USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘folk saying’
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

El Boniatal, or Sweet Potato

“Dicen que el boniato es un jugete. Me dio trenta tauretes. tres mesas y un tinajero. Maquina con costureros que no se pueden nombrar, y me dio para forrar el corral de la arboleda. Valla a casa para que vea donde queda el boniatal.”

English:
They say the sweet potato is a toy. It gave me thirty stools, three tables & a water jar holder. a sewing machine with sewers which cannot be named and it gave me enough to fix the corral for my grove. Go to my house so you can see where my sweet potato plantation is located.

This cuban refran, or saying, is basically saying that the speaker is thankful for their vegetable/ crop because it provides for them all of their neccessities. My informant was a field worker in cuba when she was young and picked it up among elder family members. It makes sense that they would hold the sweet potato in such high regard, as they lived an agricultural life-style and would be almost completely dependant on their crop to make a living.

 

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

El Reloj or The Clock

“Tal parece que me vela y me dice el minutero, pongase aprisa el sombrero y salga para la escuela. El tiempo corre veloz, mas un amigo cercano. Por la manana temprano me despierta con su voz. Casi nunca se retrasa y por eso lo bendigo. Sepase usted que es mi amigo, el reloj de mi casa.”

English:

It seems that it watches me and the minute hand tells me, quickly! Put your hat and go to school. The time runs fast, yet it’s a close friend. Early in the morning it wakes me up with its voice. It hardly ever falls back and that’s why I bless it. I will have you know that its my friend, the clock of my house.

This is a cuban refran, or saying, which message is basically thankfulness for the clock in their home. It’s a sort of homage to the clock, which never falls behind and helps them to stay punctual. Time in cuban culture would likely be a precious comodity. My informant, who was a field worker in cuba when she was young, tells me that her family had schedules that they adhered to on most days for work. As part of a group that relied on the changing of the seasons and weather for agricultural, and thus monetary, success, it makes sense that time would be viewed as something worth having a saying about.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

I care three cucumbers

“Me importa tres pepinos”

English:

I care three cucumbers.

This is another saying with agricultural reference in cuban foklore, the meaning of which is that the speaker simply doesn’t care. A similar American saying would be “I don’t give a shit,” or I don’t give a rat’s ass,” only less vulgar. My informant tells me that cucumbers were generally very inexpensive when she was living in cuba when she was growing up there.

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

They got their money’s worth

“Me sacaron el kilo”

English:

They took the penny out of me.

This saying is akin to the American saying “They worked me to the bone.” It’s more or less saying that the employers got their money’s worth out of the employee and that the employee is exhausted. My informant is a cuban resident who has lived in the U.S. since she was a baby, but has many family members from whom she has picked up sayings such as these from. As the majority of her relatives all have backgrounds as field workers and maids, it makes sense that this saying has been passed down in the family.

 

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Gift Horse

“A caballo “regalao” no se le mira el colmillo”

English:

Don’t look at the fang of the horse that’s free.

This cuban proverb is very similar to the American saying “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” It’s very likely that it made its way over to cuba and got muddled along in translation. My informant is a cuban resident who has lived in the U.S. since she was a baby, but has many family members from whom she has picked up sayings such as these from. As the majority of her relatives all have backgrounds as field workers and maids, she informs me that she grew up fairly poor and was taught more or less not to question it when good things came her way lest they be taken away. It was considered bad luck and bad manners to be skeptical of gifts freely given.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

I don’t believe it

“A otro perro con ese hueso”

English:

To another dog, with that bone

This cuban saying is inferring that the speaker doesn’t believe whatever the listener has said. It’s more or less saying that the listener ought to try telling their story or lie to someone else more likely to believe it. My informant heard this when she was younger and got in trouble for lying about going somewhere. Her mother, a cuban immigrant, replied with this metaphor.

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Want and Communism

“Al que quiere azul celeste, que le cueste.”

English:

To the one who wants sky blue, let it cost them- If you want something specific in life, its going to cost you.

This metaphor has deep ties to the communist idea of not wanting more than everybody else. The idea in communist culture that someone may want more or something special or different is, of course, not uncommon, but this saying is a sort of caution about the price of desiring better than what others settle for. My informant, having grown up in a family full of cuban refugees, heard this metaphor from two of her elder cousins regarding higher education. In this context, it was more or less a warning as to the amount of time, money, and effort it takes for one to get a higher education, though it was not neccessarily a dissaproval.

This metaphor seems to stem from the dying of clothing in Cuba, and how certain shades had to be mixed carefully and took considerable time,money, and effort to create instead of simple, naturally occuring shades that most citizens wear.

Folk speech

“Te Dan La Mano Y Se Cojen Del Codo”

“TE DAN LA MANO Y SE COJEN DEL CODO”

“Te dan la mano y se cojen del codo”

Literal Translation: You give them your hand and they take your elbow.

Translation: When you extend your hand, they grab for your elbow.

My informant explained that her dad used to say this phrase all the time, as a warning about other people.  Her father had told her that with some people, you have to be cautious because they will try to take advantage of you.  The expression basically means that when you offer kindness or generosity, be careful because others may manipulate or abuse your benevolence.

The Spanish phrase echoes the American children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or the expression “when you give someone an inch, they take a mile.”  Once you start offering, the demands start building.  I asked if she had heard of this book or saying and she replied: “Oh yes, it’s exactly like that.”  So just remember, a small little offering can create a snowball effect and you’ll end up dealing with much more than you bargained for.

Folk speech
Proverbs

El que madruga, Dios le ayuda.

El que madruga, Dios le ayuda.

The one that rises early, God aids.

(Similar Proverb: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.)

My informant, who is bilingual, remembers hearing this proverb from her grandmother, born in 1915, and who moved to the United States from Cuba in 1976. (My informant’s mother came to the United States at the same time in 1976).

My informant said that her grandmother would say this to her while she was growing up in reference to her sleeping habits most of all and how they differed from her grandmother’s sleeping habits. (My informant said that she usually goes to bed at 2 AM and sleeps in until 12 noon).

The use of “Dios,” or God in the proverb might imply the influence of the religion and belief of my informant, although of all the proverbs my informant provided me, numbering at around 14 or so, this is only one that references God. And when my informant translated, she referenced the similar proverb noted above, not a direct translation. The influence of her American upbringing explains why she would not use a direct translation and the proverb variant in America seems to be the product of capitalism by mentioning wealth, whereas the Spanish proverb does not mention wealth as a reward for rising early.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Once begun is half done.”

My mom told me this wise saying when I was young, and had trouble getting my chores done.  They always seemed like they took so long that I would just not do them until I had to be forcibly told. My mother explained to me that all chores are boring and tedious and the hardest part is getting started. In other words, once you’ve started a job you’ve nearly finished because the hardest part is getting over.

[geolocation]