Some words and phrases are universal. I believe that these globally recognized and used words represent the culture and customs of the country of their origin.

Of course, France owns “buffet” and “hors d’oeuvres” and “café.” And no one’s been able to come up with a better term for three people getting it on than “ménage à trios.” Food and sex are certainly representative of France.


Italians own “pizza/pizzeria.” And they own “gelato.” Yum. Next stop Italy.


The spanish own “guerrilla” thanks to their dense history of wars.

The Japanese own “sushi” and “futon,” for obvious reasons.

Germans got “gesundheit” and “sex shop.” (Health and sex? Sure, makes sense.)

The British own “king” and “queen” sized beds.

Greeks got “anarchy.”

So what can America claim? I went on a cultural hunt in Brazil and elsewhere to figure out how we’ve made our mark on the world. I’m happy to report that we are the proud owners of “pretty boy.” Yes, during a Brazilian novella, a young character was accusing someone of thinking he was a – and yes the phrase was muttered in English – “pretty boy.” We also own “jeans.” Shopping also originates in the U.S. – though here in Brazil it has raised to such a high importance that it is actually a noun. As in “Let’s go to Shopping Iguatemi.” What does that say about us Americans? I’m thinking cowboys and consumers. (We also own “taxi.”)


So what about Brazil? Nothing so far. However, with the spotlight that will be shone on the country, I guarantee one Brazilian term will rise to the top. “Jeito” (or “jeitinho”) – the ability to get in or out of something despite a law, a regulation, a contract, physics or gravity.  And it will definitely be representative of the culture of Brazil.

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9 Responses to Word!

  1. workmomad says:

    What does “Iguatima” mean, or what kind of a store is it? Just curious! Interesting post! There is a good deal of “jeilto” in the states sometimes too.


  2. Sorry. Iguatemi is a mall. Malls are huge in Brazil:

  3. Ana says:

    why do you say taxi is american?? taxi existed before the U.S.!

    About Brazil one could say caipirinha , samba, bossa nova , futebol

    • Hi Ana!
      Harry Nathaniel Allen of The New York Taxicab Company first coined the term “taxi.” While actual taxis might have existed in other country, the word as we know it today began in the U.S.

  4. Ana says:

    what do u mean by “Shopping also originates in the U.S.” ??

    u could say that shopping malls are a big part of the american culture (as it is in brazil) but certainly it wasn’t originated there.


  5. Ana says:

    other possible words: capoeira , bikini wax , favela.

    • Those words are unique to Brazil, but they are not commonly used in other countries. Bikini wax is used, but the phrase did not come from Brazil. Capoeira is a specific type of dance, so there is not another word for it in other countries because other countries don’t have a similar dance. Favela is not commonly used in other countries.
      Thanks for your comments!

  6. Pingback: Update: Word! | born again brazilian

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