Thursday, 15 January 2009

Tu or Voce?

Ever since I began learning Brazilian Portuguese I've been intrigued by the connotations of the use of the word "voce" ("you" in English) both formally and informally. In Portugal, "voce" is reserved for formal affairs and "tu" (also "you" in English) is used informally. In Brazil the use of "tu" is uncommon. I wonder if Brazil's universal use of the "voce" is indicative of something more significant than a mere linguistic break. The use of the word is most probably the legacy of colonialism - slaves and poor immigrants who became the first generations of Brazilians would have had to have addressed their masters and overseers using "voce". But I wonder if the subsequent univeral use of the term Brazil has some foundation in those famous French words: "liberty, equality, fraternity." Brazil did free itself (somewhat bloodlessly) from Portuguese rule in 1822 and there is no doubt that the Brazilian patriots were heavily influenced by events in France and the United States, both of which had undergone revolution only decades earlier. So next time you use or hear a Brazilian use the simple word "voce", spare a second to appreciate what it represents: a break from the past and an embracement of equality and fraternity in a truly multiracial society.


Laura said...

Liked very much this post, the blog, and your comment in GVO. Thanks.

Craig Dylan - The Abstract Gaucho said...

Thanks, Laura. I have thought about the "voce/tu" distinction for some time now and early the other morning I decided to write a short blog on the issue, stating my opinion!