by Ernest Barteldes
Going through a text about the Turkish folktales of Nasredin Hodja with one of my ESL classes the other day, I was reminded of “Seu Lunga,” a colorful Northeastern Brazilian businessman from the state of Ceara who is known for his rudeness and lack of patience when presented with stupid questions. “Seu Lunga” has the reputation of being “the angriest man in the world.”
For many years while living in Fortaleza, Brazil, I heard “Seu Lunga” (pronounced “Seo Loonga”) jokes from friends and acquaintances and thought they were just that. However, more recently I discovered that he is actually a real person who lives in the city of Juazeiro do Norte, where he makes a living as a farmer, grocery shop owner and also by selling scrap metal and dried goods. His given name is Joaquim dos Santos Rodrigues (born in 1928), but he is known for the nickname given to him when he was a young boy (nicknames are common in Brazil, and most embrace them even if they sound a bit derogatory).
His fame spread through the words of “cordelistas,” or street poets, who told of how he reacted when someone asked him an obvious question. Though he has stated that none of the jokes made about him are essentially true, he does recognize that they have to do with his temper. “If you ask the wrong question, you get the answer you deserve,” he once stated to an interviewer.
Here are some of the jokes spread about him over the years (collected from various sources. My translation):
“Seu Lunga” was standing on his porch with a glass of milk. A passerby asked, “Seu Lunga, are you drinking milk?” Seu Lunga then replied, “No, I am washing the floor,” and threw the contents on the floor.
“Seu Lunga” was sitting at a restaurant enjoying a bowl of soup. A neighbor walked in and asked, “Seu Lunga, are you having soup?” He looked at the man and said, “No, I’m taking a shower.” He then turned the bowl over his own head and sat there as the contents dripped over his clothes.
This one came from his own mouth: A customer walked into his store and asked if the fan was working. He stared at her and bluntly stated, “How can it be working if it’s not on?”
“Seu Lunga” walks into a store and inquires if they have rat poison. “Yes, we do,” said the clerk. “Do you want to take it?” Seu Lunga sighed and replied, “No, I’m bringing the rats over to eat the stuff right here.”
“Seu Lunga” asks his wife (yep, he’s been married for over fifty years) for some coffee. “Do you want it in a cup?” the woman asks. “No, just trow it on the floor, I’ll drink it from there,” he replies.
“Seu Lunga” was at a soccer match, where his son was part of one of the teams. Someone asks, “Which one is your son?” Seu Lunga pointed at his son. The confused man said, “Can’t really tell which one he is.” Seu Lunga picked up a small rock, threw it on his son’s head and replied, “It’s the one who’s crying.”
“Seu Lunga” was slicing a couple of limes when someone asked, “Are you making juice?” Seu Lunga replied, “No, it’s eyewash.” And squeezed two slices into his own eyes.
Seu Lunga reportedly does not appreciate these jokes, and has said that he doesn’t really think they’re funny. But it was thanks to those stories that his fame has spread around Brazil — and on these pages.
UPDATE: Seu Lunga passed in November 2015 according to a notice in the Brazilian press