USC Digital Folklore Archives / Proverbs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Getting too caught up with yourself can cause confusion – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“No te subas al ladrillo que te mareas”

Transliteration:

Don’t get on the brick because you will get dizzy 

Translation:

Getting too caught up with yourself can cause confusion

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

I asked my informant, a 17-year-old female when she first heard this saying. She said it used to be a phrase her dad would say to her to make sure she did not let her privilege make her feel superior to others. She said her father would tell her this saying when she was acting bratty or snobby. She says she comes from a privileged family and her father sometimes worries that she is not working hard enough for the things she has. My informant says it is easy to fall victim to the rewards of things and to act like she deserves everything she has when in reality she did not earn it herself. She says she also believes this saying is meant to prevent people from thinking they know everything and from showcasing knowledge they are feigning. The informant says her father has tried to instill in her the value of admitting not knowing something and learning it as opposed to making it up and falling out of people’s trust and favor. 

I agree with the informant about the meaning of this proverb. Getting on a brick signifies elevating yourself from others. By getting on a brick the person becomes taller and people have to look up to them. This can be interpreted as representative of status. Having more and being of higher status can make it easy for people to overindulge and think they can have everything or deserve everything because of what they have or the title they hold. Once a person begins feeling deserving or above others it is easy for them to fall out of favor and lose what they have. As the proverb describes getting dizzy or caught up in everything one has. Getting dizzy and losing balance on an elevated surface can result in falling. This proverb is meant to warn people from the dangers of falling if one gets too caught up with what they have and who they think they are. This proverb can also signify losing sight of oneself by getting too caught up in material things or a reputation.

 

general
Proverbs

Elders know best – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“A un novillo joven hay que enjuntarlo a un buey viejo para que surco salga derecho.”

Transliteration:

To a young bull, you have to bind it to an old bull so that furrows go straight.

Translation:

Elders know more, so in order for new generations to learn, they must learn from their elders.

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

 

Context and Analysis:

When I asked my informant, a 78-year-old male, to recount to me any proverbs he might know he mentioned this one. I asked him where he had heard it and what it meant. He said he heard it in his home town Autlan, Mexico when he would go to the countryside. Before he told me the meaning of the proverb he made me attempt to guess for myself. After a couple of failed guessed he revealed to me the meaning he interprets from this proverb. He said, “Hay jóvenes que se tragan el mundo y creen que la computadora te dice todo pero para aprender bien necesitas la experiencia de alguien que ya haya vivido. A mi me invitan a muchas conferencias donde les platico de mis fracasos.” Loosely translated to: ‘there are many young men that think they know everything and believe everything the computers tell them, but in order to learn you need the experience of someone who has lived. I get invited to lots of conferences where I tell them about my mistakes.’ My informant explained to me that he believes the best way to learn is through the experience of others. He says he loves going to conferences and teaching others about the mistakes he has made in his life because this will prevent them from being made again. My informant wants me to emphasize how much more useful life knowledge is than theories and techniques you can learn in a book. He says the most valuable people are the ones that can learn from both books and absorb what they can from other’s experiences. 

I agree with my informant on the importance of not just taking knowledge from books and published sources, but also taking advantage of older generations that are happy to share what they have lived through. My informant is a civil engineer and has done many public works and constructions people utilize every day. The stories he has to tell would teach anyone many qualities but especially other civil engineers considerably about, work ethic, problem-solving, and techniques. I also asked my informant if he would ever consider publishing a book to which he responded he enjoys sharing his experience one on one because it is too much to fit in a book and this makes it more personal. I believe there are many people like my informant that love sharing their experiences personally and there is a lot to learn from them.

It is apparent this proverb originates from the countryside for its reference to cattle and the technique of how to teach a young bull how to plow. These are agricultural references, so I would argue the proverb originates from an agricultural background.

 

 

 

 

Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Beautiful women have great allure – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“jalan mas un par de bubis que una carreta.”

Transliteration:

Pull more a pair of boobs than a two-wheeled cart

Translation:

Beautiful women have great allure

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

 

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 71-year-old female from Guadalajara, Mexico. I asked my informant if she knew any proverbs and she responded the ones she remembered were due to their humorous nature. She then said to me the proverb, “jalan mas un par de bubis que una carreta.” I asked where she recalled this saying from and she claims to have heard it at a rural town where her family owned a countryside home, El Rancho Platanar. The town is called Plan de Barrancas in Jalisco Mexico. Her family was accustomed to driving up from the city they lived in, Guadalajara, to the house and spent weeklong holidays there when she was a young girl. When they were staying at the house, she would visit the local town with her siblings and that is where she first heard the saying. My informant remembers walking down the street with her sisters when she noticed a couple of workers that were doing construction on the road were staring at her and her sisters. She claims one of the men even whistled. Then another worker that had just joined the ‘viewing’ said the phase, loud enough so my informant and her sisters could hear. The informant says the phrase means a beautiful woman is more distracting, and draws attention in a greater quantity, than the amount of weight a wagon can carry.

The language employed in the phrase is slang. The verb ‘jalar’ is not commonly employed to mean a rhetorical pull and in more formal language it literally means ‘to pull’. The phrase is comparing the rhetorical quantity with a literal quantity.  This slang type of language is often heard around rural towns and used by working class people. The context the phrase was used in is very informal and even crude. The phrase can even be considered a form of street harassment, commenting in a sexual manner on the appearance of young women as they walk down the street. The informant shares she did feel a bit uncomfortable in the situation as she did not know how to respond, and her older sister told her to look down and keep walking. I don’t believe this phrase has a specific meaning and its purpose is likely to comment on the allure of beautiful women. In the proverb, women are compared to the weight a two-wheeled cart can carry because the phrase is employed by construction workers, and a cart is an object that is often utilized in their daily lives to transport materials from one place to the other.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Protection
Proverbs
Signs

Don’t look for problems – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“No le busquen chichis a las culebras”

Transliteration:

Don’t look for boobs in the snakes

Translation:

Don’t look for problems where there are none

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 71-year-old female. When I asked her if she knew of any common sayings of phrases of wisdom she giggled a little and responded, “No le busquen chichis a las culebras.” I asked where she recalled this saying from, and she claims to have heard it at a rural town where her family owned a countryside home, El Rancho Platanar. The town is called Plan de Barrancas in Jalisco, Mexico.   She says the proverb stook with her because of the humorous language employed. Her family was accustomed to driving up from the city they lived in, Guadalajara, to the house and spent weeklong holidays there when she was a young girl. When they were staying at the house she would visit the local town with her siblings and that is where she first heard the saying. My informant does not recall the context the proverb was used in, but she explained to me the meaning of the proverb. My informant belives the proverb is used to deter people from looking for problems when they don’t have problems.  The informant claims the phase means this because snakes do not have boobs, so if you look for the boobs in a snake not only will you not find any but you will anger the snake which is a problem. 

The phrase utilizes colloquial and crude language which I believe is the reason my informant has remembered it since such a young age. As a young girl, from a wealthy family, she was not exposed to this type of language making it exciting and new. The phrase employes the use of animals, in particular, a snake. This gives the audience a clue as to where it came from, the countryside, but also the connotations associated with snakes. Snakes have a reputation for being evil, bad, and sneaky. An example of this is the role the snake plays in the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible( the snake is the bad influence that convinced Eve to pick the apple). The snake in this proverb is representative of a problem. I believe the reference to boobs in the proverb is in association to the dangers of messing with a woman, for there is a bias, especially in Mexico, that angry women are fiercer than men. One would not want to mess with a snake, but if it is a female snake, then one would certainly not want to mess with it. The proverb is warning its audience not to look for problems where there are one because snakes do not have boobs, and angering a female snake by searching for its boobs is not only pointless but also dangerous.

 

Folk speech
general
Protection
Proverbs

Two are needed for a fight – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“Se necesitan dos para hacer un pleito.”

Transliteration:

Needed two to make a conflict

Translation:

Two are needed for a fight

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

I got this proverb from my informant a 49-year-old male. My informant says he does not recall when he first heard this saying. However, he is a firm believer in it. The informant notes that ever since he first heard this phrase, he has followed it every time he is in a situation where it applies. The informant claims this proverb has allowed him to escape from many situations that could have become problematic. He explains how when you don’t fight back there is no conflict because the other person is less inclined to argue with someone who is not arguing in return.

After hearing this proverb, I was surprised at how much truth I found in it. In most of my experiences when I argue with someone, it is because they are arguing in return. Most people like to win, so in an argument naturally, both parties arguing will not stop until a “winner” is determined. If this desire to win is eliminated by one of the parties forfeiting the argument for the sake of peace the second party will not have to continue fighting to win. I think this is an admirable quality of the person following the proverbs advice.

However, I also believe there are good things that come from arguments. There are different types of arguments, discussion being one of them. In a discussion, everyone gets a chance to voice their opinion giving many diverse outlooks on a topic or to develop an idea. If this discussion were not in place, it would be harder to find the most effective solution to a problem. By having this discussion, it is the quickest way to form a solution to a problem and motivate many to learn about a specific topic. For example, in a classroom setting by discussing a text the students learn about it through the perspective of their peers. This makes them more knowledgable about all of the text’s components. It is much harder for one student to read a text and understand every part of it, but if he discusses, in most situations, he will learn something new about the same text.

When considering this proverb, it is vital to understand its truthful nature. However, one must also have criteria to evaluate where it should or should not be employed

Folk speech
general
Gestures
Proverbs

Performing Good Deeds Blindly-Mexican Proverb

Main piece:

“Haz el bien y no mires a quien”

Transliteration:

Do the  good and don’t look at who

Translation:

Perform good deeds blindly despite the outcomes

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish 

Context and Analysis:

I asked my Informant, a 74-year-old female if she knew of any sayings that have stuck with her throughout her life. My informant recounted to me this saying claiming it is one she strives to live by. She does not know where she first heard this proverb. However, she speculates it was while she was at church. My informant reports she attends mass once or twice a week. The informant says the proverb emphasizes doing a good deed while expecting nothing in return. She states this proverb reminds her that she should selflessly help others. 

I agree with my informant’s interpretation of this proverb. I think the saying emphasizes performing a good deed. I also believe the proverb puts emphasis on the value of not expecting anything in return when doing a good deed. When someone does something kind for others, they should do so out of the kindness of their heart, not for a reward. 

As I continued to analyze the proverb I also found it could also be telling its audience not to look for other’s reassurance that they are a good person by performing a good deed. An example of this would be, placing money in the offerings basket during a Catholic Mass Service. Many people only do so because they believe others are watching them and will judge them if they don’t do so. However, this is something that should be done out of each individuals willingness to contribute despite what others might or might not think of them.

Proverbs

Fishing Proverb

Main Piece:

The informant told me of a proverb that he was told while fly-fishing. The proverb goes “The fish don’t bite until the first light.”

 

Background:

A fishing proverb told to the informant by a fisherman from Maine while the informant was trying to fly-fish in a river right before dawn. The informant is a 21-year-old USC student from Maine who enjoys fishing on his time off.

 

Analysis:

The proverb does not exactly state the truth as fisherman are likely to begin fishing before dawn in many places throughout the world. The proverb does make more sense when considering fly-fishing and what that entails. While fly-fishing, one wades into the water wearing waterproof boots and waders. If one slips while deep in the water, the waders will fill up with water and it will be difficult not to drown without assistance. By waiting until dawn, there is more light which will make it easier to walk without slipping and if you do need help, there is a better chance someone will be around to help out.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Hindu Proverb

Main Piece:

Original Text (Hindi):

“पेड़ किसी को अपनी छाया से मना नहीं करते, लकड़हारे को भी नहीं।”

(ped kisee ko apanee chhaaya se mana nahin karate, lakadahaare ko bhee nahin।)

Literal Translation (English):

“Trees refuse no one their shade, not even the woodcutter.”

 

Background:

Informant is a 22-year-old USC student from India. His parents raised him as a Hindu, but he does not practice the religion while at school. The proverb was told to the informant by his parents when he was a young child and they have the proverb hung up in their home in India.

 

Analysis:

The translation of the proverb to English is mostly literal. The idea that trees do not refuse their shade seems like a given as trees do not have feelings and cannot move themselves. However, if one considers themselves the tree, the proverb is profound in that it states that one should treat all other people well, even if they mean to do you harm.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Proverbs
Signs

Hindu Proverb

Main Piece:

Original Text (Hindi):

बुराई उसे उखाड़ फेंकेगी जो एक परोपकारी मित्र की सलाह नहीं मानता।

(buraee use ukhaad phenkegee jo ek paropakaaree mitr kee salaah nahin maanata)

 

Literal Translation (English):

Evil will befall him who regards not the advice of a benevolent friend.

 

Background:

Informant is a 22-year-old USC student from India. His parents raised him as a Hindu, but he does not practice the religion while at school. The proverb was told to the informant by his parents when he was a young child

 

Analysis:

The idea that bad things happen to those that do not listen to their friends is a powerful message for the Hindu religion. The religion is very peaceful, yet they believe that one is basically cursed if they do not heed the advice of their friends. This demonstrates how much wisdom Hinduism believes one can learn from their friends. This proverb provides the reasoning for which all Hindu’s should respect each other and learn from one another.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Protection
Proverbs

Hindu Proverb

Main Piece:

Original text (Hindi):

“एक् और एक् ग्यारह् हॊते है”

(ek aur ek gyarah hote hei)

 

Literal Translation (English):

“One and one makes eleven”

 

Translation:

There is strength in unity.

 

Background:

Informant is a 22-year-old USC student from India. His parents raised him as a Hindu, but he does not practice the religion while at school. The proverb was told to the informant by his parents when he was a young child

 

Analysis:

The idea that one and one makes eleven is an interesting way of viewing the strength that comes from numbers. In a way, this proverb claims that the strength of two people working together is more than five times more powerful than having two work separately. This speaks volumes to the emphasis that Hinduism places on harmony and sharing the work between all people.

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