Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/18
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English
Original: Ponte las pilas
Phonetic: ˈpõn̪.te las ˈpi.las
Translation: Get some batteries
Full Translation: This piece of folk speech is telling whoever it is directed at that they are”out of batteries” or out of energy or work ethic, and that they need to refill or else they won’t be able to functional. It boils down directly to “don’t be lazy”
Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This proverb was recited in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.
Background: My informant can’t remember exactly who he heard this saying from, but is relatively certain it was in a familial setting. To him, it’s simply a natural way of telling someone that they’re being lazy, and that they should consider putting more effort or attention into whatever they’re doing. To him personally, he sees it as a harsher way of telling someone to get more motivated. He’s only used it friends and family, and considers it as almost borderline rude.
Analysis: This example is perhaps unique amongst the folk speech that I have recorded. Many phrases are hard to assign to a single period due to the general difficulty of tracing word-of-mouth materials. However, this example appears to have contemporary origins. Since its referring to batteries specifically, it must have originated sometime in the past fifty to one hundred years, making it a relatively recent piece of folk speech. In terms of the phrase itself, I think that its short length – three words – makes it an easily repeatable phrase, which makes it hard to forget as a result. This could potentially explain its widespread use in Mexico, despite its seemingly recent origins.