The other day, a student of mine asked me how to say “tocar a buzina” in English. I immediately answered – to blow the horn. But that was a mistake, that we teachers are not free from making. I hadn’t realized it until I was driving back home after class.
Well, it’s about time to make things clear.
In fact, to blow the horn means “tocar corneta”.
Now, “tocar a buzina” in English is to honk the horn, as in the example: The angry driver was shouting and honking the horn as the car ahead of his wouldn’t move.
So, when horn refers to a musical instrument that is played by blowing, the correct verb to use is, naturally, to blow the horn. But when you use the word horn to talk about that device in your car that makes a loud noise as a signal or warning, which, by the way, can be very annoying at times, the correct verb to use is to honk the horn.
Now that the question is solved, it’s worth learning an interesting American English idiom with these words – to blow your own horn, which means to brag about your own achievements and abilities, or, in Portuguese “vangloriar-se” or better, “vender seu peixe”, as in the example: If you don’t blow your own horn, nobody else will.
It’s also good to know that honk is a noun, too – “buzina”, in Portuguese – She pulled to the right with a honk.
Well, that’s it…. There are a lot of other homonyms, like the word horn, in the English language - words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation, but have different meanings - and we have to be extra careful not to mix them up…