Monday, May 16, 2011

A Sampling of Mexican-American Dichos (Proverbs)

Although Ana is from the planet Thomo, her husband's family would probably be called Mexican-American by most people, though some Hispanics in New Mexico insist that since their ancestors actually arrived before the establishment of the country of Mexico, they should be called Spanish-Americans. We don't care to argue the point, and we don't know how Matt's grandmother, Reyes Méndez might feel about it, but in any case their Spanish is peppered with the traditional words of wisdom we generally call proverbs, in English, and dichos, in Spanish (from "decir," to say or speak).

For example, in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation, Matt's grandmother was once asked how she was doing, to which she replied "¡Vivita y coleanda, gracias!" ("Alive and wagging, thanks!").

On another occasion, when things looked very bad for one member of the family, Abuelita Méndez encouraged her great granddaughter by saying "Donde menos se piensa, salta la liebre" ("When you least expect it, a rabbit jumps out"). Who among us has not been startled by that very event? It's true: you never know what'll happen next.

When that same great granddaughter expressed frustration over her mother's habit of getting into trouble, Sra. Méndez defended her, saying, "Mejor libre albedrío que vivir en las sombras" ("Free will is better than living in shadows").

Indeed, the formidable Abuelita Méndez is seldom far from an appropriate dicho. She is known for speaking, and acting, when the time is right ("en caliente y de repente”) ("striking when the iron is hot")!

Here are some more dichos that are surely in her repertoire:

Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho. (From saying to doing, it's a long way, i.e., it's easier said than done)

En la tierra de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey. (In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.)

Gato maulador, pobre cazador. (A meowing cat is a poor hunter, i.e., a big talker is a little doer)

Un poquito de veneno no mata. (A little poison won't kill you, i.e., food, drink, etc., in moderation is OK)

Más vale onza de prudencia que onza de ciencia. (An ounce of common sense is worth more than an ounce of science.)

El que quiere celestre, que le cueste. (He who wants it easy finds it hard, i.e., the hard way is the easy way)

Con la vara que midas, serás medido. (With the stick that you measure, you will be measured, i.e., judge as you would be judged)

En boca cerrada no entran moscas. (Flies don't enter a closed mouth.)

Amor con amor se paga. (Love is repaid with love.)


Dianne K. Salerni said...

Love those proverbs! It's interesting how many proverbs have doppelgangers in other cultures. I guess people are people -- and wisdom is wisdom -- no matter where you live.

Al said...

Sometimes they can be extemporized. When I was a kid, playing golf with my dad on a golf course in Mexico, he came upon his ball in a sand trap--bad enough, but someone before us had left deep footprints in the sand and not raked them out, a big violation of etiquette, and my dad's ball was in the bottom of one of those footprints. He looked at it, steaming, and finally said "¡Pasó por aqui un cabrón!" He reversed the normal word order for emphatic effect, and the Mexican caddies whooped with delight. It means, "By here there passed a son of a b___ch!" That'd be a good dicho for when you see a piece of gum spit onto a sidewalk, or other gnavish event, don't you think?

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