Awkwardness and “o Estresse”

Como se diz “awkward” em português? 

The other day, I was reading one of my new favorite Brazilian Portuguese blogs (simply called “Portuguese Blog”), and I stumbled upon  this one particular blog post titled “How to Say Awkward in Portuguese.” Well, apparently, you can’t.  Not the way that you can in English at least.  Wordreference told me that you can say “embaraçoso,” to describe an awkward situation, but that directly translates to “embarrassing.” You can say “incomodado” but that more translates to “uncomfortable.”

Curious about this new revelation, I asked one Brazilian I know if there was a word for awkward.  First he said: “estranho” or “esquisito.”  (Both of those words mean “strange.”)  Then, once he learned the true meaning of “awkward,” he confessed that there really was no word for that in Portuguese.  I think that this speaks volumes about the Brazilian culture.  The word is clearly not a part of their vocabulary because it doesn’t need to be. Brazilians are known for being very social, outgoing and friendly – pretty much the opposite of awkward. So when you think about it, it makes sense.

Meanwhile, Americans love the word “awkward.” They love to talk about it. A perfect example of this is my younger brother. He loves to talk about “awkwardness” so much that he actually created a blog called “Awkwardize” and an accompanying twitter account! He even wants to write a book about it. My brother is actually one of the most social people I know – yet for whatever reason, he loves to talk about awkwardness.  Granted my brother may be on the extreme end of the spectrum, but I think this word is still pretty active in the vocabulary of most anglophones, or at least Americans.  There is even an American TV show now called “Awkward”! What is this anglophone (or perhaps just American) obsession with the word “awkward”? Is awkwardness that present in our daily lives, or do we just love to bring attention to it? Then again, not having a true word for “awkward” makes it difficult to explain moments like this:

“Embaraçoso” or “embarrassing,” just doesn’t cut it…That moment on The Office is simply awkward. At the same time, if we didn’t have a word for it, then we certainly wouldn’t talk about it so much, and instead might focus on the UNawkward moments. That might not be such a bad thing…


One Brazilian I know recently informed me that there is also no word for “workaholic” in Portuguese.  And Portuguese Blog stated that until recently, there was no word for “stress.”

Now, thanks perhaps to the infiltration of American society, the word “stress”has weaseled its way into the Portuguese vocabulary and found it’s translation in “estresse” (pronounced: es-tres-ay).  Clearly, this word originated from the English language! It seems that in the US, people are always stressed and being stressed is seen as necessary to achieving success.  If you aren’t stressed, then you probably aren’t working hard enough.

In Brazil, people have a different outlook.  As a new addition to the Portuguese vocabulary, stress is clearly an aberration from what is normal for Brazilians. They don’t need a word for “workaholic” simply because they don’t revolve their lives around work! Whereas many Americans “live to work,” Brazilians tend to prefer the philosophy “work to live.” And it’s not that they don’t work hard. They just know how to live…without stress!

It would be impossible to fully eliminate the words “awkward,” “stress,” or even “workaholic” from the English vocabulary; but perhaps we can instead adopt the Brazilian way of thinking. Be social and don’t dwell on awkwardness. If you think it’s there, you could very well be imagining it.  Lastly, be laid-back and don’t stress.  Life’s too short.

Basically, take the Brazilian approach.

Beach bums in Rio


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