Tag Archives: folk expression

Southern Folk Expression

“He/she has taken a cotton onto you.”

My grandma grew up in a small town outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents were strawberry farmers and she helped take care of their farm before meeting my grandfather and moving to Long Beach, California. Whenever speaking about someone who seemed to be attracted to another person, she always uses the phrase “took a cotton to” to describe the situation, as cotton has a tendency to stick to clothing upon touching it. Since she grew up in the South, it’s not a surprise to see this expression become part of her vernacular, as cotton was one of the South’s main industries since its colonization. In speaking to my grandma, she learned the phrase by hearing her parents use it along with her friends parents when she was in elementary school, all of whom were involved in some sort of agricultural production.

I enjoy hearing my grandma say the phrase because it makes me feel more connected with my family roots in the South, despite many of the negative connotations that associate cotton growing with slavery. I’ve used the phrase a couple times here and though people understand the analogy, they tend to think of it as a random and bizarre expression since cotton farming is completely unfamiliar here in Los Angeles.

“Te Dan La Mano Y Se Cojen Del Codo”


“Te dan la mano y se cojen del codo”

Literal Translation: You give them your hand and they take your elbow.

Translation: When you extend your hand, they grab for your elbow.

My informant explained that her dad used to say this phrase all the time, as a warning about other people.  Her father had told her that with some people, you have to be cautious because they will try to take advantage of you.  The expression basically means that when you offer kindness or generosity, be careful because others may manipulate or abuse your benevolence.

The Spanish phrase echoes the American children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or the expression “when you give someone an inch, they take a mile.”  Once you start offering, the demands start building.  I asked if she had heard of this book or saying and she replied: “Oh yes, it’s exactly like that.”  So just remember, a small little offering can create a snowball effect and you’ll end up dealing with much more than you bargained for.