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Idiomatic Portuguese Expressions

Idiomatic Portuguese Expressions

Culture, Learning Portuguese

How many times does it happen that someone uses an idiomatic expression and you can’t understand? With this article about idiomatic food expression, your Portuguese life will be easier!

See part 2 here.

  • Puxar a brasa à nossa sardinha”

“Pull embers to our own sardine”: as many of you know, sardines are very common in Portugal and they are used in different typical dishes. This tradition was born many years ago when people ate them because very cheap, easy to cook and they didn’t need the fridge to be conserved. Thanks to this fame, sardines became the protagonists of this famous idiomatic expression. “Puxar a brasa à nossa sardinha” means looking out for our own interest, trying to get an advantage from certain actions, and convincing people about the goodness of our own behavior. The origin of this proverb is linked to the habits to grill sardines and to move embers under the grill in order to spread the heat. Unfortunately, in ancient times, people did not have a lot of carbon to burn, and they usually “stole” the embers of other sardines in order to place them near their fish to cook it faster.

  • “Não vai ser pêra doce

“It won’t be a sweet pear”: this expression refers to the fact that eating sweets are always a pleasure, something joyful and easy to do. So, not being a sweet pear means that it won’t be easy, that there is a challenge that we have to face.

  • Conhecer de Ginjeira”

“know you like the cherry tree”: this peculiar expression is used to say that you know someone inside and out. Its origin is curious, it refers to the fact that, in ancient times, workers in cherry harvest and cherry thieves knew each other very well.

  • “Não misturar alhos com bugalhos

“Don’t mix garlic wit oak-apples”: oak-apples are excrescences that can be born on some species of three after a deposit of insect eggs that vaguely resemble garlic. The idiom means exactly “don’t mix apples with oranges” but in Portuguese, the choice of rhyme-words is more poetic. The expression is normally used when someone confuses something with something else, or wrongly relates things that are not linked, or, moreover, compares or describes totally different things. 

  • “Já me está a chegar a mostarda ao nariz

“the mustard is already reaching my nose”: mustard is a yellow sauce that can be very spicy and strong. If this culinary product entered in our nose, it would be extremely irritating, and we consequently would feel a very bad sensation. Related to this, the idiom is used when someone is getting annoyed or upset by a determined situation and he wants to stop it. It is for sure a charming way to explain our annoyance!

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