Tag Archives: Latin

sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana

Background: Informant is a 19 year old student. Their parents both grew up in Venezuela. Their mom’s side is Spanish and Italian and their dad’s is Spanish and Israeli. Informant is from Texas and Miami and now resides in Los Angeles. They identify as Latin American and Jewish.

Informant: So in most Latin countries when a child or someone has a wound or a tummy ache, either an older person or a loved one touches that spot or massages that spot and says, “sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana.” And that means, like the literal translation is “heal heal frogs tail and if it doesn’t heal today then it should heal tomorrow.”

Me: So, do you remember the first time this was used? Or is it kind of ever-present? 

Informant: Just growing up all the time whenever I was sick or had a tummy ache or if I hit myself when I was younger. I remember the first time that someone did it to me it was my grandma and like, as I was growing up my parents started doing it more as a joke. But it’s still like, if I’m having cramps or whatever my mom is like, “sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana.” So it’s almost like a superstitious thing like you say it and it heals you or more like a comfort thing. 

Reflection: I loved hearing this story from my friend. It was so sweet to hear this saying come out of their mouth, as you could hear the child in them and the comfort it gave them growing up. It’s so sweet to see the ways different cultures make sense of pain and help kids go through hard things. I felt I could really relate to this experience as I think it’s universal to a certain extent.

Classical diplomas

BACKGROUND: My informant, AC, was born in the US and attended boarding school in NH. As we were talking about our different high school customs, AC brought up our school’s initiation ceremony for everyone who took a classical language at the school.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend where we talked about our time at boarding school.

AC: –and also the Classics diplomas. The kids who could reach the highest level of Greek or Latin got those laurel crowns at graduation.

Me: And they graduated before everyone else.

AC: Right. I feel like, like they needed to incentive Latin because why would anyone take a dead language. [It] made all those classics students feel special.

THOUGHTS: I feel like academic institutions, especially prestigious ones, thrive on exclusivity. Our high school had many rituals — not just academic ones — in order to separate students from other students and put them in ranks. Although the classics diploma was created to celebrate students who completed four years of a difficult language, many students were upset that they were not given the same attention for completing equally difficult languages like Mandarin or Arabic. Students pointed to the fact that Latin and Greek were eurocentric languages and hence more celebrated than it’s counterparts. Regardless, based on the fact that the classical diploma students were first to walk the graduation stage and were physically separated from regular students, it’s clear that they had some sort of precedence.

Meaning Behind The Proverb “In The Land of The Blind, The One Eyed Man is King.”

Main Piece:

Original Text (Latin): “In regione caecorum rex est luscus.”

Translation: “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” 

Meaning as told by my informant:

“It means that if everything is bad, and one thing is less bad, then it’s automatically the best. It plays on the idea of ‘best’ being a relative term. So literally speaking, someone who has sight in one eye can see more than someone who is blind. Therefore, he’s the best. He rules. In life, if you’re better than people at something, even if you’re not even good at it, you’ll be the best. It’s winning by default. If you were playing a game and the other team forfeited, your team won just because it didn’t quit. You didn’t do anything, but you still did more than the other kids.” 

Background: 

My informant is my mother, who grew up hearing this phrase and doesn’t remember learning it. When I asked her if she knew the saying’s origin, she said “it must’ve come somewhere with a king, so it’s probably European.” She likes the saying because it puts things in perspective: “Once you enter the real world, nothing is perfect. A lot of life is just getting things done the best you can. It’s not like in school where there are grades. Many times, the things that are best aren’t even very good. That can be very comforting or very concerning, depending on your belief system. I think it’s kind of beautiful.” 

Context: 

I am currently in quarantine at my informant/mother’s house, and this piece was collected while we were eating dinner at the kitchen table. 

Thoughts: 

I had always heard this saying in the context of someone getting something by default; they didn’t work hard for it, but they worked harder than others. However, after some research, I learned this specific phrasing is taken from an Erasmus quote in Latin that dates back to 1500, which is likely based off of a Hebrew excerpt from Genesis in the Old Testament “בשוק סמייא צווחין לעווירא סגי נהור”, which translates to “In the street of the blind, the one eyed man is called the Guiding Light.” Once I saw that this proverb is Biblical, it gave me a new perspective on my mother’s idea that it’s “kind of beautiful.” In the Bible, Jesus always says people are perfectly imperfect. While the English proverb in particular is competitive, it also shows that sometimes, even the best people aren’t perfect. I think this saying is a good example of how a proverb can change over time. Biblically, it means that we are all human, and we shouldn’t be so hard on each other. But today, it generally means someone wasn’t good, they were just better. While I don’t imagine myself using this proverb in its original context, it does give me a new appreciation for the saying itself. 

For more information on the proverb’s origin:

Wiktionary. “In-the-Land-of-the-Blind-the-One-Eyed-Man-Is-King.” 

“Slow water runs deep”

The Virgin Islands are a nest for proverbial sayings. Each one bears a specific lesson that is passed down from generation to generation. A very common saying in the nature island of Dominica is “Slow water runs deep”. This is usually a phrase spoken by elders in a Caribbean community.

H: My mother used to say “slow water runs deep”

The original language and script is in Latin: altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.

The transliterated proverb (word by word translation): depth each rivers minimum sound

The fully translated proverb: the deepest rivers flow with the least sound

The informant learned it from her grandmother when she was very young in Dominica. She remembers it because it taught her a lot about how to choose her friends wisely when she was in her formative years. From the informant’s perspective, she feels this is very telling of how our environment can deceive us. Her interpretation is to “never expect good from something that is stagnant” (H). It is normally thought that quiet people are less interesting but on the contrary, they are the ones who listen and observe. While some people may be quick to say what they’re thinking or reveal information about their life, others may feel more inclined to stay reserved. These tend to be individuals with the deepest stories to tell. When breaking down the mechanics of the proverb, we can begin to understand the analogy. Water that runs quickly would be like rivers and streams. Still or “slow” water is like lakes. The slower the current, the more shallow the waters. When we’re in streams or rivers, we can see what’s below the water (rocks, fish, etc…) but when we’re in a lake there’s no telling what we might find. There’s far more mystery in still waters.

Rubor, Dolor, and Calor — Signs of Infection

Text

The following piece was collected from a seventy-three year-old woman from Vail, Colorado. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: My mother had a very specific way of checking her children for infections. She would always say to us: Rubor, dolor, and calor. Signs of inflammation.”

Collector: “What do they mean?”

Informant: “They translate to mean redness, pain, and heat. Basically you would check a cut or some injury to see if it was was, if it was giving off heat, and if it was tender. If it did, you would know it was infected.”

Context

            The Informant learned this phrase from her Irish mother, she claims it is just something her mother always said to the children. The Informant believes it to be a simple procedure of people to check for infection and inflammation for people who are not well equipped to handle any ailments. She remembers it because of the frequency of which her mother would mutter it when looking over the Informant’s injuries when she was young.

Interpretation

I loved this new piece. I had never heard of this before, but I was familiar enough with the signs of infection. I was intrigued so I looked up the origin of the phrase. The original definition of inflammation, set forward by Roman encyclopedist Celus in the 1st century A.D. The original definition also included the fourth sign, tumor, meaning swelling. I found it interesting that even though the signs are taken as canon for inflammation, when they are repeated, they are still said in their original Latin. Keeping the phrase in Latin might preserve its credibility in the eyes of some, everything sounds more official when said in Latin.