This is a common, sort of "folk saying" saying in Brazil. However, Brazil being full of folk-sayings, I did not become familiar with it until after my two years there when I heard about a movie called Cidade de Deus
(City of God
). The phrase is used as the tag line for this brutally honest, accurate, and gut-wrenchingly semi-documentary portrayal of life in "The City of God," a favella (ghetto) of Rio de Janeiro.
I just now ran the Google translation and you are appropriately confused: I have no
idea where that came from.
Probably a similar phrase that we have in English is something akin to "damned if you do, damned if you don't." The word, "bicho," (pronounced, BEESH-oh), is a generic word that typically means "bug" or "creature," something small, but it can also mean "beast" or as street slang used between young adults ("Hey, bicho! What's going on?"). What "Se correr o bicho pega, e se ficar o bicho come," means then is, "If you run, the beast will get you and if you stay, the beast will eat you."
I can't help but think that this was an appropriate tagline for "Cidade de Deus" as it's about a young man trying to escape the often fatal violence, drugs, and cruelty of the ghetto: if you stay, it kills you and if you try to leave, it will kill you. It's also appropriate as "bicho" is how the very young, very violent gang members refer to themselves and each other. And they are the ones doing the killing and being killed. Very sad and very true.
- Rating Pending (who just got shivers thinking of the movie. It was almost as hard to watch as Schinlder's List