As in many other countries around the world, Whatsapp is hugely popular in Brazil. It’s my primary mode of communication here, and I don’t think I’m alone—phone companies advertise plans with free unlimited Whatsapp use, and I’ve never had anyone call or text me outside the app.
As a result, I’ve seen how a lot of people use a lot of different words, abbreviations, and slang over text. And, well, some of these abbreviations have vastly different meanings in the US, which leads to some pretty amusing texts. Here are three of the most common offenses:
stds = students
This is one I get when some of my students/professors try to write in English. I’ve seen lessons about internet slang in textbooks here, but I have no clue where this particular abbreviation came from. That being said, it does create some easy opportunities to joke about students being a pain in the rear.
bjs = beijos (kisses)
This is just one you learn by context clues when your host mom sends it to you… and your program coordinator… and your professors… and your students…
kkk = lol
Despite the fact the KKK refers to a white-supremacist terrorist group in the US, I actually find this abbreviation quite charming. It’s supposed to represent the sound of laughter, with a variable number of Ks depending on how long you want to laugh for. I just like it because every time I read it, I imagine the sender is laughing like Ernie from Sesame Street.
Other laugh sounds include rsrsrsrs (which some of my students told me stems from risos, meaning “laughs,” but which I think makes more sense when you consider that Rs are pronounced like Hs here) and shuahsuahsuah, along with a keyboard-mashing asdhfgdkl that I think is supposed to convey that you laughed so hard you had no choice but to smash your head into your keyboard.
Bonus differences that aren’t weird/funny but that I think are cute:
Hum(m) = hm(m)
Ops = oops
All of these abbreviations, however, are far better than the alternative: Whatsapp voice messages. It’s super common to send a brief voice recording in lieu of a text, and it drives me crazy. Brazilian Portuguese speakers: I can only understand you half the time even when we’re speaking face-to-face, and I can’t run your voice recording through Google Translate! English speakers: I don’t want to take time out of my schedule to sit and listen to you “umm” and “uhh” for two minutes, much less find a space to listen to your message so I’m not inconveniencing everyone around me! Just text me like a normal person.
I get that sometimes sending a voice recording is quicker for the sender, and I can see how the feature might be a boon in low-literacy environments. But we’re not in a low-literacy environment, and if I’m going to all the trouble to type something out so you can quickly scan it in any environment, you should do the same for me, darn it.
Go back to stds and kkk and bjs, please.