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Great Proverbs from Spain December 9, 2015

Posted by anagasto in history, language, Spain.
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Spanish proverbs are basically different from English and German proverbs in that they do not sincerely try to give advice. They are  mostly sarcastic or cynical and pessimistic about the way things supposedly have always been.

It is  taken for granted that many things are mostly crooked.

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“El perro del hortelano….”
Short for “El perro del hortelano que no come ni deja comer … ” — Der Hund des Gemüsegärtners …

The vegetable farmer’s dog does not want the veggies, but barks at you if you try to steal any. …

In the past, when they were very poor (and sometimes still now) people stole food from the farmers and sold it on a village plaza. In English it could be “the dog at the manger”.

— Der Hund frisst keine Gemüse, lässt aber auch sonst niemanden zu.…..……..
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If God does not give you children, the devil will give you nephews.

A quien Dios no da hijos, el diablo le da sobrinos.

Wem Gott keine Kinder gibt, dem gibt der Teufel Nichten und Neffen.………….

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En boca cerrada, no entran moscas.

If you keep your mouth shut the flies won’t get in.

Wer’s Maul hält schluckt keine Mücken.

Silence may be your best option.

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Fue por lana y salió trasquilado.

He left to shear his sheep and came back shorn.

Er ging auf die Schur und kam geschoren zurück.

He tried to make a quick buck and lost his money. It is similar to “Wer andern eine Grube gräbt…” of the Bible Proverbs 26,27:

If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it;
if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.

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Dio gato por liebre.

He sold cat meat as rabbit.

Da hat einer Katze als Kaninchen verkauft.

 

After the civil war Spain was so poor that people had to eat anything they could get. And they had to eat their cats sometimes.

In Germany it must have been similar after the war, for there is a famous postwar story by L. Rinser about a little girl who, all on her own, decided she had to kill their cat because there was not enough food for the family.
She took the cat to the river to drown her, but the cat was terribly strong, and the struggle between the little girl and the cat became desperate for both.

Rabbit is a common meal in Spain, and a skinned rabbit looks very much like a skinned cat. So, in times of need, someone might try to sell one for the other.
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Moro viejo nunca será buen cristiano.

An old Moor will never be a good Christian.

Ein alter Maure wird nie ein guter Christ.

Here is a Wiki definition of “Moors” : ” the Muslim people of north Africa of mixed Arab and Berber descent who converted to Islam and conquered Spain in the 8th century. They ruled large parts of Spain for 800 years.”
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800 years is a very long time and still shows in the language and in architecture, most famously in the Alhambra of Granada :

Vista_de_la_Alhambra

Photo by bernjan published under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vista_de_la_Alhambra.jpg.

For a solo guitar’s description of the place listen to Pepe Romero at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTgcVhMTRh0
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tn_333nachbar
No hables de la soga en casa del ahorcado.
Don’t mention the noose in the house of the man who got hanged.

Sprich nicht vom Galgen im Haus des Erhängten.

To get hanged was considered shameful, and a gentleman could not be executed by hanging, but had to be beheaded, at least according to Merimée’s “Carmen” and Machado’s great “Esta maldita fiebre…..”

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Perro viejo ladra echado.
An old dog does not get up to bark. — Ein alter Hund bellt und bleibt liegen.

The old dog exercises his authority without trying too hard. —

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The drawing is by Raphael Wünsch .

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Comments»

1. Carl D'Agostino - October 10, 2012

Old Roman ones are cool too.


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