Do you play Sinuka? or Pingie-Pongie? – Brazilians say the funniest things

I remember walking downtown with Fernanda and seeing a sign saying “SINUKA BAR”. When I asked her what this meant, she was surprised that I didn’t know

Signs like this one are very common. People don’t really care a lot about the correct spelling of what they put out on the street… “Bancon” should be “Bacon” and “Ergues” should be “Eggs” the correct spelling of “mixed” is “misto”

What people were saying sounded nothing like the online course, where you hear the native speakers talk slowly and with a lot of articulation. Now I was thrown into the deep end and I felt I was drowning in the ocean of words and sounds around me…When I arrived in brazil in january 2009, one of the first on my to-do list was to start learning Portuguese. I had taken some online lessons, but of course that was nowhere near enough, so my first three months in Brazil were seriously frustrating, because I couldn’t understand almost anything.

After a while I started to understand a few basic things here and there, and I started noticing that it was kind of funny the way some foreign (mostly English)  words are pronounced by the Brazilian people. 

For example, it is very hard for most people here to pronounce a word with a closed end. Like the word “DOG”. Usually, it would sound more like “Doggie”… The word “HOT” would sound something like “Chotchie”. An “H” at the beginning of a word is not pronounced, and if it is, it sounds more like a soft “ch”. If you’re wondering why the “h” isn’t pronounced as “h”, well it’s because an “R” at the beginning of a word is pronounced as “H”… “Rio de Janeiro” sounds like “Hio d’Janeiro”.

Sayber Café – Cyber café… you figured that one out, right? Sometimes it is not so difficult.

It does become kind of confusing (and inconsistent) when you have words that actually HAVE a “ie” at the end. You would think these words would be pronounced correctly but noooo… Walkie-Talkie becomes “Wok-Tok”… Whisky becomes “Whisk”

Then there are the words that I would call “Brazilianized”. I remember walking downtown with Fernanda and seeing a sign saying “SINUKA BAR”. When I asked her what this meant, she was surprised that I didn’t know. It’s sinuka, she said… don’t you know sinuka?

Honestly, I was thinking that it was some kind of japanese food, but then she said that it was that game you play on a big heavy green table with colored balls and a stick, and then I knew. It was SNOOKER.

Which leads to that other linguistic hurdle for Portuguese speaking people: Words beginning with “sn”. There are no Portuguese words beginning with “sn”, only foreign ones. The way they pronounce it is like “sin”… the “oo” sound in portuguese is spelled as “u”, and the “ker” at the end becomes “ka”

The funniest example of how a word can get deformed, I heard in a chocolate boutique near Itacaré in Bahia. The lady at the counter, after learning that I was Belgian, proudly told me that they were using the famous Belgian “Callebaut” chocolate to make their bonbons, just that it took me a while before I knew which chocolate she was referring to, because it sounded like “Callibutchie”.

Gelo Gelado – Cold Ice (maybe they have warm ice too?)

Finally, if you walk into a snack bar (Lanchonete) you will notice that the name of some items on the menu begin with “X”… X-bacon, X-egg… Conveniently, the letter “X” is pronounced as “shees” (close enough to cheese, right? :)) so the snack bar industry can save some space on the menu by just putting “X” instead of “cheese”.

So here are my favourites:

  1. Snooker ==> Sinuka
  2. Hot-dog ==> Hotchie-Doggie
  3. Ping pong ==> Pingie-Pongie
  4. King kong ==> Kingie-Kongie
  5. Big bang ==> Biggie-bengie
  6. Bang-Bang (cowboy movie) ==> Bengie-Bengie (I guess you were able to figure this one out)
  7. Walkie-talkie ==> Wok-Tok. (when the “ie” is there, they don’t pronounce it)
  8. Whiskey ==> Whisk
  9. Hardware ==> arduaire (I know, but if you hear somebody actually say it, it makes more sense.)
  10. Callebaut (Belgian chocolate brand) ==> Callibutchie
  11. Ford ==> Fordgie
  12. Fiat (the car brand) ==> Fiatchie

Now that I think about it… I need to have somebody say “boogie-woogie”… I think that could end up being number 13

I’m sure these are just the tip of the iceberg… Feel free to comment with more examples.

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About Raf Kiss

Belgian Expat in Brazil since January 2009. Motorcycle and outdoors enthusiast, tour guide, adventure seeker, musician and newbie blogger... Dropped out of school at age 17, had jobs in a saw mill, a car body shop and a few restaurant kitchens, meanwhile studying at night for an accountancy degree, which landed me a job in the Venture Capital industry, administrating venture capital funds... Moved to Brazil to start a new life and explore the biggest country in South America. I love riding bikes, both motor- and mountain bike, swimming, motocross, hiking, trekking, Kayaking, rappel and rock climbing... I also play guitar and harmonica and enjoy reading a book once in a while. I'm also 95% Vegan, don't smoke and not a fan of alcohol, which makes me a lousy Brazilian, but will keep me healthy for a few more years. I hope that through reading my posts, people will be inspired to visit Brazil and discover this magnificent country.