Regarding our page #47 (check our archives!) some readers asked about Felix urging the young soldier to “get the snake to smoke”. What does it mean exactly? Time for a little history. Sending brazilian troops to Europe in World War 2 was not an easy task. The government was not prepared for such a challenge, its infra-structure and organizational means being far from ideal. Problems with equipment, training and logistics were plenty. The overall mood was pessimistic, to say the least. Quoting Wikipedia:

“…by early 1943 a popular saying was: “It’s more likely for a snake to smoke a pipe, than for the BEF (Brazilian Expeditionary Force) to go the front and fight.” (…) Before the BEF entered combat, the expression “a cobra vai fumar” (“the snake will smoke”) was often used in Brazil in a context similar to “when pigs fly”. As a result, the soldiers of the BEF called themselves Cobras Fumantes (literally, Smoking Snakes) and wore a divisional shoulder patch that showed a snake smoking a pipe. It was also common for Brazilian soldiers to write on their mortars, “The Snake is smoking …” (“A cobra está fumando…”). After the war the meaning was reversed, signifying that something will definitively happen and in a furious and aggressive way. With that second meaning the use of the expression “a cobra vai fumar” has been retained in Brazilian Portuguese until the present, although few of the younger generations realize the origin of the expression.”

Well, the snake did smoke, eventually!