USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘proverb’
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

Pretty Is as Pretty Does

Context:

The informant – AS – is my mother, and is a 55-year-old woman, born and raised in New Britain Connecticut, currently living in South Florida. I asked her if she had any folklore to share, and she told me about a proverb that her blind mother used to say to her.

 

Piece:

 

AS: One of the things my mother always used to say to me: “Pretty is as pretty does.” Pretty is as pretty does. And basically what it means is, you can be as good looking as you want, but if you don’t act right, then you’re not pretty. So it’s about looking as good on the inside as you look on the outside. But, she used to say it in a mean way. Like if I did anything that she didn’t like or something, then she would pull that out.

 

Analysis:

This seems to be classic variation on “as beautiful on the inside as on the outside,” but reworked into a more scolding fashion. It is also somewhat amusing, since the informant’s mother was blind, the proverb/saying might have some more significance, since it involves physical appearance versus behavior.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Proverbs

Looking for Water: Marathi Proverb about Appreciation

Text:

AB: “There’s this proverb that my mom says –”

“Kakhet kalsa gavala valsa”

AB: “– which basically means that you have um a pitcher of water in your hand but you’re looking for water in other places, which I mean happens literally too like how many times do you have glasses on your head and you keep for them in other places? But I think the more like metaphorical meaning is supposed to be that people tend to not realize what they have because they too busy like searching for things outside. So like not appreciating what you already have I guess.”

AB: “Yeah people usually say it to me when I’m complaining about all the problems in my life – they’re like “kakhet kalsa gavala valsa” like you’re not being grateful for all the good stuff that you have.”

 

Context:

The informant is an Indian-American college student from Los Altos, California. This conversation took place in my apartment while the informant and I, among a group of other people, were discussing our very diverse childhoods growing up in different parts of the world. Marathi is the language spoken in a specific region of India. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

The informant does a pretty good job of explaining what the proverb means. An English equivalent would be “the grass is always greener on the other side”. It is interesting how the informant relates it to literal situations like looking for glasses which were on your head all along – this to me highlights the relevance of proverbs and emphasizes their staying power. Because their literal meaning is so easily understood intuitively, their figurative meaning holds more power.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Flourishing despite circumstance – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“El que es perico donde quiera es verde.”

Transliteration:

The one that is a parrot wherever he wants is green.

Translation:

Someone that is bright will flourish despite any circumstance he might find himself in.

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. At first, she answered she didn’t know any and after I told her one of the proverbs I knew she said she remembered this one. I asked what the proverb meant to her, and she responded that it means, someone smart would thrive in any situation he is placed in. She says her husband has many friends that came from very little and with their merit were able to become very successful people in their lives. These people were not handed anything, everything they have they earned. 

I agree with my informant’s interpretation of the proverb. Parrots have a very vibrant green color that stands out wherever they are.  I believe the proverb uses this identification to compare it to the stand out character of a person who is intelligent and full of personality. Someone that has charismatic and unique qualities will stand out wherever he is. Just like the parrot’s color will not change despite his environment this bright person will stand out despite his background. I also see this proverb as having implications to status and wealth. The proverb in english, “born with a silver spoon in your mouth” is often used to refer to those that were given everything and therefore naturally thrive. On the contrary, the proverb “El que es perico donde quiera es verde” speaks to being able to flourish despite the environment someone is in and what is given to them. 

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Proverbs

I am no gold coin to be liked by all – Mexican proverb

Main Piece:

“No soy monedita de oro para caerle bien a todos.”

Transliteration:

No am small coin of gold to fall good to all

Translation:

I am no gold coin to be liked by all

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 49-year-old male. He claims the first time he heard this saying was many years ago. He says his grandmother on his mother’s side, who has passed away now, used to often repeat this saying during her life. He claims his grandmother was a strong decision maker and always had very good relationships with everyone, especially politicians and governors. In those circles, it is easy for one to be criticized, but his grandmother would not fall victim to these criticisms because she believed in what she thought was right and was not there to please others.  She fought for what she believed in despite what others might have thought of her. My informant claims the saying is self-explanatory. He says it is impossible to make everyone happy there are always social classes and people who are jealous of others and that can cause dislike. He emphasizes, “not everyone has to like you.”

I believe what my informant means by this saying being self-explanatory is that the proverb implies everyone likes gold coins. Therefore, if someone is a ‘gold coin’ it would come to mean everyone would like them. However, people are not gold coins, they come with opinions, qualities, personalities, and ideas. All of these characteristics can make them favored by some and disliked by others. The proverb therefore states that there is no way one can be liked by all for they are not gold coins.

 

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear – American Drinking Proverb

Main Piece:

“Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear, beer before liquor never been sicker.”

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 19-year-old male. The informant claims he first heard this proverb when he was in ninth grade. It was one of the first times he was consuming alcohol and was not paying attention to the type of alcohol he was consuming. He was alternating between drinking beer and simultaneously taking shots of vodka. When one of his friends said to him the proverb. He disregarded the advice as it was too late, and continued to drink. The informant says he did not end the night feeling very well; however, he does not live by the proverb for in other situations when he has followed the proverb’s advice the night has still ended badly.

I have also heard this proverb before and know many people that do live by it. On many occasions, I have even heard it is bad to mix any type of alcohol. Often I do not hear this while I’m in a setting where alcohol is being consumed, but after. Most often it is during the day or after a night of alcohol consumption when someone will make a reference to the proverb, and claim the person who had a bad night was at fault because they did not follow the proverb’s advice. After looking further into this proverb, I found many sources claiming it was a myth. One of the most reputable sources I found was by CBS News, they claim “hangovers are more dependent on the total amount of alcohol consumed, rather than the order of drinking.” The rhyme of the proverb makes it catchy and easy to remember. I believe this is a significant factor in what makes this proverb so popular. Keeping in mind my informant’s age I also believe it is a proverb most often found in younger circles where there is less exposure to alcohol. Most teens are still in the experimental phase of alcohol consumption in their lives, and therefore are more susceptible to catchy phrases such as these that are not true.

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/14-facts-about-drinking-are-you-misinformed/8/

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 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.

 

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

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