How To Speak Portuguese Like A Mineiro
Translated from Mineirês, the cartoon above reads:
M1 – Antes de ontem achei um quilo de carne dentro do forno. Comi tudo. Que azia que deu.
M2 – Nossa senhora. Doido demais.
M1 – Só pinga com mel pra descer do estômago.
M2 – Isso mesmo.
M1 – Olha, pra você ver, guardei um pouco embaixo da cama que é pra eu comer amanhã.
M2 – *Silêncio* Vish, divide aí.
Have you ever heard someone from Minas Gerais speak Portuguese?
The Portuguese spoken in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is quite distinct from the Portuguese spoken in other parts of the country. Mineiros will tell you that there is an entire vocabulary of words that only they know, and the rest of Brazil does not understand. This is true, and I have found that it goes even deeper than that. Having traveled to many small and insulated towns in Minas (places where families for generations have never left), I have heard a cornacopia of new words that may be very common where they originated, but literally do not extend beyond the borders of that town. I have never seen language evolve in such a way as it has in this rural state of Brazil.
Full of idiosyncrasies, the Mineiran ‘dialect,’ or Mineirês can be hard to understand and even painful to listen to for some Brazilians. Indeed many Brazilians think of this way of speaking as very provincial; Mineiros are stereotypically thought of as caipiras (meaning hicks or rednecks).
The journalist and writer Felipe Peixoto Braga Netto has written a fantastic piece about Mineirês, that is well worth a look. A well-detailed summary (and perhaps apology) for the peculiar speech of the Mineiros, Felipe discusses some of its prominent characteristics. Here are some highlights:
- Mineiros hate to use complete words. In Brazil, they say that they “swallow the ends of their words” and this is true. ‘Pode parar’ turns into ‘pó parar.’ ‘Onde eu estou?’ becomes ‘ôndôtô?’ Olha para você ver! becomes Óiprocevê. Mineiros also don’t say ‘você,’ instead they shorten it to just ‘cê.’
- Mineiros don’t say ‘tudo bem?’ instead they say ‘cê tá boa?’ Felipe thinks this is unnecessary since asking a Mineiran if they are happy is like asking a fish if he knows how to swim… ha!
- Mineiros use the verb ‘mexer‘ to mean a lot of things, one of the most common being ‘to work’ instead of ‘trabalhar.’ ‘Cê mexe com isso?‘ means ‘do you do that for work?’
- Also, Mineiros use some grammatically incorrect constructions; this is perhaps one element that sounds harsh to non-Mineiro native speakers. One example is the insertion of ‘de‘ into phrases like ‘preciso sair.’ A Mineiro would say ‘preciso de sair.’ Also instead of ‘apaixonado por,’ a Mineiro would likely say ‘apaixonado com.’
The prevailance of word “Trem”
“trem.” Mineiros use the word “trem” to substitute “coisa,” meaning thing. This word can be used to refer to absolutely anything, anything at all. Sometimes when you are too lazy to search for the word you are thinking of, you can just say “trem” and let other people figure it out. Trem can be shortened to the diminuative ”tremzin” for a thing that is small. “cê lembra daquele trem q a gente viu outro dia?” - “do you remember that thing we saw the other day?”
“Uai” – What does it Mean?
“Uai,” requisite and indispensable to true Mineiro Portuguese. “Uai” means nothing and everything at the same time. Everything depends on the context and the tone. Once you learn how to use “Uai,” why to use “Uai” and when to use it, you will have completed your mission to understand the unique and special quality of Português Mineiro.
- Sometimes “uai” is simply used as a comma would be, an interrogation or a pause (depending on tone).
-It can be used almost like the word “well…” For example: - A que horas sairemos, amanhã? Resposta: depende, uai…” - ”What time are we leaving tomorrow?” “Well, it depends!”
-It can be used to express mild surprise, like a verbal question mark. For example: “Onde está a caneta que deixei aqui?” Resposta: “uai… num tá aí não? Pensei que tava… “ – “Where’s the pen that I left here?” ”Huh?…It’s not there? I thought it was…”
-It can be used sort of as an exclamation: “Uai! cê não vai sair não? Resposta: “Não, uai” “What, you’re not going out?” ”Nope!” (*Observe the example above. Mineiros love to make a double negation by using não twice in the same sentence. To say “i don’t know,” they will say “não sei não” instead of just “não sei.” )
-Uai can be (and is) tacked onto the end of almost any statement, question or word without necessarily serving any purpose, except to reveal that you are from Minas or at least that you learned to speak Portuguese from Mineiros.
So, where does uai come from?
There are three explanations for “uai”. The first says it derives from the 1700′s when the English built the railways in Minas, though the idea that Brits frequently said “why” as a catchphrase just doesn’t add up. The second explanation says that at the time of the Mineiro Uprising, the way to enter a conspirator’s hideout was via three knocks and the word UAI, which meant Union, Love and Independence (União, Amor e Independência). The last and, what I consider to be the most likely, is that “uai” is just a mutation of the common Paulista exclamation, “ué”.
An uncomplicated explanation of the term would simply be, “uai é uai, uai!“ - uai is just uai!
Where does trem come from?
Together with “uai”, the word “trem” (train) is frequently used by people from Minas. The origin is said to be connected, once more, with the era of the construction of the railways in the state. Being that a locomotive train was completely new to most Mineiros, they began to associate them with vehicles that transport their goods. Apparently, the word was used more to speak of the goods and objects the train carried and not solely the railroad cars themselves. In this sense, it is easy to imagine how “trem” came to signify any and every object, despite if it were being transported on a train or not.
To reenforce almost any expression, you can add the meaningless phrase ”da conta” to the end of it. For example:
“Issé bão dimái da conta!” – the shortened version of ”Isso e bom demais da conta” meaning “this is awesome” or “this is really good!”
*Mineiros often pronounce words as if they had an ”i” instead of an “e”. Examples:
|eu e ela||eu i ela|
*Mineiros love to make words diminutive. Examples:
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