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After All, Who is Fulano?

Updated: Jun 4

Anyone who is learning Brazilian Portuguese and practices the language by talking to Brazilians or has watched films and series has probably heard the name “Fulano”. Usually this name appears in the middle of a story someone is telling. And the Portuguese student probably wonders: But who is this guy?

Do not fool yourself! Fulano is not a real name, it is a nickname, a codename used to refer to an undetermined person, or to refer to someone whose name for some specific reason we do not want or cannot reveal. For example: “Ele faz muita fofoca no trabalho, fala mal de Fulano e depois conversa com ele amigavelmente”, “Eu estava na rua e vi um Fulano correndo da polícia”

In many countries, fictitious names are used to refer to unknown people. For example in the United States they usually say: “Jonh Doe”, in France they use “Madame Unetelle” and in Germany “Max and Erika Mustermann”. In Brazilian Portuguese it can be accompanied by two other names, also fictitious, which are Beltrano and Sicrano, always in this sequence. For example: “Todos estavam na reunião: Fulano, Beltrano and Sicrano.”

Dictionaries say that the name Fulano comes from Arabic (Fulân) and in that language it had the meaning of such (demonstrative pronoun). The origin of the name Sicrano is not certain, some say that it comes from Arabic and they got drunk, others say that it comes from the Spanish language and that they had a call like “ei”, “psiu” or “hey you” from English. And Beltrano comes from French and was a masculine name, Beltran.

In Brazilian Portuguese, Fulano has variations such as Fulano de Tal, Fulaninho and Fulaninho de tal. These last two are generally used with a derogatory meaning. For example: “Aquele Fulaninho da casa da frente sempre deixa as fezes do cachorro dele na minha calçada”.  In general, these variations are used in informational contexts. But Fulano can also appear in formal contexts such as documents, used to represent a person whose real name is not known or is not relevant to the document in question. The important thing now is that you can now recognize the name Fulano when you hear it in a conversation and not get lost thinking you don't know the character in the story, because Fulano, Beltrano and Sicrano could be anyone!

Professora Núbia

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