Have you ever heard of the trouble you can get into when peeling a pineapple? What about giving your opinion on something and being told that you’re ‘travelling in the mayonnaise’?
For as weird as it seems, these Brazilian expressions make perfect sense if you’re Brazilian or have lived in Brazil long enough be able to grasp the meaning of cultural specific idioms.
Brazilian Portuguese phrases
If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, planning to visit Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games or simply curious about languages, take a look at our list below. You’ll gain an understanding of some expressions in Brazilian Portuguese that will help you to improve your fluency or simply put a smile on your face.
- Descascar o abacaxi literally translates as ‘to peel a pineapple’ and means ‘to tackle a problem’ or ‘to solve an issue’. Imagine trying to remove the thorns and skin of a pineapple and you’ll get a good idea of what this Brazilian Portuguese expression means. The phrase conveys the idea that the problem is a big one!
- Baixar a bola literally translates as ‘to lower your ball’. The expression is often used when someone’s behaviour is overinflated. The person might, for example, be overstressed, overbearing or just full of themselves – and you want to ask them to tone it down or to ‘take them down a peg or two’.
- Viajar na maionese literally translates as ‘to travel in the mayonnaise’. This means that something is absurd and crazy and does not make any sense at all. The expression was first used by prisoners in the 1970s in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It started being used to provide an alternative to another idiomatic expression (‘escorregar no quiabo’ = ‘to slip on the okra’), which had a double meaning in prisons at that time and referred to homosexual activity.
- Mamão com açúcar – the literal translation is ‘papaya with sugar’. Brazil’s tropical climate is ideal for cultivating papaya which is part of the Brazilian staple diet. The closest English equivalent to this expression would be ‘as easy as pie’. Papaya with sugar is sweet and easily digestible. The expression therefore refers to anything that is easy and enjoyable.
- Chato/a de galocha – There is no direct equivalent to this Brazilian Portuguese expression in English but, unfortunately, what it describes is an everyday reality! The word ‘chato’ means boring. ‘Chato de galocha’ means not just boring but also pedantic, stubborn and unrelenting. In other words, we’re talking about someone who is a total bore! ‘Galocha’ is a type of old rubber shoe worn over ordinary shoes to prevent them from getting wet or dirty. The rubber is very resistant and impermeable which perhaps best describes the qualities of the ultimate bore.