3 Idioms to Understand the Brazilian Political Crisis

This just might be the year when Brazilians wake up and say enough to corruption and impunity, and after the panama files, this should also spread worldwide.

Whether you are a Brazilian looking to explain our political situation to foreign friends and media, or an English speaker trying to understand it, these are a few useful idioms and their context in the Petrobrás corruption scandal.

1. Engolir o sapo

Engolir o sapo literally translates to “swallow a frog”. However, it is different from the English idiom, which means to do something you don’t want to do. In Portuguese it means to take it in the chin.  For instance, being forced to sit through something unpleasant and not being able to do anything about it.

In the current Brazilian context, it generally means having to pay huge amounts of taxes while not benefiting from the services that should be provided by those taxes and not being able to do anything about it.

Fun fact: Lula’s new nickname is jararaca, which he got after comparing himself to this species of snake in his speech after the March deposition.

Well, jararaca might just be in for some serious frog swallowing for a change…

snake intext both

2. Pagar o pato

One of the most striking images in the protests in Brazil is the huge dead yellow rubber duck. It made an appearance at the Avenida Paulista protests in the third week of March, and then again in Brasilia, along with hundreds of smaller versions.

All part of the #NãoVouPagaroPato campaign against tax raises.

The story behind that duck comes from a Brazilian idiom, which says pagar o pato, literally “to pay for the duck”. It means to pay for something you didn’t benefit from, or didn’t do.

Paying for someone else’s mistakes and politicians’ corruption is something the Brazilian people have had enough of.

Thus, they killed the duck, and shall not pay for it!


3. Acabar em pizza

All in all the biggest fear most Brazilians have right now is not about what will happen to the country if the president Dilma gets impeached or the former president Lula gets arrested, but that it might all “end in pizza”. Acabar em pizza doesn’t only mean that nothing will come of it. It also means that after all is said and done the culprits will remain unpunished, the culture of impunity unblemished and they will all get together to eat pizza and have a nice time laughing at the Brazilian population.

After swallowing frogs for so long, I hope Brazilians will stop paying for the duck, and that it doesn’t end in pizza.




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