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

Shrimp Proverb

Main Piece: Proverb

“El camaron que se duerma se la lleva la corriente”

Translation:

A sleeping shrimp will be swept by the current.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

He was constantly told that as a kid because he would procrastinate on his assignments

  • Where did they learn this piece?

From his Cuban relatives

  • What does it mean to them?

It means to be constantly aware of what you have control over/required to do. If there’s any change, you don’t want to be controlled by its consequences.

Context:

It’s based on the observation of shrimp, when sleeping being taken away from their original location. This can thus be inferred that one must always be on top of whatever they are tasked with, because if not suddenly you lose control and arrive somewhere different and unknown.

Personal Thoughts:

I find this proverb to be very interesting, because a shrimp is normally an insignificant animal that no one really thinks about, but in this case the shrimp is meant to represent a person, and people generally consider themselves to be important.

Legends
Narrative

The Mammoth Shrimp: A Legend

In Galveston, Texas there’s this restaurant that has a huge giant shrimp as, like, I guess a statue or whatever and apparently, like, late in the 1800’s they went fishing and they literally caught this, like, huge giant shrimp that was like 4, 5 feet tall and like 6 feet long and, like, they caught it I guess and that’s what their whole, like, restaurant is, like, surrounded by, like, that whole superstition – or not superstition – that, like, the whole legend of that huge giant shrimp actually swimming in and living in the ocean right outside Galveston.

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about this local legendary catch at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. When I asked if he thought the legend was true, he responded that he didn’t really know. All he knows is the restaurant’s fried shrimp is “fucking amazing.”

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/canadian-fishermen-shrimp/

Considering the largest shrimp on the planet are about the size of a person’s arm, this legend is almost absolutely false. In fact, this is eerily similar to a viral news story in 2013 that reported a 320lb shrimp caught along the Canada coast. Snopes declared this false, however, and showed that the photo was clearly doctored to replace a large catfish with a shrimp.

I enjoyed the story. I think it’s convenient to have the rumor be set in a time where records of such a catch would be spotty at best. When I was listen to the Informant speak of the huge giant shrimp of Galveston, I immediately thought of Randy’s Donuts here in Los Angeles, a drive-through donut shop that wields a massive 26-foot donut as a sign. Sadly, there’s no 26-foot donut either, with the largest one ever at 16-feet.

Folk speech
Proverbs

The Shrimp That Falls Asleep

Proverb: Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.

Phonetic Translation: ka.ma.ˈɾõŋ ˈke se ˈðwɛɾ.me se lo ˈʝe.βa la ko.ˈrjɛ̃n̪.te

Translation: The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current

Full translation: This proverb boils down to a relatively simple message. If you don’t put in work or effort, whether in daily life or in a specific situation, you risk being “swept away by the current”, or risk losing agency over your life.

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This proverb was recited in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.

My informant heard this proverb from his parents after he waited until late at night to begin a long assignment. He likes this proverb because it stresses the importance of effort. If you don’t put in effort, you won’t get anywhere – an especially important lesson to keep in mind when one is away at college. Also, he appreciates that phonetically, the words duerme and corriente rhyme, which makes the phrase flow easily off the tongue.

Analysis: The first thing I noticed about this proverb is its similarity to one from my own culture, “You snooze, you lose”. Though my informant’s proverb itself differs significantly in terms of wording, its meaning is essentially the same – slacking off or not doing anything will ultimately result in a more difficult struggle further down the line. The similarities in meaning but differences in wording suggest that the Mexican and American proverbs arose independently from each other, despite having essentially the same message – or, in folklore terms, the two are oikotypes, local variations of a common piece of folklore.

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