Just for the English to see?
Posted by Jose Carlos on November 22, 2004
We have got a very curious expression in Brazilian Portuguese dating back to the end of the traffic of slaves, as was being promoted by England in the second half of the 19th century. England and Brazil had signed a treaty, according to which the latter had to patrol her coasts in order to control the traffic and arrest any ship trying to bring in more slaves. As could be expected, the Brazilian government was only half-heartedly doing its part, as it had a clear interest in keeping the slave business going on under the counter. So, the patrolling was ficticious and rather ineffective, and in good Portuguese "só para inglês ver", in other words: just for the Englishmen to see. This expression "só para inglês ver" is still very much in force even to-day, although very few people probably know the origin. The equivalent in English could be do something "just for show", "just for effect", "just for the sake of appearances". Any other ideas? Well, I thought the English members of this forum would be delighted to know that involuntarily their ancestors made a very interesting contribution to our vernacular, even if the context (slavery) was a very unfortunate one.