El Sordo

LW is a retired 74-year-old woman who lives with her husband in Sunnyside, WA. She was born and raised there and came from an immigrant mother and father who came from Guadalajara, Mexico. She never went to college but became a mother to three children and a grandmother to several grandchildren. She was remarried twice and worked two minimum wage jobs to support her family. Her primary language is Spanish but her English is perfect as well.

Are there any sayings you grew up with that you still use today that you are fond of?

LW: Yes, there was a saying that my aunt used to always say to me and I heard it from a few other family members as well and it was, ‘El sordo no oiye pero compone’. It means in english that the deaf cannot hear so they make it up.

Do you know if there is an underlying meaning to that phrase or proverb?

LW: I think the underlying meaning is that people will make up what they think or believe you said if they could not hear you correctly or if they cannot hear at all literally. Its more about being clear about what you say and what it means so it cannot be confused or so people don’t think you are saying the wrong thing. My own interpretation is it might be a fake-it-till-you-make-it metaphor on how if you don’t understand something or cannot figure it out it is okay to fake it or make something up. Improvising is a skill of the deaf that we could find helpful in day to day life I believe.

Do you think then that this phrase is to be taken more literally or figuratively?

LW: I am thinking that it is more figurative than literal. I don’t think many proverbs are literal these days and it is more about the internal lesson than the metaphor used to describe it.


This Spanish proverb is not very well known, it was almost impossible to find any record of it at all so it must be rarely used now. The significance of this unique phrase is interesting because it could be interpreted in many different ways. I am not sure whether it should be literal or figurative but either way I do not think this proverb could have much variation because of the way it has been passed on up till this point.