1. Tiroteio [chee-ru-TAY-u] (a shootout) — There are unfortunately lots of shootout stories that make news around the world, and the Brazilian press certainly keeps up its end. As soon as I arrived and started scanning the newspapers here, tiroteio stared me in the face over and over, and it was a mystery to me. It was a romance language word I couldn't hang my hat on. Where were the roots of the French fusillade, or coups de feu? Well, off I went to the dictionaries, and tiroteio has stuck in my head ever since as one of my very first words. Anyway, I at least had a leg up as I began reading Brazilian police thrillers.
|Mr. M. himself|
3. Gambiarra [gam-bee-YAH-ha] (jury rig) — If you have really good jeitinho, you can always improvise a successful gambiarra. We thank our very first caseiro for this word. "What are we going to do?" we asked him, staring at the water gushing from a leak, certain that he didn't have the experience or the technical know-how needed. "No problem, I'll do a gambiarra," he said. A what? Well, he had the problem fixed in the time it took us to look the word up in the dictionary. Although a gambiarra originally referred to the mess of theater lights of different sizes and colors above a stage, it has come to mean any kind of creative jury rigging. Every so often even I can do a good gambiarra — at least until we can get a professional in.
|The original gambiarra|
|The new gambiarra|
4. Saideira [sigh-DAY-rah] (one for the road) — Here's a great, economical word that really delivers in one delicious mouthful the meaning of four words in English (or five, if you want one more for the road). As soon as I learned it, I embraced it and repeated it often (perhaps too often?). But I never hear it or use it now without seeing this version of Frank Sinatra singing One For My Baby.
5. Bagunça [bah-GOON-sah] (a mess) — I heard this word over and over before I had any idea what it meant. Everything seemed to be called a bagunça: a child's bedroom, store displays, urban signage, the political scene or even a bad Botox job. It all fell into place when I realized it was our "what a mess!" I now use it whenever I can, particularly if I need to end a conversation. Once you proclaim something is a bagunça, there's nothing more to say.