Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/18
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English
Proverb: Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.
Phonetic Translation: ka.ma.ˈɾõŋ ˈke se ˈðwɛɾ.me se lo ˈʝe.βa la ko.ˈrjɛ̃n̪.te
Translation: The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current
Full translation: This proverb boils down to a relatively simple message. If you don’t put in work or effort, whether in daily life or in a specific situation, you risk being “swept away by the current”, or risk losing agency over your life.
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.
My informant heard this proverb from his parents after he waited until late at night to begin a long assignment. He likes this proverb because it stresses the importance of effort. If you don’t put in effort, you won’t get anywhere – an especially important lesson to keep in mind when one is away at college. Also, he appreciates that phonetically, the words duerme and corriente rhyme, which makes the phrase flow easily off the tongue.
Analysis: The first thing I noticed about this proverb is its similarity to one from my own culture, “You snooze, you lose”. Though my informant’s proverb itself differs significantly in terms of wording, its meaning is essentially the same – slacking off or not doing anything will ultimately result in a more difficult struggle further down the line. The similarities in meaning but differences in wording suggest that the Mexican and American proverbs arose independently from each other, despite having essentially the same message – or, in folklore terms, the two are oikotypes, local variations of a common piece of folklore.