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The Brazilian Issue

Hand Jobs

We called our pal in São Paulo and had her round up her cute friends to pantomime some of the most useful undercover Brazilian hand gestures—and explain the finer points of interpersonal Brazilian communication.

by MARIANA METRI, FERNANDA NEGRINI
May 2 2009, 12:00am
Art Direction and Explanations By Mariana Metri, As Told To Sarah Steinberg
Photos By Fernanda Negrini


Recently, Brazil was heralded by the internet as having the world’s most enviable form of codified body-language-speak. We wanted in on the secret, so we called our pal Mariana in São Paulo and had her round up
a bunch of her cute friends to pantomime some of the most useful undercover Brazilian hand gestures—and in the process explain the finer points of interpersonal Brazilian communication. Pay close attention:
You may need some of this stuff one day.



Você é idiota?
(“Are you an idiot?”)

Putting your fist to your forehead and making an overbite face signifies that you think the person on the receiving end is an idiot. You should make some sort of arrr sound when you do it. If you’re concerned about looking like an idiot yourself, don’t be: The issuer is exempt because it’s hilarious.   Fudeu!
(“Screw you” or “Screw me”)

Yes, this awesomely goes both ways! It comes in handy when you have no idea who screwed who, but you’re pretty sure that there was some screwing going on and that you were involved.   Vai um cafezinho?
(“Want to go for a coffee?”)

This tricky little hand pose can mean one of three things: Let’s have a coffee, let’s smoke weed, or let’s fly a kite. All good things. The gesture can also say something abstract, like, “Hey, why don’t we put off for tomorrow what we could easily do today?” It’s practically a Brazilian pastime.          

Saco cheio (“Full sack”)
If your balls are full, you’re going to want to tell people. Why are they full? Because you’re annoyed. What better way to tell people that your balls are full than to gesture “Hey, look, man, my balls are seriously full. So either stop annoying me or put that trumpet down and give me a hand”?   Banana (“Banana”)
You know this one, I bet! According to our sources, the most commonplace American misconception of Brazilians is that they swing from trees, pick fleas out of one another’s hair, and group-masturbate. Only the last one is a documented truth. This gesture means “banana,” and Brazilians use it to say “Fuck off.”   Dor de cotovelo
(“Pain of the elbow”)

Señoritas and gay men, this refers to emotional elbow pain. As in, you’ve been crying at the bar with your big sad head in your hands for so long and it’s so heavy that now your elbows hurt.          

Sujou! (“Now it’s gone dirty” or “Now I’m fucked”)
To North Americans, this might look like a “get-a-load-a this guy” thing, but this pantomime actually represents digging your nails deep into your skin. Your man down there is indicating that he’s just been caught doing something really bad. Really bad. Like just-kicked-a-baby bad.   Tá de boa (“All is good”)
Sticking your thumbs into your armpits and wiggling your fingers is a universal way of communicating that someone’s living the good life. It’s the sort of thing you do when you’re mocking someone, except you usually do it because you’re jealous.   Que delícia!
(“That’s delicious!”)

Tugging on your earlobes signals that something is delicious. The gesture dates back to an ancient period in Brazilian history when everyone was a cannibal and fleshy earlobes were considered delicacies of the highest order. Just kidding, there’s no known reason for this one.          

Intimidade
(“Intimacy” or “closeness”)

This gesture comes from the saying “nail and finger,” which in Brazil means “glued together.” Rubbing your index fingers together says that you’re close with someone. It’s the kind of thing you only ever see the bitch on your favorite telenovela do.   Papo furado
(“He’s talking shit”)

This is how you secretly tell all your friends that the person you’re talking to is full of shit. If the person catches you doing it, you will get punched in the face.   Vai tomar no cu (“Asshole”
or “Go fuck your ass up”)

Nothing to worry about with this one. Do it to everyone as soon as you arrive in Brazil. Hook that pointer in your favorite thumb and try it on your customs agent. Or a cop, even. They’ll love it.          
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