the bag of language



The changing quotations of the words “captain”, “doctor”, “doctor”, “philosopher”, “journalist”, “judge”, “president”

Do words have shares in the stock exchange of language? Of course! And prices go up and down depending on investors' disposition, also on the inputs they receive and the collateral advantages they provide. It is clear that there is a multidisciplinarity in this: the price of one can go down here and up there. Therefore, read what follows with the necessary caution. This is the opinion of just one of the many analysts in this market, which is as insecure as the rest of the world's stock exchanges. Don't buy or sell words, or put them in your asset drawer or your archive, based on my opinions alone. See more, read other reviews, and then draw your own conclusions. In this case dealt with here, I deal with words that are oscillating downwards in my concept, although they may eventually yield good dividends and investments offshore, in some other corner of the globe. Let's go to them.


Decidedly, it is a word that falls into the bag. Back in the day, “Captain” had an aura of nobility. I'll give some examples. In the distant times of the Missionary Wars, of the Guaranis against the Portuguese and Spaniards, the leader of the indigenous people was “Capitão Sepé”, corregidor and chief of the Mission of São Miguel. He had so much prestige that after his death in combat, he became a popular saint (São Sepé, name of a municipality in Rio Grande do Sul), a member of the Panteão dos Heróis Nacionals in Brasília, a legendary character in poems (“O lunar de Sepé”), legends, songs, novels, etc.

In the same state would appear, in literature, Captain Rodrigo Cambará, although a careless drunk father of a family, but brave, loyal and courageous as what, surrounded by a libertarian aura. He would later become a film and television star, lending his aura to the prestige of people like Tarcisio Meira and Francisco di Franco.

Also from Rio Grande do Sul, but transformed into a national and international export hero, came Captain Luís Carlos Prestes, the Cavaleiro da Esperança. Such prestige did he have that the historic column was named after him, instead of Miguel Costa, although formally, at least initially, this officer was its commander. The smart girl in Jorge Amado's novel was named “Capitães da Areia” (1937), which also ended up in the movies. There was also Captain Carlos Lamarca, a heroic and unhappy guerrilla fighter of the 60s and 70s, who was literally hunted down and murdered in the backlands of Bahia. He also migrated to cinema, lending the prestige (disputed by the right) of his name to actor Paulo Betti twice.

The word “Captain” owes its prestige to its association with the concept of “character of action”, with the troops, as opposed to “Colonel”, of institutional prestige during the Empire and even later, associated with the exercise of discretionary power and despotic, and even of "General". “General” still had its prestige scratched because some of the holders of this rank rose to “Generalissimo”, such as Deodoro, street name in Belém do Pará, although he was Marshal, in addition to the detestable Generalissimo Francisco Franco, alias Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco y Bahamonde Salgado Pardo, the poor man.

When the Cuban poet wanted to honor comrade Joseph Djugashvili, aka Koba, he called his poem “Stalin, Capitán”, published in 1942.

Among the words of the low military rank, “Sergeant” still has an aura of sympathy, more than prestige, due to works such as “Memoirs of a militia sergeant”, by Manuel Antonio de Almeida. However, João Ubaldo Ribeiro's “Sargento Getúlio”, focusing on a violent and somewhat intemperate character, perhaps scratched that sympathetic image.

“Cabo” went downhill due to Corporal Anselmo, who, in addition to being an informant and agent of repression, became a traitor and in this condition an accomplice in the murder of even his love partner.

The only word that rivaled "Captain" was "Lieutenant". So much so that, asking for permission, I confess that I called the character Costa, who fights alongside Garibaldi and Anita, in the novel that bears her name, “Lieutenant of the Cavalry of Libertos” of the Army of the Riograndense Republic, commonly known as “ of Piratini”. I also remember that in the Farroupilha Revolution, Garibaldi had the rank of “Lieutenant Captain of the Riograndense Navy”, which was limited to three boats.

Well, thanks to Bolsonaro, “Captain” is a decidedly low word. It has become synonymous with “crude”, “brute”, authoritarian”, “cowardly”, “chloroquine poster boy” and, similarly, even “Capetão”. It is closer to the former “Capitão do Mato”, hunter of escaped slaves, than to those brave men mentioned above. It will take a whole army of new captains to restore its wounded and torn prestige.


Another term that is down in Brazilian quotations, but oscillates on the world stage. In the ancient tradition, “physician” was generally associated with “dedication”, “rationality”, “lucidity” and the like. At the national level, I remember “Dr. Seixas”, a character from the urban cycle of Erico Veríssimo's novels: dry, somewhat sarcastic, pessimistic, but generous and dedicated to his patients, especially the poorest, although he treated them all equally.

Undoubtedly, it owes its existence to the young Andrew Manson, the noble and dedicated physician in the novel “The Citadel” by the Scottish writer AJ Cronin, himself also a physician. In the course of the novel Manson corrupts himself, abandoning his principles, but returns to them at the end. It is said that AJ Cronin's novel was one of the elements responsible for building the UK's National Health System, which was once one of the best in Europe, before being demolished by the heroine of the markets, Margaret Thatcher, with the disastrous results that are seen today. in the initial debacle of handling the pandemic in the lands governed by appointment of Her Majesty, the Queen.

Manson's trajectory certainly influenced that of Eugënio Fontes, the young doctor in the novel “Look at the lilies of the field”, by Erico Veríssimo. He, too, is corrupted, but recovers his good values ​​in the end, becoming friends with Dr. Pebbles.

In addition to the contest of medical characters, the number of doctors who became writers also contributed to the prestige of these professionals, among them Moacyr Scliar, Pedro Nava, Guimarães Rosa, following a worldwide tradition that dates back to São Lucas, the evangelist who is the patron saint of the category. Such was the prestige of the sector that not even the presence of doctors who helped the torturers in the Brazilian police basements, today so valued by the “Capetão” and his exponents, managed to discredit it.

Well, now things are a little complicated. The fierce action of corporate associations against the “More Doctors” program clouded prestige. The images of young doctors attacking Cuban doctors, calling them “slaves”, while ostensibly wearing their white coats, seriously scratched that prestige of generosity and solidarity.

However, at the international level, Cuban doctors, scattered around the world, defend the prestige of the category with boldness and courage, and there are those who suggest the Nobel Peace Prize for them. Seeing what happens.


I will relate a personal case about the prestige of the word. For 11 years I lived in a condominium in Vila Indiana, in the Butantã district, next to Cidade Universitária, in São Paulo. The hall staff called me “Professor”. And I was proud. I thought that was the height of prestige.

One day I was entrusted with being the master of ceremonies for a tribute to Professor Antonio Candido, in the old building of the also former Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of USP, on Rua Maria Antônia. Wow, I thought, I need to dress up for the event. My then-girlfriend gave me a gray chalk suit with a vest and everything, which no Al Capone would fault. I bought black patent shoes, an impeccably new shirt, and a rave-worthy black tie. So dressed up, at dusk, I got ready to leave for Maria Antônia, as the old Faculty was called, by metonymy of the street. As I passed through the reception, the employee there greeted me: “Good evening, Doctor”. I was promoted. No need to comment, right?

Historically, the meaning of the term “doctor” has fluctuated between two extremes. In Latin, the mother tongue of ours, the doctor equivalent to the meaning of “master”, “preceptor”. It became the highest distinction of distinction during the European Middle Ages, prestige multiplied by the emergence of Universities. Becoming a “doctor” was of such distinction that in several universities, such as Paris, the granting of the title was celebrated with a special mass and the right to wear specific clothes, such as a red or black cloak and even a hat, like in Germany.

At the other end of the scale of values ​​was the doctor, character of Commedia del'Arte Italian, an infatuated type, false erudite bordering on charlatanism, owner of a boring and grotesque speech. This type entered our Brazilian comedy of the XNUMXth century through pedantic, French characters, imitators in bad taste of everything that seemed European to them (read: French or at most English). However, this pendular game did not nullify the prestige of the word among us.

I suspect that this prestige grew with the emergence of the first higher education schools in Brazil, of Medicine, Law and Engineering (Polytechnic). In these schools there was sometimes a requirement that, in order to graduate in what we now call “graduation”, the student had to present a thesis and defend it before a committee.

Combining the authority of knowledge and the academic diploma with class distinction (whether by family origin or social ascension), the term “doctor” came to be equivalent, in the urban world, to the meaning of the term “colonel” in the rural world. It became almost synonymous with “authority” – as in the case of doctors, for example – and, by extension, covered with its meaning the position of social superiority. The word began to be used by the most humble in relation to those in whom he recognized a position of command, including in the case of police chiefs. And in general, this condition of superiority was translated into clothing.

For the people in general, a jacket, tie and fine shoes are props for Sundays, feast days, weddings, christenings or funerals. For the urban leader – businessman or government official – formal attire became his work uniform, equivalent to the priest's cassock, the judge's toga and the military uniform. Thus, the greeting I received as I left the decorated building to pay homage to Professor Antonio Candido fits into this long pilgrimage of meanings that goes back to ancient Latin erudite.

Well, I think that today the term “doctor” is in decline, albeit relative. First, because the academic world, with its masters, doctorates, post-doctorates, associate professors, etc., is under generalized attack. This attack comes from the rising tide of self-satisfied ignorance that is rising all over the world, under the leadership of people like Trump, in the United States, Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini, the Polish Duda and the conservative side of the Catholic Church in Europe, Bolsonaro, Ernesto Araujo , Malafaia, Edir Macedo et al in Brazil, and even Steve Bannon and Olavo de Carvalho on the loose around the world. Not infrequently, the authority given by knowledge is trampled, including in relation to health, by the seductive and reductive authoritarianism of the ignorant pastor. I emphasize the ignorant, because it is clear that not every church pastor is authoritarian, nor ignorant; like "relationships" in the ancient novel, generalizations can be very dangerous, and also lead to the charm of self-satisfied ignorance. Anyone can become the doctor of the old comedy.

Disdain for academic authority has a long-standing tradition among us. We don't need to go very far. Since the beginning of my professional life, I have worked simultaneously in the university world and in journalism. Back in the sixties and seventies, when, in the journalistic world, people wanted to classify a text as excessively long, pedantic, boring, they said it was “academic”. In contrast, in the university world, when people wanted to say that a text was superficial, frivolous, innocuous, they said it was “journalistic”. I took a lot of blows from both sides of this polarity because my feet lived with both boats adrift in this current of ours (is this my “academic” or “journalistic” metaphor? Who knows!).

Lately, the term “doctor” has suffered a mortal blow that, if it didn't kill it definitively, took it to the bed of some language ICU. I am referring to the “Decotelli episode”. It's no use covering the case with any sieve you want, saying that Decotelli was harmed by Brazilian-style racism, or that it was a “misunderstanding”, etc. Decotelli hacked his own curriculum, that's the question, and the rest is silence. Apparently, his case confirmed the prestige of the word “doctor”, as he stuck it in the curriculum, even with the prefix “pós”, inconsistently, or lying, to value himself. But deep down, he made a contribution to sinking it even further in this boiling sea of ​​ignorance, proving how it can be manipulated for so long and in flight as high as that of an intended ministry.

Well, after a musical chairs, the referred ministry ended up ceded, at least for the moment, to a pastor who seems to me to be fundamentally retrograde, but who has a doctorate. Let's see where this goes, if the word "doctor" survives, and how.


Decidedly down. From “wisdom lover” it came to mean “intelligence-enemy guru”, “cheap flat-earther”, “cheap and braggart astrologer”. No more comments. He sells his shares while there's still time. And don't buy anything in the industry again until it's fixed.

Brazilian Chancellor

Idem. From “the best diplomat in the world”, the expression came to mean “a person who believes in the miracle of Ourique, that the pandemic virus is in fact Chinese and that a loudmouth in the White House is the true pillar of democracy in the world”. Better not to invest. Or else go invest in Germany. In this case, guaranteed return, at least for now.


Word whose actions remain open to all possible investments, especially in the account of title holders, in the conventional media. It is a word of sober tradition, having occupied the trends names like Macedo, Alencar, Machado, Barreto, Andrade (several), Braga and Silveira, Francis (on the left and then on the right), etc. etc. etc. Today his actions fluctuate more than a judge's rod. The value depends on the holder for sale: E. Massa Cheirosa Castanheira, Mirtes Porcão, Mercal Pirambeira, etc., and also according to the fund they represent: Globúsculo, Estadinho, Folha Provinciana, et alii. If you want to invest in these shares, act quickly: buy and then sell on the rise, because as these holders are always for sale, and for meager values, the shares can immediately fall into limbo or hell.


Gone are the days when, in a football game, more important than the referee was the referee's mother. In the current vocabulary, the word “judge” has abandoned the stadiums for good. In the recent past, the quotation of the word went through a dizzying rise when the traditional media gave unlimited support to the orders and excesses of Operation Lava Jato and the arbitrariness committed by Judge Sérgio Moro. In fact, this appreciation in the market had started earlier, with the fierce commitment of Judge Joaquim Barbosa against the PT thanks to the theme of “Mensalão”, something that, in dispelling doubts, was never proven. Lately, the word has been demonstrating dangerous oscillations for investors, who must act cautiously around it. The phase opened with the revelations of the site The Intercept about the backstage of Lava Jato and its crazy prosecutors and Judge Moro. He also compromised the value of the actions of the word to Judge Moro's own actions, accepting the prebend (or would it be sinecure?) of his appointment to the Ministry of Justice in the government that he ostensibly helped to elect, stealing from the game of lawfare against Lula. To complicate everything even more, the said judge was caught between the cross of his complicity with the illegal follies of the president who rewarded him, and the cauldron in which he was little by little fried, until his pathetic and foolish resignation – or dismissal, whatever – motivated by the disposition of the representative to intervene in the command of the Federal Police. Other factors helped push the word to the ropes, showing that judges and attorneys also accepted large alms, such as receiving housing assistance to settle in cities where they had their own properties. To complete this progressive loss of value, a judge created the remarkable figure of the “prize-winning escape”, granting house arrest to people fleeing justice, on the pretext of taking care of the husband who had also been sent to his home, converted into an occasional prison. Both husband and wife are now in the comfort of a “home crack”. Supreme Court judges, after some of them colluded with the abuse of the word during the persecution of former President Lula in what is now defined by Judge Moro himself as the “Lava Jato ring”, are striving at the moment to recover the value of these actions trying to contain the pyrotechnics pyromaniacs of the Bolsonaro government. The company is difficult, but who knows? Anything can happen in the quadrants of the Abrantes barracks – an adequate expression to define our new governmental times.


This is a word that demands the greatest caution and the most cautious precaution on the part of investors, especially those concerned with the futures market. At the moment, it is attracting fewer and fewer investors, both from high finance and from the middle classes, who over the past year have bet heavily on it. On the part of these sectors, it had suffered, before, an intense devaluation when it started to have as the main of its assets the figure – for them odd and out of date – of a woman. They preferred to invest in her (in words, not in women) when she decorated the chest of someone who already carried a four-star capital on her shoulder. It was net and certain gain, until the unpredictable horse tamer arrived, who buried her under his hooves. Later, in civil times, it suffered a strong oscillation when decorating the jacket of a man from Maranhão who, just as he took it to the heights with Plano Cruzado, led it to the bottom of the well thanks to the same Plano Cruzado. He had the same fate with his immediate successor, again rising to great heights at the beginning by promising to hunt down maharajahs to dive into the shadows soon after when he cashed out everyone's savings and ended up cashing himself out so as not to be chased and hunted down. A new appreciation followed, thanks to someone who had attended the Sorbonne, that of Paris, not the military faction as it was known, whose manager and CEO was General Castelo Branco. He had a noble title. But he also led her to disaster, devaluing himself with her, transforming himself from the “Prince of Sociology” into a mere and senile “Baron of Higienópolis”. It went through a new and sudden appreciation with the anointing of a mechanical lathe, even at the international level, although it continued to be seen with disdain by many of those heavy-duty investors.

Now, as mentioned, the word is found sub judice, in a state of suspension, not knowing if it will go up, down, sideways or if it will simply implode, giving way to another, such as “dictator” or “militiaman”. The treatment your asset of today has been giving to the pandemic significantly compromises the value of its shares. It deserves to be rinsed with chloroquine, to better see what its future will be.

On second thought, it might be better to invest in your stocks on the stock exchange of yesteryear. After all, if there is one thing that is not lacking in a Brazilian metropolis, with the understandable exception of São Paulo, it is an “Avenida Presidente Vargas” or some other, even from abroad, like Kennedy. There are those who would value an “Avenida Presidente Lula”, but these, unfortunately, do not usually invest in the stock exchanges, due to lack of working capital, since they almost always dance in the capital turnover.

* Flavio Aguiar is a writer, retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP and author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo).


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