Posted in English


The concept of a Jobsworth just came up in a conversation I was having in english/portuguese. I guess more British people, especially older brits, will know the word but for the benefit of anyone else, it’s basically an annoying petty official who acts as an obstacle due to excessive adherence to pointless rules. It was a very common trope in the 70s and 80s.

Anyway, while I was looking it up, I noticed some images showing portuguese definitions of similar concepts:

Síndrome de porteiro definição

It sounds like it’s basically identical, according to this description, but if you search for “Síndrome de Porteiro” on twitter you see a slightly different trend in how it’s used day-to-day. It seems like the most common usags is when someone will only say bom dia, boa tarde or boa noite and won’t participate in any further smalltalk. OK, i can see that. And of course I can see there are a few populist types accusing journalists of having the syndrome if they dare to report something that contradicts their worldview. It’s definitely the same kind of idea but i think it has a slightly different tone.

I also saw a few people using “Síndrome de Porteiro de Wakanda”. It’s not totally clear what they mean by this. I looked at lots of examples but couldn’t quite work out what they were driving at. In one case it was about a Moroccan being described as white by a black woman, in another about white people arguing over Kamala Harris’s ethnic status and in others complaining about light skinned Latinos. So… Something to do with exaggerating or being very particular about someone’s ethnicity??? The nuance here is pretty hard to parse, especially since there’s obviously a lot of sarcasm in play. I don’t think it’s an expression I’m ever going to need to use though so maybe it doesn’t matter, but I like to think about these things in the hope of getting a sense of how phrases are used in the real world.

Incidentally, m’wife says Síndrome should be written as Sindroma but that seems to be out of date information because they both exist and the first spelling seems to be favoured by priberam. I don’t see any evidence that the AO is in play so it might just have changed over time due to shifting fashions.