The Guardian has run a piece on translation, so I thought I’d share my top 6 Brazilian Portuguese swears with my literal translations and usage…
To start, though, two illustrative stories on the problems of translation.
I have a friend called Bambino. He’s loud – burly, burned deep red, fifty-ish – and works in fashion. He likes to shock the wives of his friends and is an outrageous and insistent flirt. Outrageous in what he considers flirting to be – insulting women and then telling them he wants to sleep with them – and insistent in that no amount of discouragement will ever change this approach. There is a moment of epiphany when I suddenly understand properly something Bambino has been telling me almost every weekend morning since I’ve known him. He leans close and whispers – loudly, so everyone can hear, ‘Pegei uma puta gostosa ontem’.
This, I originally thought meant, ‘I pulled a super hot woman last night’, and while I find it unlikely given his questionable looks and charm, he does have a certain something, so I smile and say the Brazilian equivalent of, ‘Nice one, Cyril.’
This, though, is a grammatical issue. The word puta translates as whore but it also serves an intensifier, e.g. ‘That was puta cool!’ ‘It is puta hot today in the sun.’ Gostosa can be both slightly coarse adjective (essentially ‘sexy’, but with an emphasis on curves) and also noun (woman who is sexy). Naively, I believe that Bambino is using intensifier and noun. Turns out not. He is, in fact, using noun and adjective. So, for about five years, he’s been telling me stories about what I believed to be a series of interesting girlfriends. But weren’t.
There are many pitfalls with teaching teenagers, but one associated specifically with teaching foreign teenagers. My Portuguese is fluent and so when the kids in my class talk to each other, I understand them. Sometimes I even pick up new phrases, slang I haven’t heard before. The Portuguese word ‘Sussa’ means ‘cool’ or ‘relaxed’, from ‘Sossegado’, meaning ‘calm’. So, someone might ask you how you are and you reply, ‘Sussa, mate’. I’m cool.
My Upper Sixth Literature group throw this word about but add another to it, a rhyming word, ‘buça’, so the phrase becomes: ‘Sussa na buça’.
Fair enough, I think, it means the same thing, it rhymes, it has rhythm, it sounds good. You slap hands when you say it. Or you do that finger snapping, wrist shake. Very São Paulo.
A week or so passes and I am at a dinner party at my friends’ apartment, Eivy and Danillo. There are a number of people in their late-twenties and thirties who I don’t know. I have spent the afternoon with Bambino, and so am red-faced and refreshed and Isabella is working, so I have arrived alone. I step out onto the balcony and look out across the dirty greenery that fringes the favela Paraisópolis, see grim-faced men cutting their way through it. Danillo comes over and hands me a beer. Makes a few introductions.
‘You alright, mate?’ he asks.
I look around. The rest of the party are all waiting for my answer, a couple, two women and a man.
‘Sussa, mate,’ I say. ‘Sussa na buça.’
The women gasp, though one of them is trying not to smile and I register this for later. Danillo slaps me on the shoulder, telling me off. There are a couple of snorts of laughter. I’m confused.
‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘I probably sound like a teenager.’
More laughter. I wink at the woman I think is smiling, who shakes her head, giggling.
‘What?’ I say.
Turns out what I’ve said is: ‘I’m cool. Cool in the cunt.’
Anyway, my top 6 swears:
1. Puta que pariu.
Literal meaning: “The whore that gave birth like an animal.”
Common use: expression of surprise/indignation or description of a bad place, both figuratively and literally…
“Vamos para puta que pariu!” – [Said, perhaps, at a party.] “Let’s go to a bad place!”
“Puta que pariu, meu. Ta horrivel.” – “Fuck me, mate, that’s horrible.”
[Football chant]: “Pu-ta que pa-riu, Os Libertadores Corinthians nunca viu!” – “Ha ha ha, Corinthians [Sao Paulo’s best supported team] have never won the Libertadores [South American equivalent of the champions league].”
Literal meaning: Semen.
Common use: as punctuation when talking to someone. It can be swapped for ‘mate’, ‘wow’, or, to use the correct word, ‘Ahhhhh’.
“Porra, meu, o que vc ta fazendo?” – “Fuck, mate, what are you doing?”
“E ontem a noite?” “Porra, meu. Foi maravilhosa.” – “So, how was last night?” “Well, mate, it was fucking good.”
[Struggling to change a light bulb] “Essa porra não ta funcionando.” – “This piece of shit doesn’t work.”
“Que porra essa?” – “What the fuck is this?”
3. Caga ou sai no mato.
Literal meaning: shit or get out of the woods.
Common use: To describe someone who is being indecisive.
No examples needed.
Literal meaning: large penis.
Common use: expression of surprise or an intensifier to show how good something is.
“Caralho, meu! Serio?” – “Bloody hell, mate. Really?”
“Foi bom para caralho!” – “It was fucking good!”
5. Para de encher meu saco.
Literal meaning(s): stop filling my sack.
Common use: stop annoying me.
No examples needed.
6. Nem fodendo!
Literal meaning: “Not even if I were fucking would I do that.”
Common use: “No way I’m doing that.”
“Vem para o cinema?” “Nem fodendo, cara!” – “ Do you want to come to the cinema?” “No way, mate.”
Feel free to practise these with Brazilians. It’s the best indication of fluency in the language…