Discover the origins of some of the more curious and amusing expressions that the Brazil’s northerners gave the rest of the country
Any language, given its constant evolution, can be said to have a life of its own. If the UK, a relatively small country, is home to several distinct dialects, imagine what is possible in a country the size of Brazil. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Brazil is home to some of the most peculiar and surreal popular expressions when it comes to the Portuguese language, much in the same way that English has grown to incorporate some quite unusual idioms into everyday speak.
We begin our linguistic adventure with expressions that hail from the Northernmost reaches of the country, from Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins. Today, however, these prominent expressions are commonplace in other parts of the country due to migration, but their origins, studied by sociolinguistics, are often state-specific.
Mata-Gato: means outsider or thief. Well, we hope no animals were harmed in the process, as the direct translation would be “Kill-Cat”.
Peixada: the term is used when someone lands a new job on account of his or her contacts, as opposed to merit. Peixada also means fish stew… fishy indeed!
Arri djanga: an expression of surprise, astonishment or shock at any situation. In other words, it is the northern equivalent of “eita”, an expression of similar sentiment in the South.
Baldear: By transforming the noun “bucket” into the verb, “to bucket” implies that someone, by virtue of his or her bucket, is washing someone or something.
Espocar: “to burst”, when translated literally. So, proceed with caution when someone tells you that the place might “espocar”: it means it might explode at any moment. It can also be used to describe the sensation of overeating. That is, being so full that you might “explode”.
Bribote: snacks, savoury or sweet. But the word is also used to describe certain snacks of a certain nutritional deficit, even “junk” food, at least in the capital of Acre, Rio Branco.
Levar o farelo: in the capital of Pará, Belém, this curious expression means to die. Or rather to be killed, as opposed to its literal translation, which would be “take the bran”. Maybe the “bran” represents someone’s ashes following their cremation? Well, something to ponder… or not.
Égua de largura: this expression from Amapá means, “to be very lucky”. It must have come from the world of horse racing as the literal translation would be “mare of length”.
Paidégua: When it comes to expressions, mares seem to be the animal of choice. Although this expression most probably originated in Ceará, these days you’ll hear it used in states like Pará and Amapá. It means something is very cool or of particular interest.