Say it in Portuguese: “chinchada” and “chulé”

Both words on this week’s post are deeply connected to summer although neither of them is exclusive to the warmer months of the year. Today it’s all about grey areas of morality and getting dirty and smelly. What a great way to start the week!

As mentioned before please remember that these words are used only in informal situations. Beware however, because some may have different meanings in different parts of the country and, particularly in cities, some words may have an added meaning stemming from their use in Brazilian Portuguese.


feminine noun (a chinchada)

chin.cha.da – ʃĩˈʃadɐ

The fine art of subtracting fruit and/or vegetables from someone else’s garden or field.

Let’s say you live in an apartment and have a terrace. Now imagine one of your neighbours, from the building next to yours, also has a terrace and he just so happens to have a big fig tree – so big that you can effortlessly pick a couple of sweet delicious figs – everyday! This may or may not have happened to me but it’s a good example of what chinchada can be. Summer, with its abundance of produce, is the best time of the year for this century old activity.

Mind you, I have a vast experience of practicing chinchada which began when I was a kid and went on road trips with my family. Stopping every now and then next to a field with big juicy grapes, for example, was a mandatory experience. When you practice the fine art of chinchada you’re supposed to take just a bit to satisfy your craving, like an apple or two. The thing is although technically you are stealing, in practical terms (from my experience at least) most people will gladly offer you some fruit and vegetables if you know how to ask.

“Ir à chinchada” literally means “going to the chinchada” and still today it’s also something associated with childhood years. Don’t be surprised if you hear an elderly Portuguese person saying to a friend or family member “Lembras-te de sermos miúdos e irmos à chinchada?” (Remember when we were kids and went chinchada? Translating this sounds terrible!).


masculine noun (o chulé)

chu.lé – ʃuˈlɛ

Summer = sweat = smelly feet = chulé

Obviously used in informal contexts chulé is not the nicest word to hear if it’s applied to you. In the context of Portuguese families (or in any situation where there are babies around) it’s not unlikely, however, to hear this word. Seeing an elderly and otherwise probably severe looking woman putting a baby’s foot to her nose and saying “Deixa ver se cheira a chulé” (“Let me see if it smells like chulé”) followed by a “Blaaargh!” is a show only topped off by the baby laughter that usually comes next.

Like chavalo, chulé is word of caló origin. Caló is a language spoken by Romani people of Portuguese and Spanish origin, which in practical terms means you can find speakers of caló outside of the Iberian Peninsula.


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