Author Archives: Sofia Reynoso

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

American Street Crack Superstition

Main Piece:

“Step on a crack and break your mom’s back”

Context and Analysis:

The informant claims the superstition is common knowledge. When asked when she first heard it she insisted not knowing when she picked it up, she just assumed it was common knowledge, “Everyone knows that when you are walking, you are not supposed to step on a crack it’s just what everyone says.” The informant does not know where the superstition originates from. The informant does not believe this superstition is true and therefore she does not apply it to her daily life. The informant states, “I know it is not true because I have stepped on a lot of cracks and nothing has happened.”

Like most superstitions, this one uses the threat of something valuable to encourage people to follow it. If something valuable is at stakes many times even if people do not believe in the superstition they will follow it to avoid any potential curse. This superstition emphasizes the dangers of stepping on a crack which can lead to breaking your mother’s back.

It is interesting to note the informant’s belief that this superstition is known worldwide. Often when someone does not know the origin of where something comes from or if they heard it at an early enough age, they assume everyone is familiar with the same things they are. Due to the understanding my informant has of the superstition I want to infer she heard it when she was in her early childhood years.

I also think it is important to note my informants reasoning as to what makes this superstition relevant. She states ‘everyone’ knows this. By emphasizing the use of a lot of people following a tradition or employing a saying, this gives any work reliability and validation.

There also seems to be a correlation with how difficult the superstition is to follow and how many people follow it. Many people follow superstitions when it does not inconvenience them. Therefore, when you have a superstition like this where it takes a lot of effort to avoid cracks everywhere one goes, it is less likely people will follow it.  Among children, this superstition can act as a game where a child will aim to avoid the cracks on the pavement and if he fails the punishment is the belief that his or her mom’s back will be broken.

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.

 

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.