FOREIGNERS are often surprised to see pigs, chickens, horses and cattle roaming the streets—even in urban areas like Managua! It is no wonder, then, that our furry friends have found their way into the collection of Nicaraguan sayings. Here’s a sampler of aphorisms you can add to your portfolio and improve your local Spanish:
1. Al mejor mono se le cae el zapote.
Literal meaning: Even the best monkey sometimes drops the sapodilla.
The sapodilla, locally known as the zapote, is a large, sweet fruit. Monkeys love them. But even an able-handed primate has been known to drop one from time to time. Hence, this is the equivalent of: “Nobody’s perfect.”
Example: “Este desacierto pone en evidencia que ‘al mejor mono se le cae el zapote,’ que somos humanos y nos equivocamos.” Translation: “This miscalculation makes it clear that ‘nobody’s perfect.’ We are humans and we make mistakes.”
So the next time you make a mistake, just smile and let this colorful saying roll off your lips. It might even get you off the hook!
2. El que es perico, en cualquier palo es verde.
Literal meaning: He who is a parakeet is green in any tree.
Parakeets and parrots are abundant in Nicaragua. And their greenness doesn’t change depending on their current geographic location. This means, then, that if you are good at something, you will be good wherever you go. Usually this is a saying you might hear from someone who has a lot of confidence in himself. It’s as if the person is saying, “When you’re good, you’re good.” How humble!
3. llover sapos y culebras
Literal meaning: to rain toads and serpents
Many foreign students of English are taken aback when they first hear our very colorful metaphor, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” You can’t literally say this in Spanish, because it won’t make sense. However, in Nicaragua, you have this reptilian option.
Example: “Tuvimos que correr rápido al bus, porque estaba lloviendo sapos y culebras.” Translation: “We had to run quickly to the bus, because it was raining cats and dogs.”
4. Otro gallo cantará.
Literal meaning: Another rooster will crow.
Have you ever been startled out of bed at 5 a.m. with a hair-raising cock-a-doodle-do? Hearing the rooster’s crow is definitely commonplace. But when someone says, “Otro gallo cantará,” they mean: “That’s another story.”
For example, in a story about the U.S. elections, a journalist wrote: “Si los republicanos ganan la elección de noviembre próximo, otro gallo cantará.” Translation: “If the Republicans win the election this coming November, things are going to be different.”
5. A cada chancho le llega su sábado.
Literal meaning: For every pig his Saturday will come.
In years past, it seems that on Saturdays fattened pigs would be taken to the slaughterhouse. For the poor pig, Saturday meant death. So today when someone gets his “just desserts” for misconduct, this saying enters into play.
Commenting on an article that reported the demise of Osama bin Laden, one man wrote: “¡A cada chancho le llega su sábado! Solo es cuestión de tiempo para que todos los psicópatas paguen por lo que han hecho.” Translation: “Each person will eventually have his day of reckoning. It’s only a question of time that all psychopaths will have to pay for what they have done.
Want to learn more about Nicaraguan sayings? Check out these resources: