TIME: -- Brazil's Bad Words -- May. 16, 2005

The administration of Brazilian President ..Lula .. would prefer his fellow citizens to describe him as a vertically challenged, well-nourished supporter of liberal causes--and not as a short, fat communist.

In an 87-page document drawn up by the Special Ministry for Human Rights and distributed to members of Congress, police chiefs, newspaper editors and other opinion leaders, the Lula administration lists 96 terms it wants to hear less of. Many are obvious: Don't call the physically handicapped cripples or the mentally handicapped mongoloids, and when describing Afro-Brazilians, steer clear of the Portuguese equivalent of the N word. But the list, whose heading includes the phrase politically correct, goes on to advise against using drunks, because even alcoholics deserve respect; Africans, because the term diminishes individual nationalities; old people, because elderly doesn't carry as much stigma; and street children, because many of those young people have homes. The list also urges Brazilians to stop calling foreigners gringos, radical politicians Shi'ites, and communists, well, communists.

Not surprisingly, that etiquette lesson has inspired some high-level heckling. Best-selling author Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro wrote an apoplectic critique that caused such a furor last week that the government agreed to review its list. Ribeiro called the wonk who wrote the document "arrogant, cretinous and incompetent" but stopped short of calling the author a clown. (Had he done so, the government's vocabulary primer explains, "the professional who makes a living from making other people laugh might get offended.")..

TIME Magazine Archive Article -- Brazil's Bad Words -- May. 16, 2005


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