By Mark Taylor
October 20th, 2005

When I first arrived in Brazil, other than battling with Portuguese, there was also the battle of trying to understand other colloquialisms that are used to communicate.

One example of this is the commonly used interjection psiu” (pronounced “pseeuu” or something like this). It is primarily used when someone’s trying to catch your attention, although at first I thought they were trying to shoot me with a blowdart or do an impression of a flat tyre.

Another similar sounding interjection is “shiu” (pronounced something like “sheeuu”). Rather than trying to catch your attention this is usually the opposite, and is a lighthearted attempt at basically telling you to “shut up”. In Britain at least there’s a a similar noise “shoo”, mostly for quite literally shooing say an animal away.

Usually used as an exclamation there’s “opa” (pronounced something like “op-ah”). It can be spoken in many situations, for example if you almost trip over, or even if you’re showing happiness as your mug of beer arrives. Of course it might be mistaken for a hiccup.

It’s also interesting to see how onomatopoeic words vary between English and Brazilian Portuguese. For example birds don’t go “tweet tweet” or “cheep cheep”, they go “piu-piu” (pronounced something like “peeoo-peeoo”). Piu-Piu is also the character that English speakers will know as Tweety, from the cartoon with Sylvester the cat.

Some more examples of this. A dog doesn’t bark “woof woof”, he goes “au au”. As my wife often reminds me in reference to our dog, he does speak Portuguese after all. Ducks go “qu qu”, a somewhat similar version of “quack quack”. A rooster does a somewhat similarly complex “cocoricó” as opposed to a “cockledoodledoo”. Last but not least, a pig goes “croinh croinh” which again is similar to an “oink oink”.

Can you think of any more interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia to educate us with? If so send an email to

Readers Comments:

When my wife first arrived in the US she would sneeze differently than Americans. When Americans sneeze “Ahhh-Cheww!!!”, but when Brazilians sneeze it sounds like “ha-chinha”!!! something about those “inhus” and “inhas” it always needs to be added!!!

— Eric Czerwinski

Re your article on exclamations and animals sounds- ‘ufa’ means ‘phew’. You didn’t put that one in. Also, “aie”, means “ouch” or’ah!’ (imagination helps with the second meaning!)

— Justin Fredrickson

Apparently, “ups” is used instead of “oops.” My Brazilian girlfriend sent me an email the other day that included the sentence, “ups….and you?” I was thinking of the package delivery company and couldn’t understand what the hell “Brown” had to do with me asking her how she slept. She quickly cleared things up and now I’m a smarter man.

— Bradley

Very interesting article. It’s so fun to learn about the slang in different languages. I especially love learning about onomatopoeias in other languages. I’ve been learning Spanish for about a year and a half now, and I speak it pretty well, so now I’m trying out Portuguese. I think it’s absolutely beautiful. Sometimes I will go into a Portuguese chat room and I’ve seen some really interesting onomatopoeias. For example, when they want to express laughter, they will say one of three things… “rsrsrsrs”, “kkkkkkkkk”, “kskksks”, or (the strangest one) “auhsauhsauhs.” I can understand how the first three could be laughter, but not the last one.

— Daren

Previous articles by Mark Taylor:

Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

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