Looking for help with Brazilian slang

I am reading a Brazilian novel called Cidade de Deus (City of God) by Paulo Lins. I do this for pleasure and to improve my vocabulary.

Anyway, it gets pretty tedious at times – I sit there with a big fat Portuguese-English dictionary as well as an incredible Dictionary of Portuguese Slang and I diligently write all of my new findings in my notebook.

Unfortunately, the subject matter of the book revolves around criminals living in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, so many expressions don’t appear in any dictionary I have. My wife is helpful in some cases, but she has been away from the country for many years.

So, I ask the Brazilian contingent: Can you translate any of these phrases for me?

I suspect that most of them have to do with partying and crime, but there may be some bad words here, and I apologize if there are.

goró: “quando tá doidão de goró”
o birimbolo
“íamos ganhar um sal dos homi”
“tinha corujado a cachanga”
bicho-solto: “Tá pensando que só tem nós de bicho-solto aqui?
“bebia traçado”
a boca-de-fumo
o bom “matuto” (in the context of a drug dealer)
a brizola – “cheirar brizola”
“Tá pensando que birimbau é gaita?”
“Não tem caô, nem lero-lero”
a merreca
“as casas de triagem da Quadra Treze”
beco boca
fazer “troca-troca” com
catranco: “deu dois catrancos” (while smoking pot)
meter bronca
abordado – “Tinha calos nas mãos para mostrar quando abordado”
“quando faziam a intera do bagulho”

http://www.priberam.pt/DLPO/ has some of the entries, but I don’t know if it applies to the slang. A few of them could apply (especially because they are designated as entries from Brasil).

Sorry it is not the best, I would also be curious to know the meanings…

Thanks, KarlGrenze. Unfortunately, the entries that show up in a standard dictionary do not have the slang meanings.

I have a pretty good idea with some of these because of the context, but I would like to verify this. For example, “brizola” is used in the phrase “cheirar brizola” in a sentence talking about guys smoking pot, so I’m inclined to think that it is slang for cocaine, but I can’t tell that for sure. Likewise, the phrase “ganhar um sal” is used in a sentence that appears to describe a narrowly-missed beating at the hands of the police, but this phrase might have a more subtle meaning.

Let’s send this thing up the flagpole one last time…

Don’t worry, I got you covered:

Most are references to drugs, the drug trade or being stoned and are * very * regional.

goró: “quando tá doidão de goró”
When I’m really stones/screwed up on the “goró” (his drug)
o birimbolo
not sure, willl ask this weekend, probably pot
“íamos ganhar um sal dos homi”
We’ll get some “salt” from those guys (salt= cocaine probably)
“tinha corujado a cachanga”
I’ll have to ask about this one
bicho-solto: “Tá pensando que só tem nós de bicho-solto aqui?
in reference to single or loose people, will check
“bebia traçado”
I Drank some Traçado, in refrence to some liquid drug, maybe in syrup form
a boca-de-fumo
The place where you score your drugs, a crack house would be a boca-de-fumo
o bom “matuto” (in the context of a drug dealer)
Wise, smart, sharp cookie
a brizola – “cheirar brizola”
smell of pot burning
“Tá pensando que birimbau é gaita?”
I was thinking that he played the harmonica, probably meaning “I thought he was one of us”
“Não tem caô, nem lero-lero”
Had absolutely no choice in the matter
a merreca
Very small, tiny, itty-bitty
“as casas de triagem da Quadra Treze”
a drug staging area says this stuff gets a #13 (?)
beco boca
A hidden “boca-de-fumo”
fazer “troca-troca” com
to trade with – change hands
catranco: “deu dois catrancos” (while smoking pot)
I gave 2 drags (as in puffs of smoke)
meter bronca
Bitched me out, got mad at me, pointed out mistakes ect.
abordado – “Tinha calos nas mãos para mostrar quando abordado”
I had calouses/scabs to show from when I was detained/searched
(sounds like the cops kicked this persons butt during a document check)
“quando faziam a intera do bagulho
when I deliver the drugs

Hope that helps.

Are you studying Portuguese?

Thanks for taking your time to look into these, Janx. From your location, I’m certain that you’re the one who can find out the true answers to these (of course, they might be specific to Rio :)).

To clarify things, in most of them I gave a phrase in order to give context for a single troublesome word.

So, based on your answers, I have more questions:

Is “goró” a particular drug? If so, which one?

The “salt” phrase was spoken by a fellow who had barely avoided capture by the police, and “os homi” were the cops. My suspicion is that this means to receive a beating, but I am looking for confirmation.

As far as “corujar”, I thought it looked like thieves’ slang such as “to case a bank before robbing it” Is this so?

What is a “cachanga”?

“bicho-solto” seems to be the term that the street thugs use to describe each other, (e.g. “one of us”), but I’m looking for confirmation and a proper meaning.

As far as the “Traçado”, I can tell from the context that it is booze or a drug – which one?

About that “birimbau é gaita” phrase – my wife says that “birimbau” is another type of instrument, not sure which one. This phrase has appeared three or four times in places where one might say “don’t piss down my leg and say it’s raining”, but I would like a better translation.

Finally, I wasn’t sure what “intera” meant. My slang dictionary says that bagulho can be used for both drug paraphanaelia and thieves’ loot, and the guys in question were dope-smoking thieves, so I am not sure which meaning makes more sense here.

Been speaking it for many years – it’s the language of choice in our household. Even so, there’s a big difference between the spoken word and the written word, and I enjoy reading Brazilian literature and painstakingly identifying the meaning of each new word. I’m certainly not going to learn this stuff from my wife’s family :D.

** minor7flat5 ** wrote…

Not only are they specific to Rio, but in general, specific the that Favela (ghetto), also remember slang changes quickly and from neighbor hood to neighbor hood and city to city. I saw your post yesterday at about 5 pm, I sat with my secretary for a short time translating these as I wasn’t sure as well, she was reluctant to help me because some of this is such the language of low life’s, that she didn’t want me to think she could be associated with people who knew these things. She has a friend who is a cop and said she will ask the stumpers to him this weekend. Uh Huh.

We thought of this, but it was almost quitten’ time, I’ll try to be a bit more specific here if I can.

I do not know, I think it’s a generic phrase for the speakers drug of choice, I would need to see the context. “quando tá doidão de goró” Means when I’m crazy/dizzy/silly on [drug] see what drug was he talking about, and there is your answer.

Again not knowing the context, me and 'Ceda just took shots at it, Ok so “sal”= beating, The word “homi” is a bastardization of “homens” which, (as you know) is plural for men, so then it could mean " we alomst took the salt from those guys. Also you need to remember, that in areas like this there is often little regard for things like proper use of language, so while “íamos” is plural ( a form of “us”) he could have been talking about himself - again, I need to read the paragraph.

Drew a blank here, wait till Monday.

Ditto. I thought it was related to “cashasada”(sp)
drunk on cane liquor - Pinga de cano - Ask your wife about “Cinqüenta Um”. But again, not sure. (big help huh).

Ok, I could see that. Bicho means beast or critter, it can also mean bitch, and or monster, depending on how you use it. Solto means loose. Used (it seems in the capacity of “Solteiro” Or solitary - so now I’m thinking something along the lines of “Lone Wolf”, used in the same context as “Home-Boy” but since I don’t hang out up in that Favela its hard to say for sure.

Me and the “Porteiro” (door man) seem to agree that its a drug, booze has its own specifics, so this is probably like cough syrup with codeine OR its a white lightning type of booze made there, at home. People from the north are always offering me some home made tonsil varnish that comes from their home town. Again need to read the whole context. (you know this was made into a film don’t you, rent it - if you can- and you will see what we mean.)

Maybe, but in this context it used as a verb, in the past tense as “to have played”. We thought about this one, and out of context, came up with the scenario where you have taken someone in to your confidence and then they turn around and bite you. Like when the police implant an informant in your 'hood, he becomes everybody’s friend, then one day he is the states principal witness aganist you and your cronies. I cant see where it would be use like your saying, again, maybe you should scan some of the pages in question and e-mail 'em then I can get a consesus.

To be honest, almost any single page of this book is enough to make my delicate wife blush three shades of red :eek:. On top of that, she (and her sister) have been away from Brazil for many years, so they are “out of it”.

I suspect that I would have to go to the Ironbound section of Newark to find the film.
Even if I could find it, if the movie is in any way faithful to the book, I have a feeling that I would have as much a chance of understanding it as a non-native speaker of English has of understanding the dialogue of The Full Monty (an excellent film that is all but incomprehensable to Americans due to heavy Yorkshire accents and slang).

Will do (in a day or two). Thanks!

There is more to follow, BTW, the movie is true to the book -
frighteningly so.

Hmm… Janx, since you read the book, do you recommend it? Is it very good? Some of my classmates are reading it, but they haven’t given me their final say…

The film is great ! In technical terms too…

I see Janx covered most of the stuff. Thou I suppose like me he doesnt know “Favela Talk”. My younger brother speaks some slang that I don’t understand ! I will try to fill in for some of those Janx left blank or I disagree.

  • “tinha corujado a cachanga” - Without context its hard one… but Coruja is owl. Which either implies staying up until late or wisdom of sorts. Outsmarting someone or a female. See if that makes sense in the book.

  • a brizola – “cheirar brizola” - Brizola is a former governor of Rio… his hair was white. Brizola was a synonym for cocaine. To cheirar To “smell” or better snort a Brizola is too snort a white one. Snort Cocaine therefore.

  • “Tá pensando que birimbau é gaita?” - Birimbau is the instrument of the capoeira… typical black fight/dance. Probably means something about getting identities wrong. Birimbau is a big instrument played with a stick and both hands… string instrument.

    As for the “salt” phrase… we have the expression “to no sal” = I’m on the salt. Meaning in trouble/problems or discredited. So he was in bad standing with the cops or something like that.

    Matuto implies also experience and possibly age too. Not only related to wise and smart… someone who learned and knows how things work now.

    Hope that helps… will check in once in a while. Havent read the book myself thou. I suggest getting the film thou… GREAT stuff.

Ok. It looks like we might have a quorum here.

I’ll offer a few quotes:
(For the record, all quotes from Cidade de Deus, Paulo Lins, Copyright 1997, São Paulo Brazil)

“corujado a cachanga”

“…gaita”, “merreca”, “caô”

I’m interested in the word “caô” as well.

I think Rashak Mani is right about the brizola. I found this:

Say, what’s a “trouxa”?

Ok. That’s enough for tonight.

As I progress further into the book, I am realizing that I will not be able to realistically ask you guys about every weird bit of slang I find – I will have to do what I do when I encounter unknown words in my own language: just skip over them if I can understand the point of the sentence.

As far as comparing the book to the movie, I can almost guarantee that the book enters into much more detail than was possible in the film. The book is four hundred pages long – there ain’t no way to tell a story with that much detail in two hours, so they likely had to cut out a lot of detail. On top of that, they likely toned down the slang some – with a book one has the luxury of re-reading sentences, while in a movie even a native speaker can soon be totally lost listening to raw street slang.

The movie doesnt go as heavily on the slang… but enough to give us a feel for the “alien” aspect of their language. I sure hope they don’t dub it in english !

 The Brizola I am sure about it... saw some idiots calling cocaine like that. It's pretty old slang thou as far as Rio is concerned. (4-5 years). 

 The corujada I would say is "staking out the place." Specially late hours, or in this case possibly very early in the morning. 

Merreca is common usage here... means low quality... not good. This stuff is a merreca... its bad.

The birimbau reference would be roughly translated as "Do you think a birimbau is a harmonica?" (Birimbau being Capoeira instrument, gaita can be a harmonica or a bagpipe.) Just to express that the person is wrong about what they are thinking. 

"cao" or KO is an expression roughly similar to bullshit or a trick. (KO being opposite OK ?) Lero lero means small talk, chit chat or nonsense talk. So the whole sentence might read in english like this: "There is no tricking or bullshitting. Give me everything or you'll have problems." Basically telling the guy that he won't fall for his chit chat.

Trouxa means a small bag. It can mean sucker too... but its the small bag in that sentence. I would suppose something quite small in this case. They probably sell marijuana in set amounts...

Hope that helps... actually pretty funny slangs... never heard many of them.

While we’re asking stuff about Brazilian slang:

What does “casa de caralho” mean?

House of something, I’m assuming. But what?

I saw it in a movie and have wondered since what it means.

** KarlGrenze ** wrote…

Sorry to have miss lead you, this comes from my wife’s assessment, I have not read it, and don’t have any real plans to. Working in health care here in São Paulo, I see and hear enough of the results of this sort of thing, also, even after 5+ years here its hare enough for me to get through a news paper with out a dictionary or a headache, I could imagine a book like this would take me years to get through. Sorry.
** Rashak Mani ** wrote…

Interesting Location your in. I thought I was the only Doper In Brazil. In past posts
** minor7flat5 ** has been the only person who responded to my threads with any kind of “local eye” . I’m not sure if he remembers me But I remember him.
BTW ** KarlGrenze ** are you in Brazil as well?

Any way, it seems to me that ** Rashak Mani ** has a better handle on it then I do.
My wife didn’t want to get into as she has this fear that I’ll start talking to my in laws with this nifty new slang I’m picking up.


Caralho means Dick. Casa = home. But what it really is equivalent is "go to hell".  :)   Slang never translates well.

I thought you were Brazilian Janx… appears that is not so. What do you do ? Where are you from.

Janx your in Sao Paulo... my family is carioca (Rio). Therefore I might have some insight to Rio slang... but not much. You do seem to have acess to more "poor" people to ask them for some of the more curious slangs.

There are some other Brazilians... but pretty quiet I figure. I am very active in the Debates threads. 

MinorFlat... when he says he passed on a "camel"... it means on a bicycle according to my brother.

No, I’m not in Brazil. I’m doing a minor in Portuguese at the University of Florida. Someday I wish to visit Brazil (and the rest of South America).

Hi guys, my family lives in Rio, but I doubt that my dad would know any of this slang. Something else to ponder, didn’t the events described in the book and movie take place in the early 80s. So in reality, this is all almost twenty year old slang.

For example, Brizola was governor of Rio from 83 to 87, adn then again from 91 to 95. I doubt that cheirar brizola would be current slang.

Minor in portuguese ! Your brave… its a hard language… I still struggle with it having lived to long abroad. Why did you chose it ? Curiosity ? Masochism :slight_smile: ?