I just got back from my sixth extended stay in my beloved Brazil, and this time I kept careful notes on the most annoying phrases one hears in this lush, goofy land of samba rock, beaches, and murder.
Does listing such uniquely Brazilian language misuse serve any purpose? Probably not, other than to help me commiserate with fellow gringos who are travelling in Brazil, studying abroad, or just hanging out like me and going dancing a bit.
Below are the absolute most annoying phrases one hears all the time.
- Vamos falando. — We’ll keep talking about it. — This tragically annoying phrase is used by Brazilians who are incapable of planning in order to not commit to anything. Ask what time they will meet you, and they’ll just respond, vamos falando.
- Combinadísimo. — The plans are set in stone. — Even worse is when they do make plans and end with this oft-repeated lie. It means that the chances of them showing up are increased to around 40%.
- Você que sabe. — You’re the one who knows. — This phrase is kind of like “as you wish” or “whatever you want”. It is used in Brazilian Portuguese as a non-answer to any request for information. For example, when I rented an apartment for a few weeks in São Paulo, I asked the building’s manager where I should put out the trash. Instead of answering, she used this faux-sympathetic, weasley, infuriating phrase. I had to ask twice more in order for her to actually explain the spot where trash should be disposed of in the building. You’ll often hear this silly phrase instead of an answer when asking for directions and other information. It appears to be a nonsensical effort to be sweet.
- Você não quer açúcar não? – You’re sure you don’t want sugar? — As a foreigner placing an order in Brazil, you need to constantly repeat the refrain sem açucar (without sugar) when ordering caipirinhas, juice, coffee, and even, in some cases, wine! (If you do actually want sugar in any of those things, add it yourself, as Brazilians will always add far too much.) And no matter how carefully you place a sugar-free order, you will inevitably be handed a glass of something sweet, at which point you can return it and hear this phrase, or else just suck up that sickeningly sweet drink. (On a side note, Brazilians who are trying to be “healthy” ask for adoçante (artificial sweetener), which is shown to cause weight gain, diabetes, and all of the chronic diseases associated with sugar. Brazilians seem to be mostly unable to ingest things that are not cloyingly sweet.)
- E lá como é? No seu país? — And what is it like there? In your country? — I’ve often asked about a Brazilian cultural or grammar point that I wish to know more about, and instead of getting an answer I’ve heard some variation of this self-effacement from my dear Brazilians. The implication is that the Brazilian way isn’t even worth commenting on and instead they want to know about the “real” world out there somewhere far away. E.g., “no, no, you first, which object pronoun do you use with this verb in your country?” Or: “what is access to abortion like in your country?” In a few cases this past year, the person asking me such questions did not even know what country nor language I’m coming from (it’s not very clear from my accent). Brazilians have such a messy inferiority complex that they often assume that things must necessarily be better and more interesting anywhere else.But Brazilians have such a messy inferiority complex that they often assume that things must necessarily be better and more interesting anywhere else. There’s also a bit of an assumption in evidence that Brazilians think of the world as Brazil vs. outside Brazil — and think that the rest of the world does things in one particular way that is better than the Brazilian way.
Also: One Brazilian also asked me why I was going to fly from São Paulo to Paris instead of just taking the bus.
- Desencana! Deixa pra lá! — Relax, let it go! — The implication is that you, the foreigner who insists on doing things as promised, is being careta (narrow-minded).
- Pãe de Facebook – Facebook father — This is a father who drops in to see his kids once in a while and takes a bunch of pictures with them to put on his Facebook page, but doesn’t do any fathering otherwise. In previous generations, the fathers just disappeared altogether; I don’t know the stats but I do know I’ve never lived in a country where I’ve met so many people who didn’t know or had rarely seen their own fathers.
- Tem Instagram? — Do you have Instagram? — The social network that is most popular among the world’s most shallow, vain, and self-obsessed is of course incredibly popular in Brazil, so much so that Brazilians are often shocked when you say you don’t use the medium. “But you have to use Instagram!” one Brazilian told me. “You’re travelling all over the world all the time! Just imagine how jealous you could make people by posting photos of that!”
- Estou desconfiado/a. — I’m not trusting (you/him/her/them/it/everything). Brazilians tend to distrust everyone and be suspicious of everything. This is not surprising, it’s a country where lovers and best friends are often lying to each other. But not everyone — for a contrasting example, there were certainly some marvelous, open, trusting, sexy people at the most recent festa do amor (poly/open Brazilian orgy).
The video below offers a few more points on similar subjects from another suffering gringo.
He’s right; the classic bullshit vamos marcar alguma coisa (we’ll make plans to get together sometime) is incredibly annoying too.
And like him, I eventually found myself using a lot of these fucking awful sentences in my own Portuguese.
Leave any I’ve missed in the comments! And brasileiros, queridos, feeling dumped on. Pois desencana, deixa pra là! I keep going back for some reason, there must be a few things I also love about your weird country.