Lost in Translation:

The administration of the City of Buenos Aires, headed by the businessman Mauricio Macri, appears to have translated and adopted a common environmental campaign slogan in Brazil for its own faux environmental policy marketing and political greenwashing purposes. However, the direct translation to Spanish of the Brazilian phrase “Jogue Limpo” loses the polysemy which makes it clever for a public awareness campaign. In Brazilian Portuguese, the verb “jogar” can mean to play as well as to throw away.

The common Brazilian phrase for throwing away trash is “jogar lixo” (it is very common to see signs saying “É proibido jogar lixo” – “Littering is prohibited”), which is very similar to the phrase for playing fair/clean (as in sports and competitions), “jogar limpo”. Thus, the campaign slogan of “Jogue Limpo” in Brazil means literally to play fair/clean, but also connotes to not litter and to be clean. Its cleverness and/or effectiveness has apparently made the phrase popular for similar environmental campaigns throughout Brazil. There’s even an NGO in Bahia with the phrase as its name.

In Spanish, however, the verb “jugar” doesn’t share the polysemy of the Brazilian verb “jogar”. The Spanish verb “jugar” only means to play; thus, the campaign slogan “Jugá Limpio” doesn’t have the same clever polysemy as in Brazilian Portuguese and it only means to play fair/clean, without meaning to throw things away properly. Nonetheless, the Macri administration decided the phrase would serve him well anyways. I haven’t seen any numbers regarding the change of tonnage in municipal waste bins or that of that of the street cleaners, but from mere observation people aren’t “playing clean”. Of course, for the Macri administration, the effectiveness of the campaign is probably measured by government approval ratings.