Brazil’s Supreme Court has recently criticized foro privilegiado, a “privileged” judicial status awarded to elected or nominated politicians, which reserves their trial for the Supreme Court. In response, Senator Romero Jucá (currently under investigation for corruption) said that Congress should end that privilege for judges, too. “We should all get in this suruba,” he said. But what does suruba mean?
[su.ɾˈu.bɐ] A slang that means group sex, but can also describe a situation of great disorder
While most Brazilians only know the “group sex” meaning, the origins of the word suruba are quite different. The word comes from the indigenous Tupi term suru’ba, which means “tree trunk, worn out by use.”
Back in the day, the slang term used to mean something excellent, of remarkable quality. We doubt that Senator Jucá referred to this ancient meaning of the word.
According to the Houaiss Dictionary, arguably the best in the Brazilian Portuguese language, the word can also mean a baton. But linguists have not determined how it acquired the meaning “group sex.” As a slang term, it refers to something of great disorder, as many people imagine how an orgy must be.
By the way, Jucá was far from the first Brazilian politician to call Congress a suruba. One year ago, former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha also called the House’s Ethics Committee a “suruba.” We can’t say he was wrong.