Some time ago Mrs EatRio and I were cooking up something delicious in the kitchen (prawn and lemon risotto since you ask). As I was getting the drinks I said “Would you mind spooning the risotto out into those those bowls?”

Her reply surprised me. Instead of the usual “Yes chef!” that I expect and demand in my kitchen, she asked incredulously “Spooning? I can spoon something out? I love how almost anything can be a verb in English.”

It wasn’t something I’d ever given much thought, but now that she had mentioned it I felt a warm glow of pride as if somehow I was responsible for the remarkable versatility of my native tongue. I excitedly blurted out “You can ladle out soup too! You know, using a ladle!” and waited expectantly for her amazed reaction to this new linguistic revelation, but instead she replied with a barely interested “Oh…” and I realised that the magic of the moment had passed…

More recently I stumbled upon something which shows that Portuguese can play that game too.


This is popcorn. In Portuguese it is pipoca. Image source


A little while back I found myself ‘between desks’ at the office. A bunch of new people had started and suddenly there was no spare desk for me. Imagine hot-desking in a room full of people who aren’t hot-desking – it was like that (you didn’t think I was some high-powered executive did you?). I would be given a desk in a meeting room, then some people would need it for a meeting so I would have to move out and use someone’s desk for a couple of hours. Then that person would return and so I’d have to go somewhere else.

One day a Very Nice Manager said to me “Oh Tom, I’m sorry you have to keep moving around. It’s not good for you to be pipocando like this.”

Now then, a little Portuguese background. All verbs end in “ar”, “er”, “ir” or “or”. The gerund form (“walking” is the gerund form of the verb “to walk”) always involves replacing the final “r” with “ndo”.

Thus falar (to speak) => falando (speaking); comer (to eat) => comendo (eating); partir (to leave) => partindo (leaving)

So when she apologised that I was pipocando, it instantly conjured up an image of me ‘popcorning’! It seemed a brilliant analogy for the fact that I kept jumping from one location to the next. And it meant that there must be a Portuguese verb, pipocar which had clearly evolved from the noun for popcorn, pipoca.

pipoca com bacon

Popcorn is a very popular snack in Brazil and not just when you’re at the cinema. One common way to eat popcorn is with loads of gooey condensed milk dripped over the top (too sweet for me). Another way (that I love!) is to serve it with bacon! Here you can see the yummy, cripsy bacon pieces mixed in.


When I looked into this a little further it seems that the Very Nice Manager was using the word pipocar in quite an unconventional way. A more common translation would be “to pop up” as in to suddenly appear in various places.

Apparently pipocar is also a footballing term, meaning to lose your nerve at a moment of great importance (something all English fans will understand a little too well).

Roberto Baggio 1994

Roberto Baggio, a great player, will always be remembered in Brazil for the time he pipocou in the World Cup final of 1994.


Seeing as we’re being all popcorny today, I thought I’d leave you with these mad flavours I discovered on a website in the US. What will they think of next?



Asking for “Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt” popcorn at some cinemas I’ve visited would not turn out well… Source



12 replies
  1. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    I love some of the designs found in old popcorn stands and carts. Including the old aluminum ones you can still find in Brazil. Have you considered including a pipoqueiro in your restaurant guide? Btw some people like adding pimenta to their popcorn; but Brazil still lacks pipoca habanero (you can see where I’m going with this).

  2. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    hehe, what a cute post. 🙂 Alexandre also enjoys the verbing phenomenon (har har) in English. It’s always his contribution to any group conversation in which language comes up (which is all the time, if I’m a part of it!).

    A grammatical flexibility that I like about Portuguese is the “dar uma + ____ada” construction. I guess we can translate it as “pull a ____” or “act like a _____”. A common one is to “dar uma ligada” (give you a call, more literal and similar to the English) but on Fantástico the other night, they said that someone “deu uma Ronaldada” because he gained weight! Alexandre uses it to tease people (there’s a really annoying girl that we know who talks about her boyfriend in the most ridiculously sappy way ALL THE TIME, in front of everyone. If I say something cheesy, he says “está dando uma Leticiada!” hahaha.

    OK I’ll stop babbling!

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha, the verbing phenomenon – I like what you did just there! 🙂

      That “dar uma +” thing is really cool! People must have been saying that around me (especially the dar uma Ronaldada!) and it’s been going completely over my head. I’m going to spend the rest of the day plotting to find a way to use it!

  3. Luciana Lage
    Luciana Lage says:

    I love the verb Pipocar 🙂 We use it a lot. For example, during Carnival or São João festivities, the city pipoca de (is full of) parties and events everywhere. Or you can say the city is pipocando de eventos = is full of events.

    On a very hot day, we can say “o calor tá pipocando”.

    Or if something is trendy — say you see lots of Brazilian products web stores popping up everywhere — you can say: Os produtos brasileiros estão pipocando em todo canto.

    Fun verb 🙂

  4. Adam
    Adam says:

    This reminds me a bit of coisar, to thing something. “Ele tá coisando o negócio” (He’s thinging that thing”)…or perhaps “coisando a coisa”! It needs to be made proper so I can say that person coisou something or other. “O senhor tem coisado aquilo!” What else? Coisação? Coisagem? Coisalidade?

  5. Marcio Beck
    Marcio Beck says:

    I know of two main origins for “pipocar”… one in football and one in Bahia’s carnival.

    In football, it meant, initially, the player avoiding an opponent sliding towards him by jumping. Of players who usually avoided these rough contacts with the rival players it was said they were “pipocando”. Eventually, they became “pipoqueiros”. The first player I recall being called pipoqueiro was Bebeto, from Flamengo, in the late 80s, early 90s, then Savio, also from Flamengo, mid 90s. As it developed, it acquired the meaning of not only avoiding roughness, but to give up without trying, to quit easily in face of any hardship.

    In Bahia’s carnival, the streets are so crowded that the people don’t really have much space to dance to the sound of the “trios elétricos”. So most of the dancing is actually just jumping… a lot of people jumping, someone thought it looked like a lot of popcorn, and there you are.

    Very interesting blog, by the way. Just found it. Congrats.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *