Folk speech

Una Adivinaza de Aguacate

SB is from Costa Rica. We have been friends for some time, and whenever she cuts avocado I notice she says a little limerick to herself. I asked her what she was saying. She told me: “Agua pasa por mi casa, cate de mi corazón.”

It’s a riddle (adivinaza), and the answer is aguacate, which means “avocado” in Spanish. The phrase literally translates to ” Water runs down my house, it is a punch to my heart.” It is not really apparent what this has to do with avocados, but the solution to the riddle is found in the wordplay. Agua + cate each have meaning on their own in Spanish, but also form the word aguacate.

S explains, “Riddles like these are used to teach kids various fruits in Spanish.” It clearly works, because S remembers this riddle all these years later and still associates it with avocados whenever she has one. I asked her why she thinks there are riddles to learn simple things like fruit, and she explained that aguacate is actually a pretty difficult word for kids to say. This little rhyme, which breaks down the word, helps teach how to say it.

S told me another one of her favorites:

Tiene ojos y no ve,

posee corona y no es rey,

tiene escamas sin ser pez,

¿qué rara cosa ha de ser?

Which means:

It has eyes and doesn’t see,

It has a crown and isn’t a king,

It has scales but is not a fish,

What rare thing could it be?

The answer is piña, a pineapple.

Throughout my time collecting folklore, I’ve noticed there are a lot of rhymes and riddles in various cultures that are meant to teach kids simple things like manners or words. These riddles stimulate creative thinking at a young age. Riddles are not always obvious and you have to connect the puns or wordplay to come up with the right answer. Folklore is a prominent part of children’s development. I believe a majority of what children learn in their early ages is through folklore; before they can read, kids pick up what people are talking about around them. Learning culture is just as important as learning to read and write, and folklore teaches this.

Comments are closed.