“Do you remember what your dad used to tell us when we were little, about how to stop dogs from pooping? (laughter) So, he said that when you saw a dog pooping you should stare at it and interlock your index fingers and pull on them while staring at the dog. I did it many times, and it worked! Or maybe the dog was just creeped out by me staring at it.”
The informant is a 27-year-old Mexican American college student. He heard this “trick” from his uncle. He is not sure why he was told this but continues to try out the “trick” to this day.
I believe that this gesture was a way to entertain us when we were children. It might just be a prank to pull on naïve individuals.
I asked the informant if she remembered what she told me would happen to me if I stared at dogs having sex… She laughed and then: “Yeah, I told you you would get a perrilla on your eye.” I asked her to describe what that was, because to this day I have no idea what it is. “Well, I am not completely sure of what it is. When I was young my mother, in El Salvador, would tell me not to stare at dogs when they…you know…because a perilla would appear in your eye. I think it is a kind of wart, or something similar to a wart. I am not sure. I just knew it was not something I wanted to grow out of my eye!”
Context: The informant is a middle-aged woman, born in El Salvador. She learned this myth from her mother. She believes that this was a way to maintain a child’s innocence, and to stop them from learning about sex too early.
Analysis: I agree with the informant; I think this myth was created to stop kids from growing up too fast and raising questions about what sex is.
“Como perros en misa”- Like dogs in church. This saying is used when one is having the worst day possible where you feel attacked from all sides with no warning. Back in the day in Colombia, churches used to have their door always open and on hot days, stray dogs would sometimes seek refuge inside a cool tile church only to be physically kick out by a variety of feet, leaving what should have been a sanctuary, bruised and confused. So when you ask someone how was their day and they answer “Como perros en misa” you now know that they have had a surprisingly terrible day. The correct response is “I am so sorry, that sounds horrible” as you would expect to react to a puppy being kicked without reason.
Analysis: There have been times this semester when everyday for a whole week I felt like a “perro en misa” because everything would go wrong and an undesirable event would happen like surprise reading quiz. The American version would be something like “ when it rains, it pours” but that along with “Mercury is in retrograde” seem more impersonal and generalized, while “perros en misa” is more specific and means that you are personally are being brutalized, not the whole world.
Context: The informant is a grandmother in her 60s, originally from Guatemala, but now lives with her family in Southern California and works as a home-health nurse. When asked some of her favorite proverbios (proverbs), she gave me the following examples and attempted to translate them for her American audience (me). I also looked up the proverbs online for further clarification and explanation. The results are below.
- Porque te quiero, te aporreo: Literal translation is “Because I love you, I hit you.” Seems to be a cultural explanation or excuse for spanking or other corporal punishment, similar to the old saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” In online discussions, teh general consensus seems to be that it is (or used to be) a parent’s job to correct bad behavior and promote good behavior by any means necessary, so that beating was an accepted way to discipline your child and ensure they became good, moral adults.
- Salir de Guatemala y entrar en guatepeor: This was the most interesting proverb to me, because it is both a proverb and a pun. The meaning is something like, leaving one bad situation and entering an even worse one–like “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” But the pun part comes from the name Guatemala, where mala means ‘bad’, and guatepeor, where peor means ‘worse’. So the proverb is literally saying, going from bad to worse, but it does so through by locating the concept in a Spanish-speaking country that, presumably, most of the Spanish-speaking world would know of and therefore have some preconceived notion of.
- El perro que ladra no muerde: The dog that barks does not bite. Seems to be similar to the American/English saying that some(one/thing)’s bark is worse than its bite, in that they may put on an intimidating show and seem very formidable, but really they’re harmless or nothing to worry about.
Analysis: I think it is quite interesting that these proverbs are all very similar to ones that I know in English, either the general content/concept of them, or the exact wording of the phrases. This makes me wonder whether these proverbs originated in either English or Spanish and then were translated for that language group; or perhaps they came to both languages around a similar time period and from the same source (is Latin too pretentious a guess?) (one source claims that the “frying pan into the fire” saying and its many European variations is ultimately derived from an ancient Greek saying. however, the Guatemala/guatepeor saying seems to be uniquely for a Spanish-speaking audience, based on its unique play on words, so it is possible that the sayings evolved independently.)
If you ever need some insight or intuitive advice from the spirits, add dog makapiapias to your own.
The explanation for this is basically that when the kahunas need to contact the spirit world they collect the makapiapia (in English people call this “eye boogers”?) from the dogs’ eyes and cover their own eyes with it to communicate with the spirits because dogs are known to have that kind of “sixth sense.”
How did you come across this folklore: “I was told by Hawaiiana teacher in school.”
Other information: “I think people in Hawaii call this an old wives tale… but I’m not sure whether this is actually practiced…”
This is a folk belief that is commonly known in Hawaii, and as absurd as it is to put “eye boogers” from a dog onto your own, it makes sense taking into consideration the ideas behind magic (especially contagious magic). Because a dog’s senses are sharper than a person’s, taking something from a dog and adding to oneself opens the possibility of inheriting that property of sharpened senses.
“Don’t use children or dogs in theatre.”
In theatre, the informant said it’s supposed to be bad luck to use children or dogs in a show. In the informant’s first full run production of a play (as a producer) in 2010, he used several children and one dog. He said that the belief ma be valid because children often have varying degrees of discipline, and both they and dogs can be distracting to audiences. In this production, the informant said the dog pulled focus (her tail was moving back and forth “like a flag” much of the time because she was so happy to have attention).
The informant learned of this when he started doing theatre 10 years ago. He regularly hears it from theatre professionals. He says that because audiences love kids and dogs, they often find them more entertaining than the actors, which is not ideal for those putting on the play. Ultimately, he has found that dogs and children may be difficult to work with, and may steal focus.
Understandably, dogs and children are very distracting because they are so easy to focus on (many YouTube videos will attest to that), so this belief makes sense. However, it could become problematic for productions that require children or dogs because adults dressing up as either could also be distracting. This also causes me to question whether or not writers steer away from adding children or dogs to their plays.
While my informant grew up in Los Angeles, my informant’s family is from Yucatan, Mexico and he frequently goes down to visit his grandparents who live on a ranch. He heard this information when he was a child visiting his grandparents. His uncle taught him this:
“If you see a dog poop, you’ll get an infection, like a pimple, in your eye”
My informant says that it comes a lot from the community in Yucatan. He said he did not know why this particular belief existed, but he did say that his uncle liked to tease him.
This belief is playing with the obscene and gross. One disgusting thing leads to another. Dogs are common in many places in the world, so having a dog poop in front of you is not too unlikely. The idea behind the belief is that disgusting things can rub off or effect you if you witness them.