Publicity contributes to the things Brazilians talk about. In this article we will explain the different usages of three brands’ slogans and expressions - Bombril, Brastemp and NET.
Once going to Brazil, foreigners may hear different expressions that probably won’t be found in dictionaries because Brazilians appropriate expressions and incorporate them in the everyday vocabulary.
The Publicity Contribution
The way Brazilians talk, in terms of expressions, is influenced by publicity materials. Some advertisements are so catchy that people keep using them, singing their songs and adapting their slogans in the most varied situations of everyday life.
The biggest example of how a word or expression can be used in different ways due to publicity is Bombril, and Brastemp and NET are brands whose slogans started to be used to talk about general things, rather than only about the product they represent.
Founded in 1948, Bombril is a big Brazilian company of cleaning products, responsible for launching the steel wool, which became a huge success as a product to polish panels. Which is why, since that time, steel wools are known simply as Bombril, even when they are from other brands.
The advertisement for Bombril’s steel wool said that the product was useful not only for polishing panels. In fact, as time went by and Bombril’s steel wool started to be used, it became clear that the the steel wool could remove traces of rust, or that it helped tune TV channels - back then most TVs had antennas -, or that it could also be used to clean ovens or to sharpen scissors…a lot of utilities in only one product.
“He is like Bombril!”
And that’s why it’s also possible to say that people are like Bombril: due to their multiple skills or the varied things that they can do. This new usage didn't only come from the product itself though, it also came from its slogan. In the following video it's possible to see Bombril's advertisement character, or “Bombril's Boy”, talking about the “1001 utilities of Bombril”, which is the slogan of the brand.
This ad was released in 1978 and its slogan was so catchy that it was used for more than 30 years. Bombril's Boy, Carlos Moreno, was the advertising character from 1978 to 2004 and from 2007 to 2012, reaching over 330 ads. His phrase became so popular that people started using it as an adjective for a person who has a lot of abilities or skills, or someone that can do a lot of different things – or has 1001 utilities, just like Bombril.
The Bad Usage of Bombril as a Word
Another use for the word Bombril is a prejudiced concept about black people’s hair. It’s a stereotype associated with the steel wool itself and the history of black women being maids, besides being a way of disqualifying the beauty of black people's hairs. It became a very polemic subject in the past few years for being considered an allusion to racism.
In the São Paulo Fashion Week 2014 Summer collections, for instance, one of the stylists decided that all of the models parading on the catwalk showing his collection would use steel wool hairpieces. There were many more comments that disapproved of this act than those that approved it, and the subject was discussed in the social networks as being a racist conduct. After the repercussion, the situation was so controversial that the stylist had to give further explanations, claiming that the aim of the parade was to criticize racism, and not to encourage it.
Brastemp is, originally, a brand from Whirlpool Corporation that produces kitchen appliances and other home appliances, such as washing machines. However, a 1992 advertisement changed the meaning of the word when placed in different contexts. If Brazilians say that something is “not like a Brastemp” (in Portuguese, “não é assim uma Brastemp”) then the quality of that thing is not really high. The following video shows the character of the husband talking about the oven that he bought for his wife: it is not like a Brastemp - meaning it is not really good -, but it’s not that bad.
This expression can be used for other things rather than home appliances - which are the products that carry Brastemp’s name - such as cars, computers and even people.
NET is a telecommunications company, the largest cable television operator in Latin America, which also operates internet services and telephones. It launched an ad where two people talked about the new internet service that one of them had recently acquired. Since the service was not really good - as in Brastemp’s example -, the buyer claimed that it was “not NET, but like NET” (in Portuguese, “não é NET, mas é tipo NET”), almost as if it were a fake version of what the ad claims to be the best internet service: NET’s.
As in the other two examples, the slogan’s expression can be used in other contexts, to talk about other things rather than TV, telephone and internet services. And it’s also possible to say that about people.