Stoplights – Vocabulary

There is a small thread on WR about how to talk about cars and stoplights, although it only deals with a single aspect of it. I’d like to address some other important points because the subject has tripped me up before. Technically, one of the terms (farol) means ‘lighthouse’, but in modern usage, it has come to mean ‘stoplight’ as well.

Stoplight – Farol, Semáforo or Sinal de Trânsito.
Red/Yellow/Green light* – Sinal vermelho/amarelo/verde.

* – To express red or green, keep in mind that you can say ‘sinal fechado‘ (red light) or ‘sinal aberto‘ (green light). In basic terms, it means that the intersection is momentarily open or closed to traffic.

The Motoboys of Brazil

Being a Motoboy is a profession in Brazil that utilizes a motorcycle (generally the smaller kind, between 125 and 250cc’s) to make deliveries of a variety of objects such as pizza, fast-food, documents, payment receipts, etc. Often times, the contents are stored in a box behind the Motoboy (see picture).

This profession is also known as “estafeta” (a type of messenger) in Portugal.

It is seen as a new profession, showing up on the scene only a few decades ago due to the saturation of traffic jams in the bigger cites and the need to deliver things quickly and cheaply. However, sometimes longer trips are demanded in exchange for bigger pay-offs.

Motoboys are also the subjects of a high number of accidents due to the very congestion on the roads that make them succeed in addition to the exposure of low levels of safety. If you have ever been to São Paulo, the city, you have no choice but to feel a bit claustrophobic when they surround your car at a stoplight, sometimes numbering in the 30’s.

I’ve heard tales of caution from my Brazilian friends, some warning that if not enough space is given for the safe passage of a motoboy, you may lose your side-view mirror “accidently”.

Motoboys also have developed their own jargon – here are some examples:

  • Cachorro louco (crazy dog): feared motoboy that rides daringly through traffic and becomes a danger to himself and other motoboys.
  • Comprar chão ou comprar terreno (to buy ground or to buy land): to fall off the bike.
  • Sem terra (without land): someone that never had to ‘comprar chão’.
  • Corredor (hallway): the space between the cars through which the motoboys pass.

Links: Driving in the City: Motoboys