Vox populi: dichos!

Spanish speakers are especially handy with proverbs. There are several websites that compile dichos (sayings). Folk Wisdom of Mexico, by Jeff Sellers (Chronicle Books, 1994), is a beautifully illustrated little volume with pretty good translations – the emphasis is on making the translation sound proverbial, too.

Here’s a selection of some of the most Sufi-like, with apologies for the lack of diacritical marks (I’ll use “ny” for the enye). My few comments are in parentheses. The translations are by Sellers, except when starred.

Como dijo la mosca, “Andamos arrando!”
The fly atop the ox declares: “We are plowing this field!”

Hay mas tiempo que vida.
There is more time than life.

El valiente vive hasta que el cobarde quiere.
The brave one lives as long as the coward lets him.

Hay que aprender a perder antes de saber jugar.
One must learn how to lose before learning how to play.

La amistad sincera es un alma repartida en dos cuerpos.
True friendship is one soul shared by two bodies.
(Wonderful people, that have this as a common saying!)

La conversacion es el plasto del alma.
Conversation is food for the soul.

Con paciencia y salivita un elefante se coge a una hormiguita.
*With patience and a bit of spit, an elephant can pick up an ant.

El que mucha abarca, poco aprieta.
He who grabs much grasps little.
(There is a profusion of Mexican dichos about the folly of greed and the importance of being satisfied with little. Do we have ANY sayings like that in Gringolandia?)

No da el que puede, sino el que quiere.
It’s not the able who give, but the desirous.

Cada quien puede hacer de sus calzones un palote.
*Anyone is entitled to make a kite out of his pants.
(This is my favorite!)

Ganar un pleito es adquirir un pollo y perder una vaca.
To win a dispute is to gain a chicken and lose a cow.

Mata mas una esperanza que un desenganyo.
*More people are killed by hope than disenchantment.

La malicia va mas alla de la realidad.
*Malice leaves reality in the dust.

Cada quien es duenyo de su miedo.
*Everyone is a master of their own fear.

El muchacho malcriado dondequiera encuentra padre.
*The spoiled child finds a father wherever he goes.

Quien mas mira menos ve.
The more one looks, the less one sees.

El tiempo cura y nos mata.
*Time is a doctor: it cures and then it kills.

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2 Comments


  1. “No hay burro flojo en el regreso” – our hiking guide as we trudged back, tired and eager to get back, in the Bosque Primavera outside Guadalajara. Not especially profound, but I still remember it sometimes towards the end of a long walk or hike.

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    1. Well, that’s the thing about dichos — they are nothing if not memorable. Most of the ones I know are from high school Spanish class, more than 25 years ago.

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