Posted in English

Mansplaining Pronouns to an Actual Linguist

A video drifted into my feed yesterday by someone I’d never heard of before and it looked interesting so I listened to it while I was getting ready to go out. The chap who made the video is a linguist and he decided to weigh in on the controversial topic of pronouns and how they are being used, mainly in English, mainly by younger people in relatively affluent communities. If you don’t know why pronouns are controversial, well, consider yourself lucky, but basically whether we refer to people as he or she or something else, and under what circumstances is currently occupying a lot of social media and traditional media output. Frankly I’m baffled, but middle-aged people being baffled by stuff the youngs are obsessed with isn’t exactly news, is it? ūü§∑ūüŹľ

Anyway, as weird as it is in English, it’s even weirder in languages like portuguese where gender-specific pronouns are ascribed not only to people but to pens, apples, books and the concept of liberty*.

I’ve written a few posts about pronoun shifts a while ago um… Now where did I leave those? I started with this one, and a few people said the pun on the word “neuter” was problematic but that doesn’t seem to have stopped me repeating the crime a few weeks later when I really expanded on the subject here and then for a little reprise here.

Anyway if that kind of thing is something that interests you, I can recommend the whole video: it’s full of thought-provoking stuff. On the other hand, if you’re not, no worries because I only wanted to focus on a few seconds in the middle anyway. So, let me at least tell you why I decided to contradict him despite the fact that he is an expert and I am not.

At around 8 minutes and 25-ish seconds, he is discussing instances of relatively new pronouns that have been drafted into languages, relatively late in their development and he says “Portuguese has the impersonal ‘a gente'”. Except he says it in a Brazilian accent so it’s more like “a Genchee”.

Why, Brazilians? Why?

Gente is a feminine, singular noun that refers to a group of people but it’s true that portuguese speakers do use “a gente” as a stand-in for a group of people in place of “we”. It makes the grammar simpler because you don’t have to wrap your tongue around the n√≥s form of the verb, you can just conjugate it in the third person singular – “a gente fala…” in place of “n√≥s falamos”. It sounds a bit odd to English speakers but it works. As far as I can tell, it’s much more common in Brazil but it does exist in Portugal too. Of course it’s very informal, but I think it’s wrong to say it’s a pronoun. Even though it’s playing a similar role in the sentence – filling in in place of what could be a list of names, you could say the same about other collective nouns. Take “The family” as in “The family are getting together for Christmas” which could easily have been “We are getting together for Christmas”. Or what about “guys” in situations like “It’s just the guys, together again” or “hello guys, and welcome to another video”. Definitely not pronouns, right, but they are really fulfilling the same role as “a gente”.

Using nouns as stand-ins for people happens in formal speech too. You will almost certainly have heard people addressing each other as “o senhor” or “a senhora” or even “o doutor” Again, these are behaving in a fairly pronoun-like way, but they’re both nouns. You’re just talking to the person in the third person. “How is the gentleman?” instead of “How are you?” It’s the same kind of thing.

I felt like I was being a but of a reply guy, challenging someone in their academic discipline. Luckily we are both dudes, so I can’t be accused of mansplaining but even so, it’s a bit… Well, let’s say “hubristic”.

The Results Are In, You Bastards

Mansplaining cat

So, I made a reddit poll to ask native speakers on r/portugu√™s to tell me if I’m right in my thinking. To my huge annoyance, judging by the early results, ‘yes, it’s a pronoun” seems to be winning over “no, it’s just a noun”. It’s a pretty close result in Portugal but overwhelming in Brazil.

In my defence, democracy is overrated. But if that brilliant argument doesn’t convince you, the explanation someone gave is that although “gente” is a noun, “a gente” os technically known as “uma locu√ß√£o pronomial” with “the same value as the personal pronoun ‘n√≥s'” s√≥ it’s not a pronoun per se, but it works like one. Meh, I can live with that form of words, I think.

Finally, a European speaker said he was taught never to use it as a pronoun because it was “extremamente errado” and whenever he used it his grandpa would say “A gente? Agente √© da pol√≠cia!”

Preach it!

*Respectively: lady, lady, gentleman, lady, if you’re keeping score.

Posted in English

A TARDIS Full Of Braz

Brasil / Brazil

Following on from yesterday’s whingeing about South Americans behaving like North Americans, here’s an interesting linguistic side note from the same Instagram account. Sorry, I’ll get back to european portuguese soon, I promise!

My first assumption was that maybe this was some sort of racist graffiti in Portugal – after all, the hashtags talk refer to xenofobia and “brasileiro em Portugal”. So, I asked around, but it turns out to be something else entirely. They’re all in Brazil and the different spelling is down to the difference between people’s perception of Brasil and the reality for average Brazilians. Brasil is a very unequal society with a lot of poverty and a lot of social problems, but also with an amazingly wide variety of plants and animals, as well as indigenous cultures. Brazil is the international spelling used by the United Nations, so in this context it has come to represent some other version of the country. Some people in the discussion said it was a stand-in for “the international elites”, whereas others see it as representing outsiders’ view of Brazil: tourism, beaches and a big statue of Christ the redeemer. In BraZil all the men are sexy helicopter pilots and all the women are beautiful, tanned and interestingly waxed. So, spelled with a Z, it represents either the rich who are ruining the country or the fantasy that is eclipsing the reality. Either way, there’s a dichotomy between the real Brasil and this fake Brazil that doesn’t understand it, is killing it, and doesn’t deserve it.

The specific phrases come from a song by Elis Regina called “Querelas do Brasil”. Querela can be a libel, an indictment, a dispute or a sad song. I’ll let you make your mind up about what, specifically, she’s going for here. It certainly doesn’t sound like she’s railing against the one percent: it sounds very upbeat, but Brazil has its own rhythms so that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not serious. She spends a lot of time listing things she likes about the country. I must admit, I didn’t recognise half the words but there are a lot of wild animals in there, an indigenous hero, some places… So I get the idea that at least some of it has to do with Brazil the state not deserving Brasil the paradise on earth, but I’m sure there are layers to it I’m missing.

Posted in English

TFW you’re being Microaggressioned

As a result of a recent conversation about racism (following on from a book I read – there’ll be a review here in a day or two) a Brazilian guy on reddit pointed me to an account on Instagram called brasileirasNaoSeCalam. It’s basically one of these accounts that seeks to ginger people up for a particular cause by telling you how absolutely terrible everything is. In this case, quite a lot of the posts are just quotations from Brazilians in other countries recounting times they were victims of racism. The vast majority of them are in Portugal.

It’s quite interesting from a sociological point of view because of course there are racists in every country and knowing what kinds of stereotypes people have about each other tells you something interesting about the country. There is definitely racism against Brazilians in Portugal. I’ve seen videos and I have spoken to people who have some really unpleasant views about them all being thieves and whores, but I’m a bit unclear about the extent of that racism and I’m curious to know more.

But just as there is racism in every country, microaggressions (ie perceived slights which are held to be evidence of a deep seated hostility) are everywhere too, mainly thanks to the steady creep of absolutely terrible ideas from the USA. And my sense is that a lot of these posts fall under that heading. And in a way, that’s interesting in itself because learning what people see as a microaggression can tell you something about the shape of paranoia in a particular demographic. Take this for example:

(I’m doing an online course and my teacher always turns up with two video options for us to watch: one in Brazilian and one in English “for anyone who doesn’t like Brazilian”

From the comments, the reason for the complaint is that some people find the use of “brasileiro” in place of “portugu√™s de Brasil” to be evidence of hatred, and the fact that she thinks some people might prefer to hear a foreign language rather than a S√£o Paulo accent just adds insult to injury. This seems a little over-sensitive, but more importantly, I think it’s pretty obvious that there are plenty of alternative explanations for why English is being offered alongside Brazilian. For example, Portugal has a pretty good record of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine, among others. It must be a hard transition for those people to make given how much harder it is to learn portuguese than English. Of course it’s not practical to have videos in every language, but English is practically a universal esperanto these days, and it seems very likely that someone who is still struggling to learn portuguese might find it easier to follow an English language video than one that is in a strong, unfamiliar accent.

The irony is I think the teacher is being unfairly accused of racism just because they are making the course more accessible for all immigrants, and not exclusively catering to the needs of oversensitive Brazilians. Quite a lot of the quotes on the site are in the same vein: they’re minor or open to more charitable interpretation or just frankly unlikely-sounding.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some real racist incidents on there, but I get the impression it’s one of those accounts where all the followers want to tell their victimhood story and the net effect is that it becomes a huge echo chamber and everyone inside is in a state of constant fear and rage, way out of proportion to the real situation. I’d love to find some good journalism on the subject though. When I say good journalism I mean (a) uses data competently and thoughtfully and (b) doesn’t pepper their narrative with the word ‘privilege’.

Posted in English

Divided by a Common Language: the plot thickens…

English, espanhol, português

I’ve mentioned a couple of times (here and here) now that I have had long, rambling discussions with Brazilians about whether the third person singular (the “we” form) in the past perfect tense is identical to the present tense. It is in Brazilian but not – or at least not normally – in european portuguese.

I actually ran into a portuguese guy from Beira Alta who says that, where he lives, they say the two words the same way (not surprising) and spell them the same way too (more surprising). We had a bit of a chat about it back and forth and he agreed that the accent in the written form was helpful (I agree 100%) but he wasn’t going to change the way he spoke (also agree 100%) and like a lot of Portuguese people, he felt like the Acordo Ortogr√°fico was an annoying imposition from on high that he didn’t really buy into.

I feel like this was quite a useful conversation for both of us. For me because it’s good to learn about different accents and ways of speaking and I hope also for him because most people in most countries don’t really reflect on their own language until they hit something unexpected, and I like to think that by having this conversation he enjoyed thinking about his own language as much as I do. For example, I mentioned that the two versions (falamos and fal√°mos, say) would both have the stress on the second syllable and he said no, they don’t stress the word anywhere. I guarantee you, there is no portuguese word that is spoken in a flat, robotic monotone. I made a joke about how most words in portuguese are either oxitono (stressed on the last syllable) or paroxitnono (penultimate syllable) and a few are proparox√≠tono (antepenultinate) but maybe there needed to be a new word “nenhuresitono” for words that are stressed nowhere.

I have learned a lot about my own language from talking to foreigners who were trying to learn it and I really hope his encounter with this confused British chap was helpful for him in the same way.

* I talked a lot about proparox√≠tono during my brief obsession with Chico Buarque’s excellent song Constru√ß√£o. If you haven’t heard it, I strongly recommend it because it is educational but more importantly its effing brilliant. Yes, I know it’s in Brazilian portuguese, but it’s worth making an exception for! My original post about it, complete with the video, is here and I’ve continued to bang on about it here and here

Posted in English

Divided by a Common Language: the Aftermath

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had been incorrectly corrected by a Brazilian tutor who had taken exception to my use of the word “fic√°mos”. History seems to have vindicated my position: I was right and managed to get this across without offending the fella who had incorrected me. The following day, I used a different verb in the same tense – declar√°mos – and was corrected by a different Brazilian guy. Bless ’em. I guess they’re new teachers, maybe being helpful as a new years resolution and I’m sure they’ll be a big help once they figure out how to differentiate between the European and Brazilian learners.

Posted in English


Beto (Lauro Corona)
Beto (Lauro Corona)

I’ve heard the word “Beto” or its diminutive, “Betinho”, being used a few times as a sort of derrogatory word for a rich, posh person – someone the kids today would call privileged. I think I first came across it in 1986 A S√©rie but didn’t really wonder where it came from. Apparently it’s from the early eighties when a Brazilian Telenovela called Dancing Days first aired on portuguese TV. There was a character in that called Beto, who was the son of well-off parents. He was played by Lauro Corona. The series aired in the late seventies and made its way to Portugal in the early eighties, so it still would have been quite a new word in 1986 when Nuno Markl puts it into the mouths of his protagonists.

Anyway, here’s a clip from the original series. It has strong eighties vibes to me, but I guess these trends don’t fit precisely into decades, do they?

Posted in English

Don’t Risk it for the Biscate

Episode 8963 of the series “words that mean wildly different things on different sides of the Atlantic”

Biscate seems like a useful word to have in your back pocket, but use it with care. In Portugal it refers to a side job, side huddle, or short term job. In the world of the gig economy, it seems like a good one to know.

Olha, aquele √© mec√Ęnico nos estaleiros, mas faz uns “biscates” de electricidade por fora!

When this came up in online discussion, some Brazilian contributors found this funny because that’s not what it means in Brazil at all. Over there it refers to a woman who has lots of sexual partners – so equivalent to slut or slag or other derogatory terms.

A menina que ficava com todos garotos do colégio era chamada de biscate.

Navigating slang is more complicated in Portuguese than in English because there seem to be quite a lot of examples of differences like this.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese

C√©sar from the Homo Causticus blog gave me a challenge a few days ago, to write about Brazilian Portuguese. Since this is a blog about European Portuguese, I thought the best way to do that would be to compare the two flavours. I’ve written it in English and then translated each paragraph into Portuguese as I go, just for the challenge. Thanks to dani_morgenstern and butt_roidholds for the corrections, but it’s quite long so if I have missed any errors, that’s all on me.

I quite often see people online asking what is the difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese and sometimes people will reply “there’s no difference, it’s just the accent”. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. The accents certainly are different, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If you’re starting out on your Portuguese journey, you should definitely stick to just one version at first, at least until you have a good grounding in the language, because in addition to the accent you’ll find Brazilian Portuguese has quite a lot of differences in vocabulary, slightly different grammar, differences in spelling, even after the Acordo Ortogr√°fico. They even have different ways of saying “you”. Brazil is a larger country with a more powerful media industry so I think Brazilians are probably less aware of the differences than Portuguese people are because they are less likely to be exposed to TV or movies in the other dialect.

Muitas vezes, vejo pessoas online a perguntar qual √© a diferen√ßa entre Portugu√™s brasileiro e Portugu√™s europeu, e √†s vezes a resposta √© “n√£o h√° diferen√ßa, s√≥ h√° sotaques diferentes. Hum… At√© certo ponto, Senhor Cobre*. Os sotaques s√£o mesmo diferentes mas h√° mais do que isso. Se estiveres no in√≠cio da tua “viagem” portuguesa, recomendo que permaneces com um √ļnico dialeto do idioma at√© ficares mais confiante porque, al√©m do sotaque, ir√°s achar que o portugu√™s brasileiro tem diferen√ßas de vocabul√°rio, uma gram√°tica ligeiramente alterada, algumas varia√ß√Ķes de ortografia (apesar do AO) e at√© uma outra maneira de usar o pronome da segunda pessoa singular. Brasil √© um pa√≠s maior com uma m√≠dia mais ativa, portanto acho que os habitantes est√£o menos conscientes da dist√Ęncia entre os dois, porque est√£o menos expostos aos meios de comunica√ß√£o do outro lado do Atl√Ęntico.

*=This is what sparked this blog post from a few days ago

Accent /Sotaque

Of course, both countries have a range of accents, but in very general terms, Brazilians tend to be a lot easier to understand. They pronounce a lot of things in really surprising ways, but once you tune into it, it’s at least pretty clear. They don’t swallow as many letters, and you don’t find yourself struggling to pick out four or five words that have all been run together. The main thing that sounds weird to European ears is the way Ds and Ts sound when they appear before an E or an I. The D in a word like Divertir, say, sounds like a hard J, or like the DG sound in the English word “edge”. Meanwhile, the T in the same word sounds like the CH sound in a word like “Chips” . Check this page for an example. Brazilians also tend to hit vowels with a bit more emphasis, including the last syllable in a word ending in e. A word like “verdade” for example would be a two syllable word in Portuguese because the final E practically disappears and the D has a pleasing breathy quality to it (I really like it!). The same word in Brazilian has three syllables and sounds like “verDADgee”. There are examples of both on this page for you to compare. The effect is that Brazilian Portuguese has a “bouncier” rhythm to it.

Claro que ambos os pa√≠ses t√™m um leque de sotaques, portanto n√£o faz sentido falar de “sotaque portugu√™s” e “sotaque brasileiro” mas, regra geral, os brasileiros s√£o mais f√°ceis de entender. O seu modo de falar tem aspetos muito estranhos (aos nossos ouvidos angl√≥filos), mas uma vez que nos acustomamos aos sons e aos ritmos, √© bastante claro. N√£o engolem tantas letras e n√£o deixam as palavras aglomerarem-se umas com as outras, dizendo “qu√©q t√°zafazer” em vez de “O que √© que est√°s a fazer”. O que mais marca um aluno europeu √© a sua maneira de pronunciar os Ds e os Ts que v√™m antes dum √Č ou dum I. O “D”, numa palavra como “Divertir”, soa como um J duro ou o DG de “edge” em ingl√™s. Os brasileiros tamb√©m pronunciam os vogais com mais stresse, inclusive a √ļltima s√≠laba duma palavra que termine com E. Uma palavra como “verdade”, por exemplo, tem duas s√≠labas em portugu√™s de Portugal. O “E” final quase desaparece e o “D” soa suave e ofegante (adoro!). No Brasil, a mesma palavra tem tr√™s s√≠labas distintas porque o “E” √© mais forte. Al√©m disso o “D” antes do “√Č” muda para DG como j√° disse: verDADgee. Isso significa que o portugu√™s brasileiro tem um ritmo mais…hum… saltitante, digamos assim…?*

*Throughout this paragraph I originally used feminine articles for the names of letters “a D” and so on, because the word letra itself is feminine, but apparently when you use the name of the letter in its own you’re really indicating symbol /sign so you use male articles “o D”. I was referred to a Ciberd√ļvidas article on the subject.

You /Tu

There are lots of different ways of addressing someone in the second person. In European Portuguese it’s usually Tu for informal situations but there are gradations of formality that require “voc√™” ou “o senhor” or whatever, and the verbs all get conjugated in the third person. There’s also this weird pronoun “v√≥s” that most textbooks just ignore. Let’s try not to even think about that one. In Brazil, on the other hand, it’s just voc√™ across the board, and you only really need to learn first and third person verb endings. These people learning Brazilian Portuguese have it easy eh?

H√° muitos m√©todos de falar com algu√©m na segunda pessoa em portugu√™s. Em Portugal, √© geralmente “tu” no dia-a-dia, mas em situa√ß√Ķes mais formais, usa-se voc√™ ou “o senhor” ou algo do g√©nero, que exige um verbo na terceira pessoa. Ainda por cima existe o pronome v√≥s que se usa em determinados contextos (embora a maioria dos livros sobre gram√°tica portuguesa para estrangeiros o ignorem) mas nem pensemos nisso. No Brasil, pelo contr√°rio, usa-se sempre voc√™. Aquelas pessoas que aprendem portugu√™s brasileiro t√™m uma vida f√°cil, n√©?

Vocabulary /Vocabul√°rio

Like US English, Brazilian portuguese has evolved slightly differently and diverged from its European cousin. In some cases, it has retained aspects of the language that the Portuguese have dropped (sorry, I’m not going to give any examples of this because I’d be out of my depth but I’ve been told it’s true). In other cases, they have developed new words over the course of years, based on preference, contact with other languages and just the sheer passage of time. Of course, this is going to be most obvious in slang. My favourite example of diverging vocabulary is the translation of “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. In Portugal it’s called “A Rapariga No Comboio” but nobody in Brazil says Comboio, even though it’s a legitimate word in Brazilian Portuguese, they say Trem instead, and although Rapariga does exist it’s… Not a nice word. So the book is called A Garota No Trem instead.

Assim como o ingl√™s americano, o portugu√™s do brasil evoluiu diferentemente e afastou-se do seu primo europeu. Em determinados casos, ret√©m aspetos antigos da l√≠ngua, que j√° desapareceram do portugu√™s europeu (desculpa, n√£o tenho exemplos mas ouvi falar disto). Noutros casos, desenvolvem-se novas palavras e express√Ķes ao longo dos anos, por causa de prefer√™ncias regionais, do contacto com outras idiomas e da passagem de anos. Claro, este fen√≥meno √© mais √≥bvio no cal√£o. O meu exemplo preferido de diverg√™ncia de vocabul√°rio √© a tradu√ß√£o do “The Girl on the Train” de Paula Hawkins. Em Portugal, o t√≠tulo do livro √© “A Rapariga no Comboio” mas no Brasil ningu√©m diz “comboio”, mesmo que a palavra exista, antes dizem “trem”. E rapariga existe tamb√©m mas no Brasil, √© uma palavra feia. Portanto o livro foi intitulado “A Garota No Trem”

Grammar /Gram√°tica

There are only a couple of differences in the actual grammatical structure, so far as I’m aware, but feel free to shout out any others in the comments. Firstly, in Brazilian Portuguese, the object pronoun basically always comes before the noun, so it’s more consistent. So “I bought it” = “o comprei” in Brazil and “I didn’t buy it” is “n√£o o comprei”, whereas in Portugal it would vary according to context: “comprei-o in most cases, but it flips in negative sentences (“n√£o o comprei”) or a few other contexts (more detail here if this is not familiar).

The other big one is the use of the gerund. Again, I’m afraid this is another area where Brazilian is probably easier than European Portuguese, at least for English speakers. In European Portuguese if you want to say “I’m talking” you say “estou a falar”, which is fine, but falar is an infinitive so if you translate it literally you get “I am to speak”. Brazilians just say “estou falando”. Falando is a gerund, so it is really equivalent to “talking”, in English, so in short, it’s much more like English grammar.

Tanto quanto sei, há apenas duas diferenças de gramática. O primeiro tem a ver com a próclise e a ênclise. A próclise aplicar-se quase sempre em português brasileiro Рou seja, o complemento vem sempre antes do verbo (O comprei /Não o comprei) . Em Portugal, por outro lado, a posição depende do contexto (Comprei-o /Não o comprei)

A segunda diferen√ßa √© o uso do ger√ļndio em tempos verbais do presente cont√≠nuo. Este √© mais um exemplo dum aspecto da l√≠ngua no qual o portugu√™s brasileiro √© mais f√°cil (para n√≥s angl√≥fonos) do que o europeu. O brasileiro “estou falando” soa mais parecido com o ingl√™s “I’m talking” ao contr√°rio ao portugu√™s europeu, no qual se usa o infinitivo, tipo “estou a falar” que soa estranho aos nossos ouvidos.

Spelling / Ortografia

And so finally we reach spelling. Well, that’s easy, the AO has sorted it all, right? Sadly, no, there are still a few spelling variations around. Brazilians seem to like circumflexes (^) more than the Portuguese do but there are far fewer than there once were.

Finalmente chegamos à ortografia. Foi tudo resolvido pelo AO, certo? Infelizmente não, porque ainda existem várias diferenças de ortografia. Acho que os brasileiros gostam mais do acento circunflexo, mas, hoje em dia, não há assim tantas diferenças entre os dois dialectos.

Posted in English

Buarque Life

Cover of the album "construção" by Chico Buarque
Cover of the album “Constru√ß√£o” by Chico Buarque

Continuing to fanboy about this song. Here’s a translation, highlighting the “Proparox√≠tono” words.

I’ve borrowed pretty heavily from some of the many versions on Lyricstranslate. They’re all by brazilians, I think, and they’ve done a great job, so I’ve cleaned up the english and made a few other changes but generally assumed they know more than I do about the point of the song. I found “fl√°cido” really difficult to translate. It obviously means “flaccid” but that word just sounds so wrong in a song. I’ve gone for “sagging” since it fits in both the lines it’s used in. I think that’s the best I can do but this is the sort of thing that makes you realise how hard the job of the translator is.

A couple of interesting things to add:

Firstly, I didn’t notice when I heard it but the first two lines end in the same word. That’s a bit of a cheat, Chico, come on! It’s the only example of that though.

Secondly, he keeps the rest of the line unchanged almost all the time but there are a few other small changes, which I’ve highlighted in orange. The fact that portuguese doesn’t use many subject pronouns helps in this regard. In the first line, “fosse” goes from “it was” to “he was” with no need for other changes. You just get it from the context, because “√ļnica” changes gender, meaning it is now referring to the man, not to the (a) vez.

Amou daquela vez como se fosse a √ļltima
Beijou sua mulher como se fosse a √ļltima
E cada filho seu como se fosse o √ļnico
E atravessou a rua com seu passo tímido
Subiu a construção como se fosse máquina
Ergueu no patamar quatro paredes sólidas
Tijolo com tijolo num desenho m√°gico
Seus olhos embotados de cimento e l√°grima
Sentou pra descansar como se fosse s√°bado
Comeu feijão com arroz como se fosse um príncipe
Bebeu e soluçou como se fosse um náufrago
Dan√ßou e gargalhou como se ouvisse m√ļsica
E tropeçou no céu como se fosse um bêbado
E flutuou no ar como se fosse um p√°ssaro
E se acabou no ch√£o feito um pacote fl√°cido
Agonizou no meio do passeio p√ļblico
Morreu na contram√£o atrapalhando o tr√°fego
He made love that time like it was the last time
He kissed his wife like she was the last woman
And kissed each child like they were the only one
And he crossed the street with his timid steps
He climbed the construction like he was a machine
He built up four solid walls at the next level
Brick after brick in a magical design
His eyes were crusted with cement and tears
He sat down to rest like it was Saturday
He ate rice and beans like he was a prince
He drank and sobbed like he’d been shipwrecked
He danced and laughed like he was listening to music
He tripped on the sky like he was a drunk
And he floated on the air like he was a bird
And he ended up on the ground like a sagging package
He agonized in the middle of the public pavement
He died on the wrong side of the road disrupting the traffic
Amou daquela vez como se fosse o √ļltimo
Beijou sua mulher como se fosse a √ļnica
E cada filho seu como se fosse o pródigo
E atravessou a rua com seu passo bêbado
Subiu na construção como se fosse sólido
Ergueu no patamar quatro paredes m√°gicas
Tijolo com tijolo num desenho lógico
Seus olhos embotados de cimento e tr√°fego
Sentou pra descansar como se fosse um príncipe
Comeu feij√£o com arroz como se fosse o m√°ximo
Bebeu e soluçou como se fosse máquina
Dançou e gargalhou como se fosse o próximo
E trope√ßou no c√©u como se ouvisse m√ļsica
E flutuou no ar como se fosse s√°bado
E se acabou no chão feito um pacote tímido
Agonizou no meio do passeio n√°ufrago
Morreu na contram√£o atrapalhando o p√ļblico
He made love that time like he was the greatest
He kissed his wife like she was the only one
And kissed each child like they were the prodigal son
And he crossed the street with his drunk steps
He climb the construction like it was a solid
He built up four magic walls at the next level
Brick after brick in logical design
His eyes were crusted with cement and traffic
He sat down to rest like he was a prince
He ate rice and beans like it was the greatest meal
He drank and sobbed like he was a machine
He danced and laughed like he was the next one
He tripped on the sky like he was listening to music
And he floated on the air like it was Saturday
And he ended up on the ground like a timid package
He agonized on the middle of the shipwrecked pavement
He died on the wrong side of the road distrupting the people
Amou daquela vez como se fosse m√°quina
Beijou sua mulher como se fosse lógico
Ergueu no patamar quatro paredes fl√°cidas
Sentou pra descansar como se fosse um p√°ssaro
E flutuou no ar como se fosse um príncipe
E se acabou no chão feito um pacote bêbado
Morreu na contram√£o atrapalhando o s√°bado
He made love that time like he was a machine
He kissed his wife like it was logical
He built up four sagging walls at the next level
He sat down to rest like he was a bird
And he floated on the air like he was a prince
And he ended up on the ground like a drunken package
He died on the wrong side of the road disrupting Saturday
Construção РChico Buarque

The song was written in the seventies, during the dictatorship when Buarque was living in exile. There are a lot of theories about exactly wht he’s trying to do, but he hasn’t really spelled it out, preferring to let people speculate. There’s a definite shift between the three stages: the first one seems quite factual, the second sort of carefree, the third nightmarish. The social criticism is about the fact that, at the time, a lot of people were moving to the cities in search of a better life but finding that living conditions and working conditions were pretty terrible.