Original script: “Įkrito maža musytė į puodelį su gėrimu — netikėta laimė, arba gausit pinigų.”
Transliteration: “A small fly fell into a cup with drink inside — unbelievable luck, or you will get money.”
Free translation: “A blessing in disguise,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
IZ is a 20 year-old college student from Lisle, Illinois, living in Los Angeles, California. Both her parents’ families immigrated to the United States during World War II and remain connected to their Lithuanian roots through strong immigrant communities in the US.
IZ learned this proverb from her teachers at Maironis Lithuanian School in LeMont, Illinois, which she attended on Saturdays as a kid. It was intended to communicate that something perceived as bad or unlucky could end up being good. She gave the example of being paired up with someone you don’t like for a project. The teacher would use this proverb to remind you that, for example, you could end up becoming friends with that person.
It immediately stood out to me that this proverb contains a narrative sequence of events — the action of a fly falling into a cup and spoiling one’s drink. This stands out from the American equivalents of the proverb, which refer to an object having a double identity or redeeming quality, rather than an action.
It is also, arguably, a more relatable experience. Everyone has lamented having to throw out their drink when a bug falls into it. The American proverbial equivalents, however, refer to abstract or distant experiences — blessings and clouds.
I noted that IZ learning this proverb in an educational setting could suggest a more institutional dissemination of this cultural knowledge rather than in a folk context. However, it wasn’t part of a lesson but shared organically from teacher to student. It would be interesting to further study how the folklore of minority cultures in the United States may be institutionalized in cultural schools in attempts to preserve it among immigrant communities.