Author Archives: mkofford

Sleepy Shrimp Proverb

Text: “Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente” or “The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current”.

Context: My friend’s heritage and family stems from Mexico but he was raised in Arizona. He told me his great-great grandma, affectionately referred to as Nana Nana, said this to him when he was younger and it’s used as an admonishment or word of warning.

Interpretation: This seems exactly like a proverb parents repeat to children to remind them to be productive and to continuously work towards their goals. I love this proverb because it’s similar to the American phrase “you snooze, you lose” but it’s more metaphorical and has nature motifs (ex. shrimp, current/water). In my opinion, it’s a more eloquent sort of oikotype than the phrase that I’m familiar with. On the surface it simply means that if you slack off or “fall asleep” in your life then you will get lost or “swept away” but it can also be used to describe the potential shift in political or personal opinion. If you’re less informed about certain candidates on a ballot then you might – consciously or unconsciously – choose the people you’ve seen more ads for or whoever your family/community prefers. If you’re not aware or informed of your environment then you’ll end up following the flow around you, for better or for worse.

Never Cross Over Train Tracks Into The Desert

Text: You should never cross over train tracks into the desert, especially at night.

Context: My roommate X, a current USC student, grew up in Arizona and recounted to me that when they were 12 they first learned this saying from other kids. They were playing with friends one night and a Nerf bullet was shot too far, landing on the other side of the nearby train tracks. X went to get the bullet and the other kids stopped them with the warning that they should never cross over the tracks into the desert. The kids said “it’s gone now” and explained that X would be “gone” too if they crossed. X heard the saying multiple times while living in Arizona, highlighting first hand accounts of others hearing the voices of loved ones who aren’t present or seeing glowing eyes in the dark. Each account of what was or could be on the other side was different but the message was consistently that you should not cross train tracks into the wilderness.

Interpretation: Upon hearing this, I immediately thought that this saying seems like a warning for children about the dangers of the Arizona wilderness or potentially just train safety. X’s story supported this because they mentioned it was common for children in the area to play near train tracks and the desert so it would make sense for parents to make up a reason as to why their children shouldn’t be near the train tracks. However, as we continued discussing, X made it clear that they heard the accounts of voices and glowing eyes at a much older age from adults who wholeheartedly believed what they saw. As seemingly a memorate, I think this saying could stem from the Native communities of Arizona because the reports of voices reminds me of Skinwalkers or spirits. The train tracks could represent the barrier between the danger/supernatural and safety/civilization.

Girls Go to College Rhyme

Text: “Girls go to college to get more knowledge. Boys go to Jupiter because they’re more stupider”

Context: My childhood friend said this long forgotten phrase to me recently in a discussion about childhood rhymes. We were talking about when were we in elementary and middle school we learned a bunch of silly rhymes that didn’t make much sense but were somehow memorable. She mentioned that she remembered this phrase because it implied women are smarter than men, something she ponders frequently.

Interpretation: During our discussion, I noted that many of these rhymes we were recalling seemed to center around gender. I found this interesting because we learned and repeated these rhymes only when we were children but not as adults. The idea and societal concepts of gender are constantly changing, especially when you’re a child, so the prevalence of these rhymes seems to signify the shift from the family sphere to the school/public sphere. I think these rhymes represent a time in a child’s life when they begin to develop relationships outside of their family and look for ways to relate to their peers.