Brazinglish borrowings

Posted by on February 15, 2010

© GettyDenilso de Lima, ELT author, teacher trainer and conference speaker in Brazil treats us to another guest post on the topic of Brazil English. You can visit Denilso’s blog Inglês na Ponta da Língua.

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I read Jussara’s post on Brazinglish and had to write a bit further about some other interesting and curious ways in which the English language is used around here.

You all may know, of course, that we are (really) good at football. Not everybody, of course! I myself am not! Anyway, what most people around the world may not know is that we use almost the same words used in English but spell them in our own improvised way. For example, goal becomes gol; ball, bola; penalty, pênalti; football, futebol; stadium, estádio; fans, fãs; corner… Well, corner is córner for some and escanteio for others.

This spelling phenomenon happens not only in futebol. Throughout the day you may hear things like deletar (to delete), printar (to print), upar (to upgrade), lincar or linkar (to link), googlar (to google), tuitar (to tweet), blecaute (blackout), bagagem (baggage), récorde (record). At a restaurant, or rather fast food (pronounced ‘fastie foodie’), you will find hamburgueres (hamburgers), hot dogs (‘hotie doggies’ – yeah, weird, I know!), diet (spoken as ‘dietie’), x-burguer (which is a cheeseburger, x in Brazilian Portuguese sounds like cheese in English).

Apart from all the ‘embromation’ I wrote about here as well as the creation of new words (e.g. black power, no-break, busdoor, cooper, etc), people use real English words in conversation: Internet, off prices, for sale, chat, coffee break, workshops, way of life, cookies, waffles, flat (meaning ‘apartment’), playground, modem and so many others are common words in some places.

This invasion (invasão for us) of ‘alien’ words in the Portuguese language got on some people’s nerves years ago. Politicians (yeah, can you believe it?) got angry about it. So, they tried to pass a law prohibiting the use of foreign words in Brazil. If such words were used here, this would be a crime. For sure, Brazil would be the largest jail in the world now and I would be writing this from prison! By the way, we also have prisão, which is the way we spell and pronounce prison.

Linguists and other specialists in the field did not agree with the politicians. Then, they got together and sent the National Congress a letter telling politicians that this ‘invasion’ (invasão, here) is completely normal. Borrowing words from other languages is a natural process in living languages. That’s why English-speaking people have feijoada, banana, samba, carnival, albino, bossa nova, cobra, zebra, anil and other Portuguese words in their dictionaries. The final message went like this: “Hey guys, there’s no need to fuss about this, OK? Be cool and do your jobs!”

Cool, huh? Well, this is Brazil! This is the way Brazilians play with English words. I just love that! Be it the ‘embromation’ stuff, the creation of new words, the weird spelling or anything else, I just love it!

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Comments (10)
  • Congratulations for the second time, Denilso!
    I have a few questions, though, and I wonder whether I ask them here or write a new post.
    Anyway, I’m going to ask only one of them: what does Brazilian “black power” mean? I’ve never heard about a Brazilian new meaning for the term that was created in or around 1969 by the civil rights movement in the USA. I remember it was imported into Portuguese “as is”. I like learning new meanings – it’s in my job’s description 😉 – so I’d like to know this new meaning you mention here.
    Tks.

    Posted by Jussara Simões on 15th February, 2010
  • I loved your post, Denilso. But I was wondering whether “upar” means “to upload” rather than “to upgrade”. Have a look: http://www.dicionarioinformal.com.br/buscar.php?palavra=upar

    Posted by Priscila Pires Laterza on 15th February, 2010
  • Teacher Denilso writes interesting texts for English students everyday and his blog is massive source of knowledge. Studying English is a delightful task. As far as for me, it’s a pleasure because I always enjoyed heavy metal, nba, formula 1 and English is always the main language used in the music style and sports.

    Denilso, thans for your support. I’m your reader and fan. Keep up your good job and bring new vocabulary and expressions for your followers. Have a nice Carnaval (carnival), friends.

    Posted by Eduardo on 15th February, 2010
  • “Anyway, what most people around the world may not know is that we use almost the same words used in English but spell them in our own improvised way. For example, goal becomes gol; ball, bola; penalty, pênalti; football, futebol; stadium, estádio; fans, fãs; corner… Well, corner is córner for some and escanteio for others.”

    Excellente text, I only disagree with the word “improvised” used in it, I think it’s not the case, “to improvise” means “to do something without preparing it first, often because the situation does not allow you to prepare” (According the Macmillan English Dictionary).

    What really happens in those situations is that those words are simply adapted to the Brazilian Portuguese spelling pattern. Those spellings definitely are not “improvised” at all, they follow very well stablished rules, that’s why, for exemple, “goal” becames “gol” and “futball” becomes “futebol” and so on.

    Posted by Gabriel on 16th February, 2010
  • Hello Jussara,

    Thanks for your message!

    The ‘black power’ I meant is related to a hair style. I guess this info is missing in there! 😉

    Posted by Denilso de Lima on 17th February, 2010
  • Well… Well… Well… Gabriel! The use of words, word choice and how a word affects the comprehension of a text! Anyway, I have to agree that it’s ok to disagree… 😀

    Posted by Denilso de Lima on 17th February, 2010
  • Hi Denilso,
    This is, indeed, a very interesting post! Still, we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions at some points, that is: not all that is similar in English and Portuguese is actually a Portuguese/Brazilian adaption from an English term. Take your own example “ball”. This word comes from Latin bulla, which has evolved and exist in many Indo-European languages. There are also many words which have been borrowed both by Portuguese and English from French, and sound alike even though one doesn’t come from the other directly.
    Still, the article is very interesting, and for me the main conclusion is: languages are alive, changing and belong to people who speak it. If a government could actually ban word from being spoken… swearwords would no longer exist!
    Cheers!

    Posted by Bettina on 18th February, 2010
  • Well I’d like to say that this matter is very interesting, but for me the most impressive is the brazilian accent concerned to some English words.The most amazing is that some people here in Brasil pronounce some English words in a way and another word in a completely different way.For example we have two cars ,one is Blazer(General Motors) and another Ranger(Ford Motors)and some people say bleizer(correct in English) and rranger ( pronounce with letter A and two RR )and not raendger(correct in English). Ok it’s enough for today, thank you.Sergio.

    Posted by Sergio Augusto Oliveira on 20th February, 2010
  • Wow! You really sent me back with the ‘black power’ refering to hair! Nice call! Keep up with the nice job. I loved your books “Na ponta da Língua” & “Por que é assim e não assado”.

    Posted by Lucia Silva on 24th June, 2010
  • Just for the record, as nobody pointed it out: the correct words for the term “black power” as it is used in Brazilian Portuguese (relating to hairstyle) is “Afro”.

    Posted by Adriano Freitas on 30th June, 2010
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