Caldo Verde Is Not Stone Soup

Persons, Names, Words, and Proverbs in Portuguese America

by George Monteiro (Author)
©2017 Monographs XIV, 254 Pages


Caldo Verde Is Not Stone Soup identifies elements of an emerging Portuguese American culture in the United States. The book discusses subjects and themes that reflect the richness and diversity of this culture. Included are analyses of the Portuguese fondness for nicknames over surnames, pejorative terms ("portugee," "Gee"), beau ideal heroes (John Philip Sousa, John Dos Passos, and Peter Francisco), now forgotten early emigrants, foreign visitors to the Azores (Samuel Longfellow and Thomas Wentworth Higginson), proverbs from the oral and literary traditions, the Portuguese sailor on American ships, and the saga of English As She Is Spoke, a serious-minded textbook that became a comic phenomenon.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Part I: Names and Words
  • Chapter 1: New Names in a New Country
  • Notes
  • Chapter 2: Stars and Stripes Forever
  • John Philip Remembers
  • John Philip Forgets
  • John Philip and the Beatles
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3: Portingale to Portugee
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4: 150 Years of a Classic
  • Notes
  • Part II: Persons
  • Chapter 5: The All-Purpose Peter Francisco
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6: Higginson in the Azores
  • Appendix: The Ascent of Pico
  • Notes
  • Chapter 7: Longfellow, Tutor to the Dabneys
  • Notes
  • Chapter 8: M. Borges, Boston Businessman
  • I. Reviews
  • The Climate in the Azores
  • The People
  • Costumes of the Different Classes
  • II. Newspaper Coverage of Borges’s Death and Inquest
  • III. The Letter
  • Appendix: Mark Twain on the Azores
  • Chapter 9: Denizens of the Land of Nod
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • Notes
  • Part III: Proverbs
  • Chapter 10: Straight Writing, Crooked Lines
  • Notes
  • Chapter 11: Authenticity and Its Uses
  • Notes
  • Chapter 12: Let Them Eat Crab
  • Notes
  • Chapter 13: Some Say Adage, Some Say Saw
  • Appendix: Portuguese Proverbs in British Journals
  • Notes
  • Part IV: Collecting
  • Chapter 14: Words Like Cherries
  • Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Chapter 15: At Aunt Rose’s
  • Rosa’s Freixo Gossip
  • Rosa’s Riddles
  • Rosa’s Sayings
  • Rosa’s Beliefs, Remedies, etc.
  • Part V: Texts
  • Chapter 16: Seaman Melville and Captain Macy on the Portuguese Whaler
  • Herman Melville
  • The ’Gees
  • W. H. Macy
  • My Portuguese Shipmates
  • Notes
  • Chapter 17: Nineteenth-Century Festivities in Halfmoon Bay
  • A Portuguese Chamorita Celebration of the Interesting Holiday at Halfmoon Bay
  • Note
  • Chapter 18: Crowned at Pentecost
  • Chapter 19: Henry R. Lang on the Portuguese in New Bedford
  • The Portuguese Element in New England
  • Note (Lang’s)
  • Notes
  • Record of Publication
  • Biographical Note
  • Bibliography

| xi →


I would have chosen to reproduce the preface that the well-known poet-essayist Donald Hall inserts in one of his books as an epigraph. However, it is too long for that purpose. But I do want to put it before you in its entirety. So here goes.

With modesty’s familiar flamboyance, in a bravado of self-abnegation, in megalomaniacal diffidence, with exhibitionist reticence—I call this collection Principal Products of Portugal: code for things miscellaneous, unrelated, boring, and probably educational. The title should please not only for its prodigious procession of p’s but for its metrical Longfellowship, bring back memories of “This is the forest primeval, the mur”—and note recitation standing in the third grade doing the multiplication tables, 7s maybe, or maybe the principal products of Portugal.

Textiles are big, it appears, and textiles manipulated into clothing; liquor; fruit and vegetables; wood and cork; wood and work manipulated into furniture; fish; pulp and waste paper; pearls and semiprecious stones.

Thus does the writer of essays, gathering a book out of products neither Portuguese nor principal, assemble himself by a title. Doubtless the manufactures of Eagle Pond are baseball, poetry, artists and writers named Henry, basketball, trees, politics, reading, graveyards, art, and Eagle Pond. The author is wary about comparing his work to waste paper, on the one hand, or to pearls, on the other. Semiprcious stones? Maybe, on occasion, he makes something that resembles garnet or tourmaline. ← xi | xii →

How these paragraphs go over with an American audience familiar with Hall’s celebrations of his own achievements redolent with excesses of self, I do not know. All I will say, there can be no provincial more provincial than a provincial American.

Of course, there are other products of Portugal—hardly dreamt of, I suppose, by Donald Hall—and Caldo Verde is Not Stone Soup contributes to the retrieving and retaining of some of those products—of language, phrase, and name—as well as other matters of import in Portuguese America. There’s more to the Portuguese diaspora than memories of harvested cork and celebrations of fish—caught and cooked.

In the 1960s, when I published a small collection of proverbs gathered from Portuguese in the United States, Archer Taylor, then the patriarch of proverb studies in the Western world, was kind enough to point out that my oral collection was the first that he had seen, as he put it, “since Hector was a pup.” He did more than praise my efforts to that point, however, he went on to encourage me to pursue my collecting efforts in Portugal itself. He advised me to get myself a tape recorder, find my way into the hills of northern Portugal, and start collecting—proverbs, tales, riddles, and anything else that came my way. It was good advice, but for various good reasons I was unable to follow it. Time passed and as other interests emerged and duties intervened, my teaching and scholarship took me in different directions. What I continued to do, however, in addition to my professional work as a teacher of writing and literature was to work occasionally in more limited areas and on more specialized topics in the general field of Portuguese-language folklore, mainly in the United States. They say that “o português enquanto descansa carrega pedras.” I carried some stones but not as many as I should have.

The first fifteen pieces collected in this volume might have been grouped under four or five rubrics: “Names and Words,” “Persons,” “Proverbs,” and “Collecting.” “Names and Words” includes pieces on nicknames (“New Names in a New Country”), slurs and sobriquets (“Portingale to Portugee”), observations on one famous American’s family name—John Philip Sousa’s (“Stars and Stripes Forever”), and a final piece (“150 Years of a Classic”) that traces the improbable history of an amusing phrasebook for Portuguese speakers learning English, first published in Paris in 1855.

“Persons” includes pieces on Peter Francisco (“The All-Purpose Peter Francisco”), Thomas Wentworth Higginson (“Higginson in the Azores”), Samuel Longfellow (“Longfellow, Tutor to the Dabneys”), Manuel Borges (“M. Borges, Boston Businessman”), and a bevy of forgotten individuals ← xii | xiii → whose names once made the American newspapers (“Back From the Land of Nod”).

“Proverbs” includes collections of sayings (“Words, Like Cherries” and “Some Say Adage, Some Say Saw”), studies of individual proverbs (“Let Them Eat Crab” and “Straight Writing, Crooked Lines”), and an essay on José Rodrigues Miguéis, a Portuguese native residing in New York, and his interest in proverbs (“Authenticity and Its Uses”).

“Collecting” contains two pieces: “Words Like Cherries,” an ample gathering of proverbs and proverbial expressions from the oral tradition, and “At Aunt Rose’s,” the harvest from a single night’s collecting. Following these are for pieces reprinted from the nineteenth century: “Seaman Melville and Captain Macy on the Portuguese Whaler,” “Nineteenth-Century Festivities in Halfmoon Bay,” “Crowned at Pentecost,” and “Henry Lang on the Portuguese in New Bedford.”

A final word. Throughout, when appropriate, I use emigrant in place of the more commonly used immigrant when things are seen from the migrant’s point of view. Immigrants is the term used for them by those in the land to which they have migrated.

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· 1 ·


Coming down the street towards somebody you know coming the other way, somebody I always pass the time of day with, as we met in going by each other and often in teaching, in an insulting way, you know, for the hell of it, you cock your head at each other. You approach each other. Sometimes you say something pretty good and sometimes you don’t. But it’s like that. Something in him does that to you, rises up, you know. Sometimes you get a nickname for somebody that way, you know. It comes over you what to call him. That’s where these nicknames come from, I suppose. Somebody just thinks it that way over again—unexpectedly, you know—hunting for it and sees it in the newspaper next day.

—Robert Frost (1960)1

Nicknames are almost universally used, especially among the lower classes, being derived from particular trades, remarkable incidents, places of residence, or striking personal accomplishments or blemishes.

—M. Borges de F. Henriques, A Trip to the Azores or Western Islands (1867)2

It is good to be shifty in a new country.

—Simon Suggs (1845)

“I know who Franco Diabo is, but who in Hell is this Francisco Teixeira?” This question goes to the heart of the matter. Nicknames should never be ← 3 | 4 → omitted from obituaries, certainly not from those of Portuguese people. For not unique to, of course, but certainly common among the Portuguese emigrants and the first-generation born in the United States is a predilection for creating alcunhas—nicknames or substitute surnames.3 This seems to be true especially among recent arrivals from the continental provinces and the Islands of the Azores and Madeira, where the practice of giving nicknames serves to complicate further a situation brought about by an already confusing custom in which individual members of a family often choose their surnames from the many available in both strains of their immediate family. In many cases also, the name eventually used, even for purposes of communication and local identification, may be a choice among the traditional nicknames of the various members of the family. In America, the practice of choosing surnames has of course continued, but with no lasting effect. Yet, even here family nicknames have a wide currency, often when actual surnames are rarely used by countrymen and occasionally entirely ignored. Consequently, some—but not all—members of the Andrade family were for at least two generations known as Os Fumegas (“The Smokers”). Yet, in the second generation born in the United States the nickname seems to have disappeared entirely. In another, more matriarchal family, the mother, whose surname is Rodrigues, has always been known as Raposa (“Fox”). Friends and acquaintances of her children, whether of Portuguese parentage or not, sometimes call them “Foxy.” Such direct translation of family nicknames is rare, however.4 The more likely process is that the first and second generations born in the United States will acquire conventional American nicknames having no discernible connection with their Portuguese backgrounds. An instance of this is provided by three brothers who, because of their complexion, dark even for continental Portuguese, are widely known as Chocolate, Coffee, and Cocoa.


XIV, 254
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XIV, 254 pp.

Biographical notes

George Monteiro (Author)

George Monteiro earned his A.B. and Ph.D. at Brown University, and his A.M. at Columbia University. His faculty appointments include Emeritus Professor of English and Adjunct Professor of Portuguese at Brown University. He received an honorary D.H.L. from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and is a member of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator with the grade of Commander. He is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has authored numerous books on American and Portuguese writers.


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