‘Oi, Fatty!’ and other Latin American terms of endearment

Recently I read a debate on a Brazilian forum about the use of ‘gordito‘ (fatty) as a term of endearment.

It turns out that the phrase is in common use here in Chile too. At the supermarket, I heard a mother shout to her child ‘hey fatty, get over here,’ before plonking a big kiss on his forehead.

I’ve also heard ‘negrito‘ (little black guy) used in the same manner.

They’re not just just for kids, but are swapped between husband and wife, and among friends too.

Coming from the UK, it feels wrong, it feels comically politically incorrect and I’m not sure I’d ever feel comfortable using either term. Then again, I do admit to using ‘chubby chops’ with my gorgeously rotund 18 month old.

Cute expat child
We all love Chubby Chops

I asked a friend and her Chilean husband about this and he pointed out that the diminutives aren’t racist, just a point of fact. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being black, or a little chubby, so what’s the problem?’

On that basis, we’re the racist ones for associating skin colour with something negative. ‘You’d never hear anyone calling somebody by a negative term however’, he added. So before you start trying the local lingo on your next trip to South America, allow me to clarify that ‘little stupid one‘, ‘idiot kid‘, ‘smelly girl‘ are all out.

Yesterday I went to look at a house and another Japanese couple were also looking round. I couldn’t help but smile as minutes after introducing himself, the Chilean realtor slapped the Japanese guy’s belly. ‘Gordito!’ he chuckled.

Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. In Angola, I understood the difference between a friend calling me ‘whitey’ and catcalls down the street ‘Woooop! Whitey! Whitey! Whitey!’ 

Still, I’m not sure I’d ever be happy to be called ‘gordita’.


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