Mexican proverbs or sayings are short phrases that contain some kind of teaching, advice or wisdom transmitted in a popular way from one generation to another.

It is not known when or how they arose, but they are a millenary tradition. These phrases –sometimes picaresque– show the talent and wit that characterize us Mexicans.

As they are highly culture depend, foreigners do not always understand their meaning and may interpret them incorrectly. Here we bring you some sayings, how they have been interpreted, as well as their true meaning.

In a survey conducted with 10 foreigners, these were some of the meanings they gave to popular sayings:

“Hay pájaros en el alambre”

  • What foreigners understand:

"Focus on what's going on around you instead of talking." 

  • What it really means:

It is used when you have to change a subject so people around don't overhear what you are talking about.

The English equivalent is "Walls have ears". 

“Ya te cargó el payaso”

  • What foreigners understand:

"It was hilarious"

  • What it really means:

This phrase has its origin in the rodeos. When there was an accident while riding horses or bulls, the rodeo clown would come in and carry the wounded away. That is why, when something goes wrong for someone, we say "ya te cargó el payaso."

There is no English equivalent for this expression.

“Azotó la res”

  • What foreigners understand:

"It's ruined"

  • What it really means:

The origin of this expression is not clear; however, when someone falls hard, there will always be a person who says, "¡Azotó la res!"

“¿Con qué ojos, divino tuerto?”

  • What foreigners understand:

"You are making really dumb decisions."

  • What it really means:

This expression means "how do you intend to pay for that?", and is said to have originated in a folk tale in which a one-eyed man asked the Virgin to see; however, lacking eyes, he was unable to do so.

There is no English equivalent for this expression.

“Chupó faros”

  • What foreigners understand:

"It's over."

  • What it really means:

It refers to dying. It comes from the Revolutionary era, where those condemned to die were given a Faros brand cigar. Since they were tied up, they could only let the cigar be completely consumed, and therefore, they "sucked Faros".

The closest English equivalent to this is: To kick the bucket.

“No tiene cola que le pisen”

  • What foreigners understand:

"A person who agrees with everything."

  • What it really means:

Its origin is not clear, but it means having a good reputation and nothing to hide.

“Es más bueno que el pan”

  • What foreigners understand:

"Really good food."

  • What it really means:

It is used to describe people whose main trait is kindness.

 

 

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POB/LFJ