The “lawyer” and the “conje”

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With or without oranges, with or without “lawyers”, there is no politician in the country today, no lawyer or magistrate with the discursive power of Lula

Lula's popular origin is marked in his language. Yesterday “menas oranges”, today “lawyer”. It is, moreover, a property of language to reveal what we are. The mechanical lathe operator who, to the despair of our backward elite, became President of the Republic, did not have the possibility to complete his studies and will always be the target of mockery, from the mildest to the most perverse. There will always be an unhealthy need to belittle him, even for having lost a finger in his trade.

Our mediocre middle class certainly preferred the mesoclisis of the vampire (Temer) or the Portuguese teacher from Mato Grosso who said “I did it because I wanted to” (Jânio). But the teacher resigned and the lathe operator has already warned that he will not give up. So, it only remains for her to underline with red pen the “errors of her bad Portuguese”[I].

It so happens that sociolinguistics, a discipline promoted in the last century by Willian Labov, explains to us that one cannot confuse the register of written language with that of oral language. One of his most famous researches[ii] demonstrated that the language of the black ghettos of New York, which was believed to be poor and incapable, was as performant and rich as that of the dominant social groups. If anyone doubts, just remember the lyrics of Porgy and Bess, opera by George Gershwin[iii]: Bess, you are my woman now, you are, you are…

If we impose writing as the norm for speech, we find that we all "speak wrong." I, for example, a carioca from the south of the city, write lawyer But I say "lawyer". That is, I speak as "wrong" as Lula since, after d does not have a vowel, does not have e neither i. However, I never heard of any debauchery because of this i inopportune.

“I speak wrongly” and, however, I am full of diplomas, from here and there. How is that judge from Curitiba who had all the resources to study but does not know how to say a word that is part of the basic vocabulary of any shyster: SPOUSE. The subject says “conje”, as our late journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim liked to repeat. Not to mention that the Impartial from Curitiba presents serious difficulties in articulating phrases and sentences, which is also surprising in a profession that comes from the art of rhetoric.

Why doesn't that disqualify you? Where is the middle class that likes a red pen? The answer comes from another great scholar of language, the fictionist Lewis Caroll, through his character Humpty Dumpty[iv]: language is the terrain of power, by which the one who commands decides.

Meanwhile, our President Tournament gives a bath in the art of speaking! The coherent development of reasoning, precision in positioning, diversity of images, narrative richness, tone, emphasis and valuation, articulated totality that creates meaning: speech as an ethical act. With or without oranges, with or without “lawyers”, there is no politician in the country today, no lawyer or magistrate with his discursive power. As Adnet said, speak more, Lula, make more speeches because we need it.

*Maria Amorim is a retired professor at the Institute of Psychology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and at the University of Paris VIII. Author, among other books of Petit Traité de la Bêtise Contemporaine [A Short Treatise on Contemporary Stupidity] (Ed. Eres) (

Originally published in the magazine Capital letter in 18 / 03 / 2021.


[I] As Roberto and Erasmo Carlos said in Details: “It's no use even trying to forget me because even the mistakes of my bad Portuguese will make you remember me…”

[ii] LABOV, W. Academic ignorance and black intelligence. The Atlantic, Boston, v.229, n.6, p.59-67, 1972. Translating: “Academic ignorance and black intelligence”.

[iii] The libretto is by Ira Gershwin and Du Bose Heyard.

[iv] Em Alice on the other side of the mirror.

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