02022-07-13 | Coffee, Portugal | 8 comments

“Empurre ou puxe” — which one of those words means push and which one pull? I have noticed a lot of confusion around these two words, especially since “puxe” is pronounced “push-eh”. As you might have guessed “empurre” means push and “puxe” means pull. So, if you stand in front of a door that you are trying to push open and a Portuguese person behind you helpfully says “puxe”, don’t push even harder because they are actually telling you to pull.

The Portuguese have a couple of extra snack meals, which will suit some people I know. :-) There’s one in the late morning, called “lanche da manhã” and one in mid afternoon, “lanche da tarde”. Each meal is usually accompanied by coffee. People drink a lot of coffee here and it is almost always espresso. In Lisbon a café, or espresso, is also called “bica”. Some people think that bica could be an acronym for “Beba Isto Com Açucar” – drink this with sugar – but I don’t believe it. I also learned that in Porto the same coffee is called “cimbalino”. Interestingly bica is feminine while cimbalino is masculine.

“Bico” (masculine) means spout. An espresso machine has little spouts out of which the coffee flows. That could be the origin of “Bica”? That which comes out of the coffee spout…


  1. JaneParhamKatz

    I’m beginning to think that the Portuguese language evolved among the explorers as they were hurled madly upon the waves, consuming large quantities of strong liquor. Even modern speakers sound slightly inebriated, pronouncing “s” like “sh” (a common effect of one too many), leaving out half the vowels, even your example of “push” and “pull” seeming just opposite. Isn’t it fun! :-)

    What English word does “bica” bring to mind? Just sayin’.

    Ottmar, when are you going up to Porto? Take the train and emerge into the most beautiful station on Earth. Then feast on the most gorgeous city! Don’t miss the ultramodern performing arts center. Ask the manager for a personal tour, because there’s a lot to it.

    • ottmar

      “What English word does “bica” bring to mind?”
      Help me, I am not getting it….

      • JaneParhamKatz

        You lovely man. Think female dog.

        • ottmar

          Got it. I wouldn’t have made the connection.

  2. Dave Kirschner

    Did you learn pull/push by experience? ;-)

    • ottmar

      I watched someone else go through it. I did remember thinking that could have been me. :-)

  3. anne

    fyi – a quick research on word/acronym …


    “It was the first shop to sell the “bica”, a small cup of strong coffee, similar to espresso, with fresh goat milk from nearby farms. There’s a widespread belief among many (Lisbon) locals which makes out “Bica” to be an acronym for “Beba isso com açúcar”, literally meaning “Drink it with sugar”.

    Maybe another meaning.. but doubt it has to do with an animal.

    • JaneParhamKatz

      Oh Pooh. I was just kidding.


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