Say what?

As the sayiging goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side” or “the apple does not fall far from the tree”. Those expressions or sayings are from different situations; the first means that usually we don’t see the things we have as good things, and the second is mainly used when comparing father and son, or family members that are alike in stuff they do. I love using these type of refranes (sayings), and in Puerto Rico, as in many other countries, they have been used from generations. I will explain a few of those refranes and include other sayings that I personally use that I learned from my father and my mother hates (sorry Ma).

A caballo regalao'...

A caballo regalao’ no se le mira el colmillo. If I want to translate this one as is, and there’s where the fun is, we will not get the real meaning (but it will be fun). It means, translated as we read it in Spanish: when you get a horse as a present you should not look at its fangs. This makes NO sense at all. First, why would someone give me a horse? And second, why in God’s green Earth would I look at its fangs? I don’t even know if a horse has fangs, really. But that is not the meaning of it. The message is that when you get a present you should be thankful and try not to see the faults of the present. Just be happy and, the important part, be thankful. Usually we learn this when we are kids and start complaining about a present we got that we did not like. And the saying comes from the practice of looking at the horse fangs to know its pedigree (I just learned that, really).

Quien a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija. Let’s try this one. He who gets close to a good tree gets good shadow (Duh!). In terms of translation, is close to the literal meaning of the refrán, but misses the real meaning. The teaching of this saying is that if you spend time with a good person, you will learn good things too. I think I learned this one as a kid when I picked a bad manner from someone and my mother said it was because I was learning that from kids that were not too nice. Las pocas vergüenzas las aprendes rápido (you are pretty fast to learn bad stuff), my mom used to say (and still does).

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando. Translation: it’s better to have a bird in your hand than 100 flying. The way my father would explain that translation: “well, it all depends what you what the bird for. If you want it to fly with the others you should let it go. On the other hand, if you want to keep it as a present, then do it, it’s up to you. I don’t care what you do with the bird, just don’t bring it to the house”. The real meaning: work with what you have right now and don’t worry too much for what you could have. It’s like Carpe diem, cease the moment.

Cría cuervos...Cría cuervos y te sacaran los ojos. Translation: raise crows and they will take your eyes out (a little rough, right?). This one refers to, for example, when you raise a child and teach him/her bad manners, they will do just as they were taught (pretty simple).

El que quiera peces que se moje el fondillo. Translation: if you want fishes you should get your butt wet. This is one of my favorites because it comes with a funny story. When I was in 8th grade we had a project to make for our Spanish class about refranes Boricuas. The ones I just discussed here came to mind when my parents and I were brainstorming (and this story comes up every time someone mentions this saying in my house). But my father wanted to use this one because the others were used too much. Of course the real saying uses “ass” instead of “butt”, but that would be too strong for school. My mother did not approve of it, understandably so, but my dad and I loved it. I mean, being able to make a drawing and a saying with the word butt in it was awesome. My mom said I would get an F, and she was wrong (and I am no happy about that). I got a C, only because the teacher was a family friend, and my mom was called to school to discuss the project. My mom was right, I admit it, but still I got to use the word butt in a project and was approved by my father.

There are many other refranes Boricuas use for any situation we encounter. I know that readers out there, no matter where you are, have a lot more sayings that you grew up with, or heard your elders say. They are used to teach our youngsters about life, about situations that we all go through. I encourage you to use them so they never die, that way they will be enjoyed by generations to come. There are other expressions that I use, but maybe next time I will write them. Until then, ¡cójanlo suave!