When I first met Gustavo, it was via Skype. My coworker and I were talking with him, confirming some plans for our upcoming trip to Brazil. Invariably, at some point, he typed something I’d never seen before:
I’m sure we commented on it with each other. I definitely Googled it. (My coworker, a Spanish speaker, and I were both familiar with the Spanish jajaja, but what the hell does huehuehue mean?) Eventually, it became a running joke. I couldn’t not pronounce huehuehue phonetically and the ridiculousness of the sound never ceased to make me giggle, even now.
This was my introduction to the vast universe of written Brazilian slang.
After huehuehue came kkkkk which, for an American, seems a little disturbing at first. After all, we most often write in hahaha in threes, if you see where I’m going with this. Out of context, I thought maybe Brazilians were really into their own variation of saying kayyyyyyy, but it seemed like a pretty apathetic response for the context in which I kept seeing it. Turns out, kkkkk is supposed to be pronounced phonetically after all. Kah-kah-kah-kah does, indeed, sound a little bit like a laugh.
In addition to huehuehue and kkkkk, there’s also huahuahua and rsrsrsrs all of which are different ways to simply write lol or hahaha. Now, at first that may seem like an excessive amount of ways to laugh online, but considering the importance of the zoeira — which means joke, but it has a little more cultural significance in the sense that joking and teasing one another plays a huge role in social life in Brazil — the variety starts to make sense.
FDS always throws me off since I expect the f to mean foder, which, among friends, is most commonly used in the context of fuck off. (Also, if you’re wondering, many Cariocas seem obsessed with asking me if I’m taken aback by the amount they curse here. I am not. I’m from New Jersey, after all.)
When I see FDS, my mind immediately goes to an insult, but it’s actually much more PG and stands for fim de semana, a.k.a. the weekend. Qual é de a boa esse fds? is a super common way to check-in with folks in your various WhatsApp groups to find out what good is happening over the weekend. Because most people’s work schedules end much later in the day, and the rest of that time is considered family time, it’s much, much more common for people to get together on the weekend rather than during the week.
Bjs is possibly one of the most confusing slang terms for Americans. Despite it having an X-rated meaning for us, everyone and their mother (literally) uses it here. Bjs is short for beijos, or kisses. And everyone sends kisses. Everyone? Yes, everyone. Friends, nieces and nephews, doctors, coaches, teachers, parents, cousins, Uber drivers, and so on send beijos. So if you’re chatting with anyone in Portuguese, get used to it. (And get used to the kissy face emoji, too. I don’t think I ever used it until I got here. 😘 )
A few more? Blz is beleza, which in Rio usually means something along the lines of cool or all good. Vcs and vc is short fore vocês (you plural) and você (you singular) respectively. Tb is not a disease, but also or também. And for some reason I still haven’t deciphered, sometimes people write eh instead of é (it is) just to confuse gringos a little.
I also recently learned PPK which came about because a friend that I follow always shares the abbreviation on Instagram when she sees it somewhere unexpected. Gustavo thought it was hilarious when I asked since I’d been trying to decipher it for weeks and it turned out that all it means is, literally, vagina (pepeka). Ah, the beauty of learning a foreign language 😂