Ah, the joys of speaking two languages! Some people say that one is fluent in a language when you can a) understand songs in that language and b) have dreams in that language. Both of these are true, but I have to add another caveat: you are officially fluent in a language when you understand the folk sayings. You see, this is just the cultural part, not the language per se part. Take Sunshine for example, he doesn’t know tons of Spanish other than commands that we give the boys: sit, stop, time for a bath/shower, eat, milk… and of course the words that come out of my mouth when I am either angry, REALLY angry, or when I stub my toe… words that I wasn’t aware I kept saying until the day Skywalker dropped some toys he was carrying (he was probably 3 or 4) and he said “Coño!” – clear as day. Sunshine didn’t bat an eye; he just looked at me and said, “I know he didn’t learn THAT one from me…” After that, I was more careful. I still say them, but not as often… I mean, you can’t help it when you step barefoot on a Lego or when the recipe called for ½ teaspoon and you just dumped ½ tablespoon and that was the last 2 cans of pureed pumpkin in the city… but I digress.
I was talking about folk sayings. Since I am all about edumacating those around me (I love that word…) I decided to share some wisdom with you. I have already shared some of these words with my husband and my best friends. Most of them quote them religiously now and get the same raised eyebrow look that I get from anyone who doesn’t understand (and that they gave me the first time they heard them). The following sayings are translated directly from Spanish, which makes it fun. Some of them are shared in different countries. When you say one of these in Puerto Rico, nothing else has to be said. The circle of wisdom is complete. But words of wisdom they are, so brace yourself! You are about to be enlightened in Puerto Rican wisdom:
1. Shrimp that falls asleep, the current drags him away – If you are not paying attention to what is going on, you will face the consequences – they don’t have to be fatal ones, just sucky ones. You know, you snooze, you lose.
2. Pigeon pass – another form of not paying attention, but in this case, you are a sucker for it. For example, when you check your receipt leaving the store and realized that you weren’t charged for an item, you say, Pigeon pass… and walk away. Or, when you give someone the chance to do buy the first lottery ticket and they don’t but you do and then you win? Pigeon Pass.
3. Taking me/you for a low hanging mango – when someone (me or you) is taken for a fool (or someone is trying to).
4. Is not the same to call the Devil than to see him coming – Not the same to say you can handle or deal with something than to actually have to handle it/deal with it (and of course, you can’t). In other words, be careful what you wish for.
5. I don’t have hairs on my tongue – “Yeah, you heard me, I said it, so what?” or speaking the truth bluntly.
6. Changing oranges for bottles – made a bad deal, got something of lesser value for something of higher value.
7. The front light is the one that shines – A favorite of Sunshine: Do now what you can do now or you might not have a chance later: for example, “Kids do you need to go to the bathroom before we leave” “No!” “The front light is the one that shines!” (And if they don’t go, then they have to go and there is no restroom in sight… that gives you liberty to say: “I told you that the front light is the one that shines” again).
8. There is a cat trapped in here – Something is fishy here…
9. Slower than a tar drip – No need to explain… have you tried to drip tar?
10. That’s another $20 – That’s a different story altogether.
11. The monkey knows the tree it climbs- is perhaps best understood as ‘no-one knows the truth of a situation better than those involved in it’. Which is similar to:
12. Nobody knows what is in the pot, except the spoon that stirs it.
13. They even took the nails from the cross – This one is based on a true story. Many years ago, San Juan was attacked by pirates and they ransacked the city. They even took the gold nails that were in the crucifix at the Cathedral. Therefore this means: they took EVERYTHING.
14. Although the monkey might dress in silk, monkey it still is - This would seem to be a comment that no matter how a person tries to present themselves, they cannot hide their true nature.
15. Whoever doesn’t like soup, he gets 3 bowls from heaven. – Similar to when it rains, it pours.
16. Without pants on - it is used to mean something said without prejudice but also without tact, bluntly honest
17. Let’s see how the copper is beaten – we’ll have to wait to see how things turn out.
18. The eggs were priced at a quarter – Things got bad.
19. To be barer than the knee of a goat – Without ANY money.
20. While the ax comes and goes – While we wait
21. To tie the dogs with sausages – to do something stupid, that makes no sense.
22. When Columbus puts his finger down - in Plaza Colon Old San Juan there is a sculpture of Christopher Columbus. The sculpture shows depicts him pointing towards the sky. The expression is used to signify that something will never happen.
23. This one is an answer: When my kids ask me where are we going, or where am I going and I don’t want to tell them (because they just need to get in the car after me asking them 20,000 times or because I am not in the habit of informing there of EVERY one of my comings and goings): “To old age”. I usually say it in Spanish: “Pa’ Viejo”. They know what it means…
24. To make hearts out of guts – to make the best out of a bad situation.
25. Thinking of pregnant little birds - used to describe someone who has their head in the clouds or who's daydreaming.
26. Tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are – your reputation is tied to those you keep company with
27. So much swimming, to drown at the shore - used to describe someone who has come very close to completing something and yet failed at the end.
28. It is not easy taking Rambo's knife away from him, but it can be done. – I told you we were wise.
Now, be aware that these are not the only ones. There are MANY more… these are just the ones that I feel comfortable putting in a blog… we Puerto Ricans can have a pretty filthy mouth. I grew up listening to many of these (I still get #23 from MY dad if I ask where he’s going and he doesn’t want to tell me).
Now you can use these. Wow your friends with your newly acquired pearls of wisdom. Just don't put them in a fortune cookie, that's just the wrong culture. But you can put them inside a mofongo... mmmmmm.....