HAVE you ever noticed that a lot of people look like their pets? While that may be a scary thought, animals definitely have a special place in our lives. It’s no wonder, then, that the animal kingdom has made its contribution to the portfolio of Guatemalan sayings. Try these on for size!
1. ¡Me agarraste de tu puerquito!
Literal meaning: You have taken me as your little piggie.
Pity the poor pig! He is fattened, slaughtered, and taken to market, where every part of his body will be quartered and sold! So if someone says that you are taking him as his little piggie, back off! It means that he feels you are taking advantage of him. “Cuando le pedí a Antonio que me hiciera un favor más, enojado me dijo: ‘¡Qué! ¿ya me agarraste de tu puerquito!’” Translation: “When I asked Antonio to do me one more favor, he responded angrily: ‘What! Am I your slave now?’” Another similar—but far less common— Guatemalan saying in the Eastern part of the country is “Me agarraste de tu arce.”
2. ¡Damos el piojo!
Literal meaning: to give the louse
Imagine this: Your friend is crushed because he just found out he has lice. And the worst thing of all is that he got it from you! How would you feel? Like a total loser! This unsavory metaphor means to fail or to give up. One opinion writer lamented how the government constantly tricks the public into raising taxes. “Por ello es que siempre damos el piojo y los políticos se salen con la suya.” Translation: “That’s why we always throw in the towel and the politicians get what they want.”
3. Un chucho menos, un pan más.
Literal meaning: One less dog, one more bread.
Here’s a great line for your next dinner party. If you invite a large group and someone at the last minute calls informing he can’t make it, just make an informal announcement. “Muchá, Rodrigo dice que no puede venir. . . así que un chucho menos, un pan más.” Translation: “Rodrigo’s not coming. . . so there’s more for us!”
4. hacer de chivo los tamales
Literal meaning: to make the tamales out of goat meat
Tamales are one of the delicacies of Guatemalan cuisine. But usually they are made with pork or chicken and other ingredients. If someone were to slip in a little goat meat, then they are trying to cheat or swindle you. When the government raised taxes once again, an opinion writer lamented: “Si usted encuentra que un empleado o dependiente suyo le está haciendo de chivo los tamales, ¿qué hace? ¿Le aumenta el sueldo? ¿Lo premia?” Translation: “If you find that one of your employees is fleecing you, what do you do? Increase his pay? Reward him?”
5. A veces el pato nada, y a veces ni agua toma.
Literal meaning: Sometimes the duck swims, and sometimes it doesn’t even drink water.
Ducks love water and spend most of their time in it. But when times are tough, sometimes there’s not even enough to drink. This, then, is the equivalent of feast or famine. Sometimes in life you get the bear, and other times, the bear gets you!
So there you have it. Start practicing your newfound Guatemalan sayings and you will be speaking like a local in no time! Come on! Don’t be chicken!
Guatemalan sayings: additional resources
- Read Guatemalan Spanish: Speak like a Native! and find hundreds of words and phrases that are typical in the Land of Eternal Spring.
- Ever lived in Guatemala before? Take a stroll down memory lane in Nostagia guatemalteca and relive a lot of phrases and flavors of your past.
- Check out Chapinismos sobre animales over at guate360.com.
- Lonely Planet Guatemala will give you an overview of the country.
- Though it is a little dated, also look into Lisandro Sandoval’s Guatemalan Spanish dictionary: Semántica guatemalense, o Diccionario de guatemaltequismos (1941-42) hosted by Cleveland State University.