The Bad Bones tattoo parlor in Bairro Alto, an area also teeming with art galleries. Portugal has pioneered a multimedia movement in contemporary art.
Lisbon - Fact Check

A history of Lisbon lies in its words

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Lisbon - Fact Check A history of Lisbon lies in its words

I recently discovered, via a Portuguese friend of mine, that the slang name for a resident of Lisbon is 'little lettuce'. The name comes from a previous time in Lisbon's history, when it was said to produce the nations best specimens of our round green friend. Next time you're in town, try shouting 'yo, alfacinha!' at a group of people and see what happens.

Chris Woolfrey
Chris Woolfrey

Or maybe don't. What's undoubtedly true, though, is that the people of Portugal have some amazing words and phrases.

These guys call a ristretto an 'Italian'; they refer to ravens as 'Vicentes', supposedly because the city's patron saint, Saint Vicente, who was killed and then left to be eaten by animals, was guarded by an angel in the shape of a raven. The legend goes that, when his body was moved many centuries later, two ravens followed the precession all the way from Algarve to Lisbon.

It gets better. My friend tells me that there's a small alleyway in the city called Travessa das pichas murchas. Translated, that's “The alleyway of the limp dicks.”

The name comes from the old, retired men who would meet with their friends to hang out there and who, given their age, had...well, you can guess.

Last, the saying “meter o Carmo na Betesga”. 'Carmo' is the name of a very nice, very large street in the city; 'Betesga' is the city's smallest, at only ten meters.

Lisboetas use the phrase when somebody is overdoing it or overachieving, or when literally trying to put something very big in a very small space.

Get more Lisbon facts. Read TRVL's Lisbon city and neighborhood guide

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