goleiro vs. guarda-rede
Brazil’s most famous sport—futebol—goes by the same name in all Portuguese-speaking countries, but the goal keeper (or goalie) has a different name, depending on which side of the Atlantic the game is being played. Brazilians refer to that all-important “gol” blocker as a goleiro, while the Portuguese call the player who prevents the opposing team’s “golo” the guarda-redes, which literally translates to net guard.
cafezinho vs. bica
Though Brazil had once been the very definition of a coffee empire, the country had also once formed the largest portion of the empire of Portugal. It fits, then, that one of Lisbon’s most renowned cafés is called A Brasileira—loosely, the woman from Brazil. Here, according to legend, to assist novices in the proper manner of imbibing the bitter beverage, a sign was placed on the sidewalk with the helpful instruction, “Beba Isto Com Açúcar” (Drink This With Sugar). Thus, espresso in southern Portugal goes by the name of bica. Northern Portugal sticks with café, though it is also common to hear a cimbalino ordered in Porto, a nod to the Italian coffee machine brand, La Cimbali. Brazilians tend to say cafezinho (little coffee) for espresso, though it could also mean other varieties, depending on the location.
chope vs. imperial or fino
Portuguese speakers who are also adult beverage aficionados don’t always find common ground when it comes to that pressurized golden goodness called draft (or draught) beer. Served near the freezing point in Brazil, often in monstrous glasses called tulipas, to boisterous groups of merrymakers, draft beer is called chope, a word originally derived from the German “Schoppen,” or pint. In central and southern Portugal, the common term is imperial, while fino is drunk in the central and northern parts of the country. Regardless, they will drink to your health in either country: Saúde!
fila vs. bicha
During large events, especially ones as big as the Olympic Games, lines (or queues) are par for the course. Brazilian lines, notoriously long in airports and at stadiums, banks, and government offices, are called filas, from the same root as the English “file.” The word for line in Portugal is bicha, which happens to be quite vulgar in Brazilian Portuguese. Make sure to keep them straight next time you find yourself waiting in line.
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