Tag Archives: saying

No Te hagas Que la Virgen Te Habla

Transliteration: Do not youtself make that the Virgin (Mary) is calling you

Translation: Don’t act dumb because the virgin is calling you

Explanation/ Context: My mom would often say this to my sisters and I, rhetorically when she was driving and someone upset her on the road. “Unas veces me enojaba tanto con los carros cuando las iba a dejar a la escuela… Lo escuché primero en México cuando era niña. No se de donde se viene.” After doing some digging (asking family members to translate), the saying is mostly applied to people who pretend to act dumb or as if they don’t know what’s going on.

Translation: “sometimes I would get so mad with the cars when I went to drop [you and your sisters] off at school… I heard it first in Mexico when I was a girl. I don’t know where it comes from though.

“Never strike the last match,” 

“Never strike the last match,” 

Willie: O-o-okay, here’s another one that came from, um…Vietnam, it’s “never strike the last match.”

Me: What’s that one mean? 

Willie: Okay, that means if you have one match left in a book, don’t strike it. Cause people in Vietnam, what- what used to happen is, they used to smoke, right? 

Me: Uh-huh.

Willie: And it would be nighttime, and they’re in the jungle, and they light a match, and then people know where they are, so people start shooting where the match is.

Me: Ohhh. 

Willie: So there’s a saying, don’t light the last match…or, don’t strike the last match…They say it’s bad luck.

My dad heard this from a few different neighbors growing up, ones that had served or were close to people that had served in the U.S. army during the Vietnam War. In the context of war, it was rather literal in its meaning, given that revealing your location could very easily get you killed; but in regular life it would be used as a way of saying don’t ruin your plans before they unfold. I couldn’t find anything online about this phrase, but the closest thing I could find was the saying “three on a match,” which means if three soldiers light their cigarettes on the same match, one of the three of them would die. Considering the meanings are pretty different, I wouldn’t say they’re the same saying with different words, but they probably evolved from one or the other.

“God don’t like ugly, and he’s not too fond of pretty, either,”

“God don’t like ugly, and he’s not too fond of pretty, either,”

Willie: Here- here- here’s another one. God don’t like ugly, and he’s not too fond of pretty, either.

Me: What’s that mean?

Willie: Okay, God doesn’t like people that do bad things, um…and he’s not too fond of people that wanna be perfect, or picture perfect.

My dad heard this from a couple of different places growing up, most namely his grandmother, in preachers’ sermons, and from the little old ladies after church service. It means God isn’t fond of people who are bad and sin often, but he also isn’t fond of people who try to be perfect. Honestly, I’m a big fan of this saying in particular, even though I’ve never personally heard it in context. In my opinion, sometimes, people can misunderstand what their religion asks of them in terms of morals, and try too hard to be the perfect person. Oftentimes, that can be more detrimental.

North Dakaton German-Russian Common Saying


Original Script: “Hasch Hunger? Schlupf in e Gagumer”

Transliteration: “Have hunger? Slip in a Cucumber”

Translation: “Experiencing hunger? Climb in a Cucumber”

*Note, because this saying is dependant on the German-Russian word “hunger” rhyming with “gagumer,” it’s difficult to produce a “natural-sounding” English translation.


The country of Germany as we now know it is of course a relatively modern sovereign state. Prior to the unification of the German states in the late 19th century, Germany existed as a myriad of different “mini-states” all with their own governing bodies and economic models. Unfortunately, this led to many Germans becoming demoralized due to religious, economic, and political hardships, and many emigrated to Russia in the 18th and 19th century. To make try and make the historical background as succinct as possible, many of these Germans living in Russia were eventually forced to leave Russia, with many settling in the northern plains of the United States.

This was the case for my ancestors on my mom’s side of the family, with my great-great grandparents settling in North Dakota. In North Dakota, there’s a heavy concentration of German-Russians living within the state, who through a combination of their prior ethnic and national heritage, as well as an amalgamation of their new American life created a unique culture and folklore. Because of the many years that many Germans spent in Russia, a mixed language emerged, that’s definitely rooted in German but contains many elements of Russian influence.

My informant heard this common saying many times growing up, usually from her mother. It’s a common saying for German-Russians living in North Dakota that’s given when somebody – usually a child – expresses hunger at a time not meant for eating. It’s a rhyme, that translated from German-Russian basically says “experiencing hunger? climb into a cucumber.” The nonsensicalness of the rhyme is meant to be a quick retort to somebody being annoying in their request to be fed. My informant also used this saying throughout her life with her own kids as well. When asked about how she would interpret the saying, she laughed and told me that there was “no deeper meaning to the saying.” It’s simply a rhyming phrase that’s quick and easy to say.

My Analysis

My analysis of this common North Dakotan saying basically mirrors my informant’s. It’s a quick retort that rolls off the tongue when one is busy with something else, and another person is being cumbersome in their declarations of hunger or requests to eat at an ill-opportuned time. The “simpleness” of the saying is the basis of the saying.

This humorous saying can also be found in Dr. Shirley Fischer Arend’s collection on North Dakotan culture.

Arends, Shirley Fischer. The Central Dakota Germans: Their History, Language, and Culture, SFA Publishing, United States, 2016, pp. 193–193.

Not good, but slow

Main Piece: Not good, but slow

“I may not be good, but I am slow”

Background Information:

When my dad was younger and was working construction in Alaska, one of his friends who worked the same job grew up in the Soviet Union where everybody was provided a job. Because of this, it did not matter how hard you worked on the job because the job was guaranteed. Because of this, if someone was a hard worker they would make everybody else look bad because you did not need to work hard to keep a job.

Context of the Performance:

This was a joke with some truth that you would say to your employer in the Soviet Union, according to my dad’s friend, because hard workers were not well liked due to the fact that they would make others look bad.

My Thoughts:

Without the context for this joke, it is not understandable. However, once the context is filled in it becomes understandable and funny. I find it very interesting that this mentality was apparently fairly common within the Soviet Union.