Tag Archives: spanish proverbs

Ponte las pilas: Proverb

Text: “Ponte las pilas” “Put your batteries on”

Context: NO’s relationship to this proverb stems from her Mexican culture and household. All her life, NO would hear this statement being said when it came to school and working hard within entering higher education. She would typically hear this proverb being said by her parents or other older relatives. In her family, they use this phrase as a way to give advice when she feels defeated, overwhelmed, or lazy. Oftentimes NO says it to herself as a motivator to get her work done. NO interprets this proverb as a motivator to get back into the ‘work mode’ and to be productive in life. 

Analysis: The cultural value that I see present within this proverb is the fact that Mexican culture usually revolves around the connotation that Mexicans are hard workers and they can accomplish anything if they simply put their mind to it. Given that this proverb is a motivator, I can claim that the personal values are expressed within the motivation, determination, and productivity that this proverb can emit to the receiver. Considering that I have heard this all my life within my Mexican culture as well, I see this proverb as an influential piece of advice that is told by older relatives for that extra ounce of motivation that you need when you find yourself in times of defeat, laziness, or entering a momentous time in your life (Ex: starting college, first day at a new job, going to a job interview). Considering its legitimate translation is “put your batteries on”, I consider this proverb to be an accurate concept considering putting new batteries in is hypothetically what you need to do in order to perform better given that the more “power” you put on, the more motivated you will feel to get back to work.

Sacatito de conejo: Proverb/Gesture

Text: “Sacatito de conejo” “A sack of bunnies”

Context: NO’s relationship to this proverb stems from her Mexican culture and her amusing family. NO grew up listening to this phrase/gesture performed by her dad within her Mexican culture and childhood. She would often hear it from her father or an older relative. Within her Mexican household, she would often hear it used in a way to poke fun at someone who is scared of doing something or someone who backs out of a dare. Typically, this gesture consists of gesturing your hand like the Italian “finger purse/pinched fingers” while simultaneously saying the phrase to taunt and make fun of those who are scared; this is to represent many bunnies given the fact that you have five fingers. NO interprets this proverb/gesture as a way to pick at those who don’t want to accomplish something or who are “too chicken” to complete a certain task or action.

Analysis: The cultural value that I see present within this proverb/gesture is the fact that Mexican culture usually revolves around the connotation that Mexicans can do anything and can accomplish anything. Given this idea, this proverb/gesture stems from stereotypical Mexican beliefs. The personal values that are evident within this proverb/gesture is the mockery that stems from someone’s overall personality and characteristics. I see this proverb/gesture as an overall expression of mockery and amusement. Given that the literal translation doesn’t quite make sense, I assume that the comparison of someone backing out is similar to a cute sack of bunnies. I interpret this proverb/gesture as a comparison factor given that the main idea is to make the individual feel like they represent a cute bunny rather than a badass person. Considering that this is performed typically within a joking manner, I consider this proverb/gesture as a lighthearted action that can inflict laughter and great fun despite the fact that I haven’t heard it within my own personal Mexican culture. 

Si Dios nos de licencia: Proverb

Text: “Si Dios nos da licencia” “If God gives us permission”

Context: EC’s relationship to this proverb stems from her Mexican culture which has allowed her to have many experiences growing up with this proverb within her childhood and Mexican home. EC would hear her mom and older relatives/adults say it a lot when referencing to the future. She also grew up hearing this phrase within her Mexican Catholic culture as many religious individuals in her life would say it. Within her household, she would often hear her relatives using it as they would casually speak in Spanish. They often use it to express hope for a future opportunity or after confirming to attend future plans. Within her life, EC interprets this proverb as a way of saying that if God permits it, things will happen or become accomplished. Overall, EC thinks of this proverb as more of a reminder that not every day is promised and to always be grateful for every opportunity.  

Analysis: The overall cultural value within this proverb stems from Mexican Catholic households considering Mexicans tend to be more religion orientated. Based on religion, this proverb expresses personal values given the fact that the person who says this statement is most likely affiliated with religion, God, and in this case, the Catholic Church. I see this proverb as an overall expression of hope and trust. Given that this statement is said for future reference, I consider this proverb as a quality of trust that brings you closer to God given the fact that you are aware that a certain opportunity or event will only come true if God truly wants it or if he really intends it to happen. Coming from a Mexican household myself, I can relate to many similar experiences surrounding this proverb as it has been rooted in my mind as a hopeful manifestation to always put your faith in God.

Spanish Proverbs

The informant’s mother is from northern Mexico, specifically Sonora. She came to America during the Mexican revolution when she was very young (~1910).  She lived in the territory of Arisona before it became a state. The informant was raised in Arizona, but brought up bilingual. Her mother would speak spanish to her and her siblings because she did not want to kids to lose it.

The informant told me 3 Spanish proverbs that her mother used to say to the kids growing up.

1. “No hay mal que por bien no venga”

Translates roughly to “something good comes out of everything”

Context via informant: Let’s say something went wrong… you didn’t get something you wanted. Mom would say that meaning that something good will still come out of it.

Interpretation: This proverb exhibits a mindset focused on always looking at bright side.  It warns people against getting upset over things not always going their way, but instead believing that something better is on the way.

2. “Entre menos guros mas elotes”

Translates roughly to “The fewer the people who want something, the bigger your share is going to be.”

Context via informant: Mom used this proverb whenever somebody doesn’t want something (typically food).

Interpretation: The English equivalent for this proverb would be saying “more for me” after someone declines food or some object. It emphasizes that nothing will go to waste, and at times can make one feel guilty for not wanting what is so graciously given to him.  Someone else will make use of what you do not want. The food/thing in front of you is not worthless even if you do not want it.

3. “El diablo sabe mas por viejo que por diable”

Translates roughly to “The devil knows more because he is not rather than because he is the devil”

Context via informant: “Mom said this ALL the time. The idea is that experience mattered more than anything. If you’re the daughter and she’s the mom, you’ll never know more because she’s older. You can never catch up.  It was very discouraging.”

Interpretation: It makes sense that a parent would frequently say this proverb because parents will always be older than their children, meaning they will always be wiser. Older people know more, and they always will, because they will always be older than you.  It is emphasizes respect and reverence of elders. You should never stop respecting or listening to people older than you because they will always be wiser.

Los Ociosos Trabajan Doble

This is a Spanish proverb my informant’s Puerto Rican mother would say to him. Translated it means “the lazy work twice as hard” meaning that lazy people, to avoid having to exert themselves, will end up putting more effort into finding a shortcut than it would have taken to just do the work in the first place.

The example my informant gave was that he would be in bed and want to turn off the light. Instead of getting up and taking a few seconds to walk across the room, he would throw his shoes and whatever else was at hand at the light switch in an effort to flip it. Before long, it became apparent that the far simpler solution would have been to gather the resolve to momentarily get out of bed. Situations like this would prompt my informant’s mother to recite the proverb.

A clever and simply stated way to chide lazy people that actually offers a practical reason to stop procrastinating and do a task (for the purpose of exerting less effort in the long run). Normally I’d expect a moral impetus behind a proverb like this, but that doesn’t seem to be the thought process.