“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.