Sana, sana, colita de rana – a Spanish children’s rhyme

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): spanish

Spanish: Sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana

Translation: Heal, heal, little tail of the frog. If you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow.

Full translation

AG: This is something that parents tell their children basically, when they complain about something hurting or something going wrong. It rhymes, too, which is why kids like it and why people remember it. It’s basically saying that it’s okay if something isn’t fixed right now, because it’ll be fixed by tomorrow on it’s own. So don’t worry about it too much.

Background:

The informant, AG, was born in the US. His parents are from Mexico, specifically Jalisco and Hidalgo. AG remembers this rhyme because his parents used to tell it to him.

Context

This story was collected over a zoom call. I asked a group of friends what things their parents used to tell them when they were little, and when this rhyme came up, they all laughed in acknowledgement. That makes me think that this must be a fairly popular saying.

Thoughts:

This rhyme is interesting because I feel like it is more meaningful than a lot of other American rhymes for children (the main, and actually only one, that I can think of being “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” which is not very deep). The fact that this was the first thing that AG thought of spoke to its prominence, and also probably that it’s a good representation of Spanish rhymes for children. I once spoke to a songwriter, MW, who said that it is a lot more difficult to come up with meaningful songs in English than Japanese and Chinese, simply because there are so many more words/sounds that rhyme in Japanese in Chinese. In English, a lot of common words end in a rhyme with “ee,” “oo,” or “ay” and if it doesn’t, then it’s a little harder to rhyme with anything else in a casual way. I wonder if this is the same for Spanish, because then it would explain why we have no common meaningful rhymes for children where Spanish might have more.