A Vocab Lesson from Brasil

Coat of Arms for Brasil

With my final paper turned in and some time to myself (woah!) I decided to participated in this week’s WP writing challenge. I’m a great fan of aphorisms, colloquialisms, and other linguistic -isms, so when a call went out to discuss regional slang, my mind immediately went to Brasil* and one of my all-time favorite co-workers/friends. For years she peppered the office with phrases that we did not quite understand (apparently I was the only one who wanted to know what they all meant), but since so many of them are great, and seem to have no good equivalent in English, I present to you my Top 3. I’m not even sure if they’re from Brasil, honestly, they could just be from her, which in a way would be even better.

#3 “You look like the dog that fell off the moving truck.” Used when someone looks very sad without any obvious reason, like a dog that was moving with its family, but the truck hit a bump and it was knocked off, and now has to watch its family drive away. The dog looks sad sitting in the middle of the road, but nothing is around so it’s not immediately obvious why it’s sad. In conversation this is used to find out why someone is unhappy for seemingly no reason, “What’s wrong? You look like the dog that fell off the moving truck.”

#2 “Stop trying to sell your fish.” This phrase is used when someone is trying to push their agenda through while pretending that it’s actually a good idea. It originally came up in a meeting during which someone would not stop lobbying for their idea. From the crowd my friend exclaimed, “Oh stop trying to sell your fish!” and everyone laughed, accomplishing what it was supposed to, which was putting the breaks on the lobbyists idea. When I use this phrase it gets the most sideways looks, I guess it doesn’t translate well.

#1 “The woodface.” The woodface is not a phrase, it’s a type of person, and the word is also indicated by a gesture: mock “knocking” on one’s cheek as though one is knocking on a (wooden) door. The woodface – which my friend absolutely was – is a person who will ask anyone to do them any favor without shame. A woodface could be out to drinks and ask a friend of a friend, who they have just met, for a ride to the airport at 5 AM the following morning. When the person gives them an admonishing stare, the woodface would make the indicative gesture, and everyone would laugh knowingly. The woodface asks for anything, because a tiny part of the time they get much more than they would if they had never asked. Making the gesture lets the person know that you are a woodface, which communicates that you will not take it personally if they say no, and simultaneously removes the risk of offending on the woodface’s part.

Seeing at that my friend was one of the coolest, happiest, and most amazing people I’ve ever met, I am aspiring to be more of a woodface myself. Hope you all enjoyed the list!

* She once asked me why her country’s name is always spelled wrong in the States and I apologized and promised to always try and spell it the “right” way, meaning in Portuguese.

6 thoughts on “A Vocab Lesson from Brasil

  1. Yes, I enjoyed your list of expressions—I’ve never heard any of them—and I smiled reading your note about the “correct” spelling of your country!

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