A Great Selection of Nicknames
Reading some of our WCB comments (read El Pelado’s) it became clear that some people do not understand why Brazil has some funny nicknames. Some people even suggested it was purely for marketing purposes. I’ll explain a little about the truth behind our crazy names.
It is a big contrast when you put some world class player’s names from Brazil and the rest of the world side by side. David Beckham vs. Ronaldinho, Armando Diego Maradona vs. Pele, Zinedine Zidane vs. Didi, Michael Ballack vs. Tostao, Joseph Antony Didulica vs. Garrincha, Ulises De la Cruz vs. Kaka, Francileudo dos Santos vs. Zico… the list is huge, but get this: Even the big names get smaller versions, right? People use only their last names most of the time. Salvatori Schillaci had a cool nickname too, remember? Probably for the same reasons as we have them.
Brazil is a very warm country, with very warm people. We don’t use our last names often. Even in corporate busyness (I worked for Gillette here) people don’t say Mr. Didulica, we would call our boss Mr. Joseph. This kind of formality doesn’t work here. We make jokes about the American habit of not kissing or even touching a girl when your close friend introduces you to her. We like to hug each other, show our feelings and demonstrate that we really exist. I’m here! You can count on me! A friend of a friend is my friend! We have beautiful cities and wonderful sights to be seen, but every time you ask a tourist about what he liked the most about Brazil the common answer is “the people”.
And that is how we call our friends. The diminutive version of ones name is a way to show you care about that person. The augmentative version too. Guys in my band, for an example, the percussionist (Luiz Andre) we call Bibo, the drummer (Carlos Sales) we call Carlão, the solo guitarist (Paulo Afonso) we call Paulinho. Bibo is completely his little sister’s influence (as Kaka), while Carlão (ão=big) and Paulinho (inho=little) are friendly modifications.
But why the names on our player’s shirts have their nicknames, not their real names? Does it have anything to do with marketing? Hilarious theory!!! In 1958 there were no marketing issues going on like we have today. Didi (Valdir Pereira) was one of Brazil’s main players and every radio voice were using his nickname, since nobody would know who Valdir was. Same thing with Garrincha (songbird) when he won the 58 and 62 World Cups. Who the hell is Manuel Francisco dos Santos???? Nobody knows. Really! Nobody knows!!!
This is a cultural treat of our society. This is a normal form of treatment between people that care for one another. My latest boss… I used to call him Zeefeew (short for “my son”) while his name was Antonio Sales. That’s the kind of treatment we give to people we care about. We respect a man for his talent alone. His background is not important, if he grew rich, middle class or inside our slums, talent and respect are absolutely far more important. And the nicknames are a way to show that too.
I can tell you a little story about this fact. I remember one championship (Olympic, I think) that the players had their real names in their shirts and at all graphic informations on the screen. It was terrible. Who the hell would be Ricardo Leite? Oh, you mean Kaka?
In 1942 Zizinho was a top player for my team here in Rio, Flamengo, and not only had him this nickname, but another version of it too: Master Ziza. His name was Thomaz Soares da Silva. It was 1942!!! All this said: that’s how we are.
Here is a list of great players with interesting nicknames and their profiles (with the real names):
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