Friday, October 1, 2010

Elections Glossary

In the spirit of the elections being held all over Brazil tomorrow, I put together a Portuguese-English glossary dealing with a good scope of terms related to voting and the election campaign.

It is important to note that because of the peculiarities of the election system of each country, it is not always possible to find equivalent terms and jargon used to describe the process of choosing political leaders in Brazil and in English-speaking countries.

My glossary is therefore meant to cater to the Brazilian audience discussing their political system in Brazil.

This is a work in progress and more terms will be added in the future. As usual, questions are always welcome!

  • apartidária (A Veja diz ser isenta e apartidária, mas eu tenho minhas dúvidas) - nonpartisan (Veja claims to be unbiased and nonpartisan, but I doubt it)

  • apuração dos votos - vote counting

  • cabine de votação - voting booth; polling booth

  • campanha de difamação - mudslinging (see 'propaganda suja')

  • cédula de voto - ballot (AmE); ballot paper (BrE)

  • comparecimento às urnas - voter turnout

  • debate na TV - TV debate

  • dia de eleição - election/polling day

  • difamação - mudslinging (see 'propaganda suja')

  • discurso (num discurso curto, a candidata atacou seu principal adversário) - stump speech (in a shot stump speech, the candidate attacked her main rival candidate)

  • distrito eleitoral - (electoral) precinct

  • eleições governamentais - gubernatorial elections // eleição presidencial - presidential election

  • eleitor (geral) - voter // eleitor (de um candidato) - constituent

  • eleitorado (com sua ascensão da pobreza à presidência Lula conquistou um enorme eleitorado) - constituency (with his rise from poverty to presidency, Lula captivated a large constituency)

  • índice de aprovação - approval ratings // índice de popularidade - popularity ratings

  • ir às urnas (os brasileiros irão às urnas no dia 3 de outubro para eleger um novo presidente) - to go to the polls (Brazilians will go to the polls on October 3 to elect a new president.)

  • local de votação - polling place (AmE); polling station (BrE)

  • margem de erro da pesquisa - the poll's margin error

  • maioria esmagadora (...foi eleito com uma maioria esmagadora) - a landslide (...was elected by a landslide)

  • partido político - political party

  • pesquisa (de opinião) - (opinion) poll // pesquisa de boca-de-urna - exit poll

  • pesquisador de opinião - pollster

  • primeiro turno - first round // segundo turno - second round

  • propaganda (na TV, no rádio - Em sua propaganda na TV, Serra mostrou imagens de arquivo em que aparecia com o Presidente Lula) - ads (Serra ran ads showing archive footage of him and Lula together)

  • propaganda suja (A campanha girou mais torno de propaganda suja e de acusções retóricas) - mudslinging (The campaign was more about mudslinging and rhetorical accusations)

  • realizar uma eleição - to hold an election

  • segundo turno - second round // primeiro turno - first round

  • urna - ballot box

  • urna eletrônica - voting machine

  • votação (o assunto foi decidido por votação) -  voting (the issue was decided by voting)

  • votar - to vote; to cast a vote

  • votar nulo - to cast a null vote / votar em branco - to cast a blank vote

  • voto eletrônico - electronic voting

  • voto em branco - blank vote

  • voto inválido - invalid vote / voto válido - valid vote

  • voto nulo - null vote; spoiled vote (anulado)

  • voto obrigatório - compulsory voting

  • voto secreto (...estão pedindo o fim do voto secreto no Congresso) - secret ballot; secret vote (...are calling for the end of secret ballot in the Congress)

  • zona eleitoral - (electoral) precinct

Friday, August 27, 2010

Variety is the spice of life - part II

This is a follow up to my previous post.

As well as nouns and verbs, you can also apply to adjectives the idea of exploring similar and opposite words. For example, you can describe an idea as being new, but you can alternately describe it as innovative, original, fresh, brand-new or cutting-edge. Conversely, an idea can be tired, conventional, ordinary or worn-out.

Likewise, you can qualify an idea as silly, but the same idea can be ridiculous, asinine, preposterous, absurd or lame. On the other hand, an idea can be sensible, reasonable, or suitable. All these adjectives, synonymous and antonymous alike, are close in meaning.

As far as adjectives, another good idea is to arrange continuums of intensity from one extreme to the opposite extreme. Take the adjectives hot/cold. You can insert a number of other adjectives in between, and even beyond, those two extremes and end up with a wider selection of words:

hot > cold

hot > warm > cool > cold

hot > warm > tepid > cool > cold

boiling > hot > warm > tepid > cool > cold > freezing

This exercise provides with more nuances of meaning to your target words, and consequently a richer vocabulary. Another example:

embarrassed > proud

embarrassed > pleased > proud

humiliated > embarrassed > pleased > proud > boastful

Similarly, you can apply continuums to basically any class of words in English. Take the verb "to talk":

talk > whisper

scream > talk > whisper

scream > talk > murmur > whisper

shriek > scream > talk > murmur > whisper

In the future, I’ll be providing more continuums. It’s up to you now. This can be done either mentally or in writing. Start by thinking of antonyms and synonyms of the words you are learning. Then move on and try to come up with a continuum using those words.

The most important thing is to keep a curious, inquisitive mind. See? I too am using synonyms! As I pointed out in the previous post, it’s an easy and fun exercise to do. Start now!

I’ll be writing more about ideas to help you boost your vocabulary. This is goodbye for now!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Variety is the spice of life

I am of the opinion that an essential aspect of acquiring a foreign language has to do with how well you master the vocabulary of your target language. And by vocabulary I don’t mean separate words only, but entire phrases. In the future I will be writing more about word combinations in English. For now, let’s focus on the word level.

There is a lot to be said about the importance of vocabulary in English language learning. Especially considering the fact that English has arguably one of the largest vocabularies in the world.

In my experience, when compared to Portuguese, English vocabulary does seem to be a particularly tricky point for students. And it’s not only about the sheer number of words that learners have to cope with, but the fact that, more so than Portuguese, English language allows for a variety of ways to say exactly the same thing.

Take the verb ‘to walk’. In English, you can not only walk, but you can stroll in the park on a sunny day or step into your boss’s office for a minute, you can saunter out of your house and into the sunlight, or stride across the room to open the door, you can pace back and forth or tread a tightrope.

Similarly, you can run, but you can also bolt, hurry, rush, dash, jog, speed, scurry and scramble. It is possible to look at something, but also stare, gaze, gawk, goggle or glance at it, and even eye someone.

These are all common verbs used to describe everyday activities. Their synonyms are equally important and frequent, providing various shades of meaning that are useful and fun!

So, here's a piece of advice for those looking to enlarge their English vocabulary: pay special attention to the words that have similar meanings to the words that you are learning. Conversely, try to come up with words with opposite meanings. This kind of exercise is interesting and easy to do, and will hopefully help you build what I like to refer to as vocabulary networks.

I believe that organizing vocabulary items in this fashion (=in this manner) is one sure way to make it easier for you to pull up words from your memory when you need them.

In English, variety is the spice of life. Keep that in mind!

On this blog, I will be providing more examples of similar/opposite words. In the meantime, I will just leave you with that thought: when working on your English vocabulary, take a minute or two to consider the synonyms and antonyms of the words that you are learning or have learned.
That's it. Till next time!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


At a certain point at the café (see this post), a server stepped up to the plate and shut off the TV show, much to the joy of the customers present, many of whom (myself included) cheered and thanked the good soul who had saved us all.

A lady sitting next to us then turned and said in English, “They’re so boring!” My student/friend and I had been talking in English all along, and that was the lady’s way to let us know that she too was relieved that Chitãozinho & Xororó had finally been shut off.

The only problem was her word choice. I understood that she meant to say that the music was ‘chata’. As it turns out, the adjective ‘chato’ in Portuguese has a multitude of meanings, each calling for a different translation in English.

Let’s look at some possibilities:

1. chato = entediante; monótono; desinteressante; sem graça.

What a boring class. I almost fell asleep.
[Que aula chata. Eu quase dormi.]

I don’t like the living room. It’s boring. We need to get some decoration.
[Não gostei da sala de estar. Ela está sem graça. A gente precisa arrumar alguns enfeites.]

2. chato = irritante; enervante; incômodo; azucrinante.

I have this annoying pain in my feet. (to annoy = irritar)
[Estou com uma dorzinha chata nos pés]

3. chato = embaraçoso; desconcertante.

I couldn’t remember her name. What an awkward / embarrassing situation!
[Eu não lembrava o nome dela. Que situação chata!]

4. chato = exigente; difícil de satisfazer.

My daughter is a picky eater.
[Minha filha é chata para comer.]

5. chato = pessoa inoportuna.

What a pain that guy is. Why does he always have to tell his stupid jokes?
[Que cara chato! Por que será que ele sempre tem que contar uma piada sem graça?]

As for the lady sitting next to us at the café, what she probably meant to say about Chitãozinho & Xororó was that they were annoying. A possible phrase she could have used is:

“How annoying they are!”

That’s it, folks! Till next time!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Tune Out

A couple of days ago, I was teaching a class over brunch at a café near my place. The TV was on, showing a variety show where Brazilian country music stars Chitãozinho & Xororó were performing apparently in celebration of the duet’s 40th career anniversary. And it was kind of loud, too, to the point where you could hear some customers complaining under their breath.

My student/friend (or should I say friend/student – well, you get the point!) joked that she might have trouble concentrating. I told her that maybe we should try to just tune out the music.

To tune out means to ignore or stop paying attention to what is happening around you. It is an informal verb.

We proceeded to have a class, trying as hard as we could to tune out the music blaring out from the TV set.

You can say that you tune something/someone out, tune out something/someone or that you just tune out. Here are more examples:

  • Most kids will just tune out when their parents start to preach.

  • Many paulistanos tune out the city by tuning in to iPods and cellphones.

  • I knew he was tuning out because when I asked his opinion he had no idea what I was talking about.

  • Once Mark gets going about cars, I just completely tune him out.

  • A bored student will simply tune out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Pick

So we have a World Cup winner! Or should I say two winners.

Eight picks, eight correct, eight tentacles. Paul the Oracle Octopus achieved worldwide stardom after breaking a prognostic record during the 2010 World Cup. Let's be honest, all Paul really knew or cared about was grabbing a bite to eat when he picked his meal from flag-covered boxes. His mark is impressive nonetheless, and it makes Paul a true winner.

Let's just hope our new celebrity does not end up on someone's plate in Spain or Italy, two of the countries competing to buy the Oracle Octopus.

The verb to pick is commonly used to mean the same as to choose. In my experience as a teacher of English, I have noticed that Brazilian learners tend not to, well, pick the verb to pick when they want to say "escolher" in English. I can't quite explain why this is so.

The verbs to pick and to choose are very close in meaning. Some speakers would argue that to choose is more formal in tone than to pick and that it involves more careful consideration than to pick does.

For example, a man asking a woman to marry him would probably say, "I have chosen you to be my wife, will you marry me?" This sounds more appropriate than "I have picked you to be my wife."

Conversely, it would probably sound more appropriate to say, "As a kid, I was always the last one to be picked to play soccer with my friends."

Again, this is just a general rule and different speakers are likely to have different opinions on this. It is always a good idea to pay attention to the context in which this verb is being used.

In the example of Paul the Oracle Octopus, there is a tendency to use the verb to pick when we are talking about who we think will win a competition. For example: 

  • I picked Carlos to win Big Brother right during the first week of the show because he seemed to be a very diplomatic person.
As with most structures in any language, context is king here. All you have to do is observe attentively. It's easy and fun!

additional information:

The noun form of the verb to pick is a pick, as in the sentence talking about Paul the Oracle Octopus:

  • "Eight picks, eight correct, eight tentacles."
The noun form of the verb to choose is choice, as in:

  • You have to do this now. You don't have a choice!

We can use both verbs together and have the expression to pick and choose, meaning to choose with great care or to be selective. For example:

  • I love to go to the clothes store early in the morning when it's quiet, so I can take my sweet time and pick and choose what I want to buy. 

  • In this world you have to take what life gives you, you can't pick and choose.

  • Martha is so beautiful that she can pick and choose her boyfriends.

Cick here for other meanings ot the verb to pick.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Much of the blame for Brazil’s World Cup exit has been placed on Juventus midfielder, Felipe Melo. During Brazil’s defeat against The Netherlands, Melo was sent off following a disgraceful stamp on Dutch winger (=ala), Robben.

The adjective disgraceful derives from the noun a disgrace. This is a false cognate in English. The word disgrace may look like it means “desgraça” in Portuguese, but it translates as “vergonha” instead. Synonyms include ‘dishonor’, ‘discredit’ and ‘shame’.
  • Felipe Melo faced public disgrace after the incident.

The word disgrace is also used to refer to something that is not acceptable or right.
  • The country’s health care system is a national disgrace.

These are other ways we can use disgrace in a phrase:

bring disgrace on -> He brought disgrace on his country.

in disgrace -> The team arrived in Brazil in disgrace after their World Cup exit.

an absolute disgrace -> It is an absolute disgrace that the government does nothing about this social problem.

no disgrace -> There’s no disgrace in not winning the World Cup. // It is no disgrace to be poor.

to be a disgrace to -> Politicians are a disgrace to this country.

The adjective disgraceful therefore translates as “vergonhoso”. These are the words we normally use with disgraceful:

We generally talk about a disgraceful behavior, a disgraceful conduct, a disgraceful situation, a disgraceful mistake, a disgraceful act, disgraceful manners – and similar ideas. Synonyms include dishonorable, shameful and infamous.

Words in English that mean “desgraça” include misfortune and catastrophe.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Whole New Ball Game

The show must go on, so back to the World Cup!

From now on, no more playing 90 minutes of a defensive game. No more holding on for a scoreless draw until fans are bored to tears. Or so we expect!

The knockout stage of the tournament has just begun. It’s all or nothing now: either teams win the match or they go back home. They'd better show what they’ve got now, because it’s a whole new ball game.

If something is a whole new ball game, it is completely different from, or much more difficult than, it was before. Here are more examples:

  • Setting up you own company is the easy part of the process. Staying in business is a whole new ball game.
  • If you’ve only experienced Montreal in the winter, summer is a whole new ball game.
  • Now it’s a whole new ball game because of the world crisis that impacts everybody.
  • When the smoking ban takes effect next year it’ll be a whole ball game for bar goers.
  • Our company has been very successful in Europe, but entering Asia is a whole new ball game. It is going to be very challenging.

That’s it. Let’s hope Brazil does well in this whole new ball game that the World Cup has entgered.

Till next time!

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Is It

A year ago today the world lost arguably the greatest pop music artist of all time. And this is the way I found to pay a little tribute to Michael Jackson: In Michael Jackson-style I take a short break from the special World Cup series to make way for the king of pop.

Michael Jackson died before he got to present his last tour, aptly titled “This Is It”. During the announcement he made on March 5, 2009 for the concerts that never happened, he stated:

These will be my final show performances in London.
This will be it. This is it. And when I say this is it,
it really means this is it. Because uhm...
I will be performing the songs my fans want to hear.
This is it. I mean, this is really it.
This is the final curtain call.

Michael Jackson was calling it the final moment in his career – the final curtain call. “This is it” he says, in a reference to the name of his upcoming tour.

The expression This is it, as you can tell by now, is used to refer to a crucial or climatic event or action. Here are more examples:

  • (A TV sports commentator talking about the World Cup final on July 11): "This is it, folks! This is the historic day when archrivals Brazil and Argentina are face to face for the first time ever at a World Cup final match!"
  • When the judges told me to get on stage and perform to them I thought, “This is it.”

These are other related meanings of this expression.

1. An important or relevant moment or place has arrived:

  • "This is it. This is my stop. I have to get off the bus."
  • This is it,” the guide said, pointing to a house. “This is exactly where Michael Jackson was born.”
  • A: Wow, this place looks so weird. Are you sure this is it? B: Yes, they said the restaurant does look weird but that the food is great.
  • “Well, I guess this is it,” he said. I hugged him and said, “Goodbye, Al. See you one day.”

2. Used to refer to a perfect or final situation, thing or person:

  • "This is it, man. Take it or leave it!"
  • If there is a right time and a right place to discuss this issue, this is it!
  • When I finished reading her script, I thought, “This is it! This is the script I’ve been looking for!”

This is it for now, folks! See y’all next time!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Never at a World Cup have the coaches attracted so much media attention. And often times for the wrong reasons.

Two cases in point are Brazil’s Dunga and France’s Raymond Domenech, whose arrogance and hostility toward members of the press and fellow managers, respectively, have been met with harsh criticism from fans and the media alike.

Their attitude has been considered by many as uncalled-for.

The adjective uncalled-for is used to refer to behavior or attitude that we believe is inappropriate, offensive or insulting. A rude comment, unfair treatment or an angry attitude that we believe is gratuitous and unnecessary are all examples of behavior that is considered uncalled-for.

Therefore, one can say that Dunga’s swearing under his breath at a post-match press conference was uncalled-for. Domenech’s refusal to shake hands with the World Cup champion coach, Parreira, was equally uncalled-for.

Watch this scene from Two And a Half Men and decide whether Charlie’s attitude at 00:35 is uncalled-for.

That’s it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The country that gave us football, home of one of the most exciting soccer leagues in the world, England arrived at the World Cup ranked among the top 5 favorites to win. The drab and uninspiring performance they have put in so far however leaves little hope that they will even move on to the next stage
After a 1-1 draw with the U.S. and a scoreless draw with Algeria, the English team went from a sure bet to carry off the World Cup trophy to one of the most underachieving teams in the competition so far. It is very unlikely that anyone will ever be able to explain why this should be so.

The adjective underachieving is used to talk about someone, usually a student or athlete, who doesn’t perform as well or work as hard as they can.

The noun form of that adjective is underachievement, which is formed by the combination of the preposition ‘under’ and the noun ‘achievement’. As you may know, the noun ‘achievement’ translates in Portuguese as “realização”, “conquista”, “êxito” or “feito”.

This is to say that the English team has the potential to achieve a better level of performance, but when out on the pitch the players so far have proved to form an underachieving squad.

The verbal form is ‘to underachieve’, and the noun used to refer to the person that underachieves is ‘underachiever’. I can’t think of a single word in Portuguese that translates that idea, so I’ll leave the example sentences below without a version in Portuguese.

verb - to underachieve:

> Socioeconomic differences may help explain why some student groups underachieve in school.

noun - underachievement:

> The underachievement of gifted students is a big mystery.

adjective - underachieving:

> Brazilian singer Jorge Vercílio is considered by many to be an underachieving copy of singer-songwriter Djavan.

noun - underachiever:

> Some people believe that, at that price, the iPhone is an underachiever.

The opposite of the adjective underachieving is  – yes you guessed it right, overachieving. It is used to describe someone or something that does better than expected.

The noun form overachiever is used to refer to a person who performs better than expected, and sometimes feels unhappy if they don’t achieve everything they want. In a way, an overachiever is excessively and unhealthily dedicated to achieving success. To say that someone is an overachiever may imply that they desire more than is needed.

Here are examples using the respective forms of the verb to overachieve:

verb – to overachieve:

> Australia played fairly well and overachieved at the last World Cup. But they have been a disaster so far at this World Cup.

noun – overachievement:

> The fact that North Korea conceded only two goals against Brazil is considered by many as an overachievement.

adjective – overachieving:

> If Brazil wins this World Cup, it’ll have been the least talented and the most overachieving national team.

noun – an overachiever:

> She was an overachiever who would not get married until she found the perfect father for her babies. She died alone.

So England has been quite underachieving at this World Cup. What teams do you believe are the overachievers so far?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Upper Hand

Sports commentators all over the world are calling Luis Fabiano’s second goal yesterday a beauty – or a “golaço”, in good Brazilian Portuguese.

Yet the cameras never lie: Luis Fabiano handled the ball as he beautifully worked his way through his opponents in the goal area and drove a shot to the back of the net. The Brazilian striker was not ready to admit to his handling the ball either when a smiling and apparently lenient French referee, Stephane Lannoy, approached him about it.

Luis Fabiano’s handling of the ball seemed a little ironic considering the circumstances of the game: picking a French referee to officiate a match involving the French-speaking Ivory Coast clearly gave the Ivoirian players the upper hand in terms of communication.

The upper hand means an advantage or superiority. This is to say that Ivory Coast’s players had a linguistic advantage as they were able to communicate with the referee in their native language. In talking to the referee in French, the Ivoirian players may very well have convinced him that Brazil’s attacker, Kaká, hit his opponent and deserved a red card. Well, let’s hope that the Ivoirian players learn to get less physical and be more skilful instead!

There have been many suggestions as to the origin of the phrasethe upper hand’, but there is no certainty as to where it really originated. We normally talk about 'having the upper hand’ or ‘gaining the upper hand’.

Here are more examples:

  • Our company has the upper hand because of our long experience in this business.

  • Right now I would give the upper hand to Brazil due to their long tradition of World Cup success. As they say in Brazil, “a team’s shirt has weight” (a camisa “pesa”).

We also use the expression ‘the upper hand’ figuratively:

  • The infection was gaining the upper hand [=was becoming worse] and the patient’s condition was deteriorating.

That’s it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shut Up!

So Hawk Bueno, I mean, Gavião Bueno, I mean Galvão Bueno’s now legendary penchant for getting on people’s nerves has made the New York Times. No less. I guess he has the World Cup to thank for his instant worldwide notoriety. Or hardly.

For what it’s worth, however, he doesn’t seem any more willing now to finally give in to pleas to, well, just shut up!

Shut up is probably one of those English verbs that many non-English speakers the world over are familiar with. Maybe because it is an offensive term that people like to have under their belt, or maybe because commands in any foreign language are relatively easier to remember. Whatever the case, here are some more examples using it.

> Can someone get that dog to shut up?
Alguém por favor faz* esse cachorro calar a boca?

> Nothing shuts her up!
Nada faz ela* calar a boca!

These are other common phrases for telling people to shut up (remember, they’re all very offensive!)

> “Shut your piehole. You’re talking too much!” (piehole is a slang term meaning ‘mouth’)

> “Can’t you just shut your mouth?”

> “Just shut your face and sit down.”

Additionally, shut up is used as an expression of incredulity, similar to “I can’t believe it!”, “Really?”, “No way!”. This is very informal in tone, and typically used by young people. For example:

A: I just ran into Madonna in the elevator!
B: Shut up!

Or imagine someone tells you that, according to research, the number 1 vegetable consumed by young kids in the U.S. is -- peas, corn, carrots, broccoli? No... French fries! Not good, right? Check what the woman at 31 seconds of this TV commercial says.

By extension, shut up is also used to express satisfaction, pleasure, approval, awe, or reverence. This is also very popular among young people.

For instance: You’re crazy about pastel and caldo de cana, but having lived in Alaska for the last 10 years you haven’t seen any of that for ages and therefore miss it sorely. One day you walk into your regular deli and find out that they’re now selling pastel and caldo de cana! In disbelief, you shout:

Shut up!

That's it for now! Till next time!

*Note: I deliberately chose the constructions "Alguém faz esse cachorro calar a boca" and "Nada faz ela calar a boca" over "Alguém faça esse cachorro calar a boca" and "Nada a faz calar a boca", respectively.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


So, the big day arrived. Football fans all over the world tuned in to follow Brazil’s opener at the World Cup against a weak North Korea, expecting to watch yet another display of the “jogo bonito” by the five-time champions. Brazil came out victorious. That is cause for celebration, right? Well, hardly!

Brazil did bring home their first 3 points of the group stage, and that would be considered mission accomplished for many teams in the world – but not for Brazil. For the green-and-yellow fans, winning alone is not enough. Heck, winning is likely the least important of reasons why Brazilians follow their team on TV! They expect nothing less than magic and enchantment from the national team – the “jogo bonito”, remember?

What they witnessed yesterday, however, was a far cry from a beautiful performance. To be sure, Brazilians were happy that the “seleção” won the game – but it was a lame victory, they say.

Here’s an interesting word – lame.

The adjective lame is used to mean ‘”coxo”; “manco”, “aleijado” in English. It is considered an offensive word to use when talking about a person. Lame eventually came to mean weak, unconvincing, not smart or impressive. As in a lame victory ("vitória mixuruca") above. Here are more examples:

> What a lame excuse!
Que desculpa esfarrapada!

> She didn’t accept the lame apology he offered for cheating on her.
Ela não aceitou o pedido de desculpa fajuto que ele fez por ter traído ela*.

> What a lame joke you made!
Que piada mais sem graça a sua!

>She’s nice but her boyfriend is really lame.
Ela é legal, mas o namorado dela* não está com nada / é péssimo

Now let’s hope that Brazil finally plays the beautiful game against the strong Ivory Coast on Sunday!

*Even in written Portuguese, I prefer the constructions "ter traído ela" and "o namorado dela" to "tê-la traído" and "seu namorado", respectively.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So, one of the complaints about the 2010 World Cup "star", the controversial vuvuzela, is that players cannot concentrate or communicate amid the incessant buzzing noise.

The word amid indicates that something that is happening is accompanied or surrounded by noisy, busy or confused events.

It is more commonly used in writing and news reports – but not only. Here are some more examples and their translation in Portuguese:

> The dollar has fallen in value amid rumors of weakness in the US economy.
O dólar diminuiu de valor em meio aos rumores de enfraquecimento da economia americana.

> As Corinthians scored a beauty, I sat there crying tears of joy, amid the roar from the black&white crowd.
O Poderoso Timão fez um golaço, e eu fiquei ali sentando chorando lágrimas de alegria, em meio ao berreiro da torcida alvinegra.

Sorry about the last example, I just couldn’t resist.

One last thing about the word amid maybe is that it has a secondary sense of “in the middle of things that are not necessarily busy or noisy". It is more of a literary meaning, as illustrated below:

> He sat amid the trees.
Ele se sentou entre as árvores.

Well, as someone said once, “As árvores somos nozes!”

Keep smiling, kids!

When In Rome...

So, here we are in the early stage of the World Cup, an event most of the world has waited four years.

And just when you thought the focus would be on the international stars playing first-rate soccer in the field, a lot of the attention has been divided with the vuvuzelas – plastic, brightly colored horns that probably cost no more than a few bucks each. But, boy, what noisemakers they are!

Fans at soccer stadiums blow them nonstop, creating a continuous buzz that can be heard on television broadcasts every second of the games.

Much controversy has been stirred around these trivial instruments. Even FIFA, the soccer’s governing body that had previously allowed vuvuzelas into stadiums at the World Cup, is expected to hold talks over the next few days to discuss whether to reverse the policy and implement a ban.

Those in favor of the vuvuzela ban argue that they are killing the color and atmosphere of a soccer match, as the wall of sound that the vuvuzelas create has taken away the chanting and singing at the stadiums, and even the typical roar from fans after a goal is scored – it is just one incessant noise now! Furthermore, players have complained they are having trouble concentrating and communicating in the field.

Those against the ban argue that vuvuzelas have been part of the South African soccer culture for many years now. Banning the vuvuzelas would be ethnocentric, an action akin to banning the chants from fans at soccer stadiums in Europe – not a good idea! This is South Africa, they say, and the rest of the world should behave as the South African fans do. As the saying goes, When in Rome...

What’s your opinion? Do you think vuvuzelas should be banned, or do you think fans from all over the world and the players alike should just put up with them?

Monday, June 14, 2010

To Make

Did you know that a total of 69 players were used during Brazil’s World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign? That number is almost enough to make up 6 teams, each one complete with 7 reserves on the bench!

But only 23 of those players made the final roster.

The verb to make has multiple senses. A major “umbrella of meaning” of this verb connotes the idea of creating, building, producing and preparing. For example:

  • to make a fire / a dress / a cake / cars / noise / a mistake, etc.

Another broad “umbrella of meaning” of the verb to make has to do with the idea of arriving somewhere or being able to reach a place – and, by extension, being successful in something, being accepted into a group. This is the meaning used in the sentence “only 23 players made the final roster” above. Here are more examples:

I don’t know if I’ll be able to make that meeting.
[Não sei se vou conseguir ir à reunião]

We just made our flight.
[Chegamos a tempo de pegar nosso voo]

As the gatekeeper closed the gate behind us, Maria looked at me and said, “Dude, we just made it!” I took that as a sign that we’d do well on the college entrance exam.”
[Quando o porteiro fechou o portão logo que entramos, a Maria olhou pra mim e disse: “Cara, entramos por pouco!” Eu tomei aquilo como sinal de que iríamos fazer uma boa prova de vestibular.]

The team made the play-offs last year.
[O time chegou às finais no ano passado]

The phrase ‘to make it’ is also used to mean:

1. to reach a place or a goal:

“Hey, Martha! I’m glad you could make it to the party”
[E aí, Martha! Que bom que você pôde vir à festa!”]

If we hurry, we can still make it home before dark.
[Se corrermos, ainda conseguimos chegar em casa antes de escurecer]

2. to not fail or die; to survive:

Many new businesses don’t make it through their first year.
[Muitas empresas novas não conseguem sobreviver o primeiro ano.]

He’s very sick. The doctors don’t think he’s going to make it.
[Ele está muito doente. Os médicos acham que ele não vai sobreviver.]

3. to become successful:

It’s tough to succeed in this business, but if you work hard you’ll make it eventually.
[É difícil se dar bem neste ramo, mas se você se esforçar, você vai conseguir vencer mais cedo ou mais tarde]

He made it big in real estate.
[Ele se deu muito bem como corretor de imóvel]

Note: Most example sentences used here were taken from Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Call Up

The announcement last month of Brazil roster (pronunciation*)  for the World Cup was nothing shy of** media show. Sports commentators and analysts nationwide placed their bets on what players they thought would be called up, and helped fuel an already lively debate that was on everyone’s lips.

So much anticipation was built up that a significant part of the media treated the day of the announcement as the equivalent of a presidential inauguration. It’s official: we live in soccer land!

In the end, the absence of Adriano, who had been constantly called up by Dunga in recent matches, and Santos' celebrated prodigies, Neymar and Ganso, frustrated a considerable portion of both the fans and the media.

To be called up, as used in the context above, means to be asked to join a group, such as the army or a sports team.

Read these examples:

Ronaldinho hasn’t been called up for Brazil’s national team since April 2009.
[Ronaldinho não tem sido convocado para a seleção desde abril de 2009.]

The government called up the National Guard.
[O Governo convocou a Guarda Nacional.]

The noun form of ‘to call up’ is, well ‘call-up’. For example:

Felipe Melo was ecstatic over the call-up.
[Felipe Melo estava em êxtase por causa de sua convocação.]

Grafite earned his first call-up for the World Cup.
[Grafite ganhou sua primeira convocação para a Copa do mundo.]


*to hear the word, mouse over the entry in pink listed on the left-hand column.

**nothing shy of = is the perfect description of

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Track Record

Brazil’s coach, Dunga, has been under harsh criticism for a number of technical reasons, like making a conservative selection that lacks flair and inspiration, and for a few personal reasons as well, including his grumpy attitude towards the press, a recent faux-pas involving an awkward handshake with President Lula, and even his questionable sense of fashion.

But the man has proven he deserves credit. For one thing, he has shown consistency in his decisions since taking over as Brazil’s coach in 2006 (see previous post). Moreover, Dunga’s excellent track record, including a win at last year’s Confederations Cup and a top-place finish in the South American World-Cup qualifiers, has earned him the respect he needs to motivate his players to do a good job in South Africa.

So, based on Dunga’s track record, Brazil stands a good chance of winning the World Cup.

As you may have guessed by now, track record means the past performance of a person or organization that can be used to judge what that person or organization is likely to do in the future.

Here are more examples:

Brazil has a track record of underestimating so-called weaker sides and this could be their undoiing if they're not careful.
[A seleção tem como retrospecto subestimar os times teoricamente mais fracos, e por isso o Brasil pode desmoronar se não tomar cuidado.]

Check out the company’s track record, past and present clients and references before hiring them.
[Verifique o histórico da empresa, seus clientes antigos e atuais, além de suas referências, antes de contratá-la]

Brazil has a strong track record on addressing HIV/AIDS.
[O Brasil tem forte tradição no combate ao   HIV/AIDS.]

The expression track record is informal in tone.

É isso aí!

Friday, June 4, 2010

To Stick To / With

This is the first of a series of FIFA World Cup-themed posts that I will be writing to celebrate the upcoming tournament in South Africa.

Brazil’s coach, Dunga, has taken plenty of flak for not having selected many star players for the World Cup. If there is one thing Dunga can’t be criticized for, however, is his consistency with his previous decisions. Indeed, he has stuck with basically the same group of players since replacing Carlos Alberto Parreira as coach.

To stick with/to, as used in the example above, means to continue doing something, to not change something, such as a principle, a plan, a promise or a decision.

Stick to and stick with have each their own separate meanings in other contexts.

However, in the context presented here (i.e.: to remain loyal to a principle or a plan) there is almost no significant difference between them. Stick to and stick with convey essentially the same meaning and can be used interchangeably.

This is the conjugation of the verb to stick:

Here are more examples:
  • Instead of choosing high-profile players like Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, Dunga stuck with lesser-known players such as Josué and Ramires.
  • Martha's big problem is not to start a diet, but to stick to it.
  • There are a lot of new brands available, but I usually stick with my usual brands.
  • You need to find a job and stick with it!

Both stick to and stick with are informal in tone. More formal alternatives include to stay with and to adhere to.

Monday, May 31, 2010

To Step Up

If you were born in Brazil, chances are you just can’t seem to understand baseball and what makes it so popular in the US.

However, knowing just the very basics of baseball might be useful when communicating in English. One such case is the baseball move that originated the phrasal verb to step up, in fact a short form of the phrase to step up to the plate.

In baseball, the plate, or home plate, is where the batter ("rebatedor") receives the ball thrown in his direction. You can see the home plate at the bottom of the baseball field below:

This picture shows a batter getting ready to hit the ball. Behind the batter is a catcher, and behind the catcher is an umpire ("juiz").

See a white five-sided mat set at ground level right below the batter? That's the plate. It is made of rubber, mind you, and is used to identify the batter's position.

A batter stepping up to (=moving near) the home plate is the equivalent of a soccer player stepping up to the penalty spot in a shootout ("cobrança de penalty"). As the crowd cheers on and the spotlights are all on him, the batter needs to have quite a lot of confidence under the pressure of trying to hit the ball and score points for his team.

This level of confidence when stepping up to the plate in baseball is used in other areas of life to mean "assumir responsabilidade", "não se omitir", "não se furtar da responsabilidade". For example:
  • Casas Bahia's Customer Service really stepped up to the plate for me and solved my problem. Their staff was respectful and in two days they shipped me a brand new TV set.
Often times, people use the short form to step up:
  • He finally stepped up and asked her to marry him.
  • If you want this promotion, you're going to have to step up. [mostrar que é capaz; fazer por onde]
In this video, candidates of The Apprentice use the phrase to step up to say that they can "tomar iniciativa", "vestir a camisa" or "chamar a responsabilidade para si."

That's it. Till next time!