perro ladrador poco mordedorToday’s episode is dedicated to phrases and proverbs featuring animals. They’re also wonderful expressions that rhyme. This is something I’ve realised about Spanish proverbs: a lot of them rhyme.

So let’s start with the first one: perro ladrador, poco mordedor. It doesn’t just rhyme, but check out the alliteration! This is an incredibly popular phrase and funnily enough, I think it’s used literally most of the time. The literal translation would be “barking dog, bites little”.

I’ve heard this phrase many times, especially when I’ve passed by a dog (“passed by” being key, I rarely walk towards them) andit has started barking. Maybe the phrase is supposed to calm you down, but I still get scared by sharp teeth, what to do.

The interesting thing is that the opposite is also true. If a dog isn’t barking, then you need to worry. My friend Carlos with whom I work with sometimes, told me an illuminating story. He was walking with his dog (don’t ask me the breed, no idea) down a suburban London street when he spotted a dog that was just sitting outside a house with his owner. “Hmm, why is that dog not barking when we’re so near by?” He thought to himself. And indeed, as they went by, wham! The other dog threw himself on Carlos’ dog, attacking him. So, perro que no ladra… ¡cuidado que ataca!

Let’s not forget that like all good proverbs, it’s not really the literal meaning that we’re after but the metaphorical one. So perro ladrador poco mordedor can easily be applied to someone who’s continuously making threats but carrying few of them out – and maybe it’s particularly applicable if that person shows their teeth a lot when they make their threats.

Let’s move on to one of my favourites. Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda.

Even though the female monkey (and she needs to be female in order to rhyme with the verb) dresses up in silk, she will remain a monkey.

I don’t know whether I’ve seen too many pictures of chimpanzees dressed up in dresses and pearls, but this saying always makes me laugh. It obviously refers to those people who wear loads of make up or doll up to make themselves more good-looking or beautiful but actually, if the raw material isn’t there… I suppose you can also apply it a bit more widely than just talking about clothes and someone’s appearance. It could also be applied to any kind of wannabe.

Lastly, let’s look at the tiny animals. From man’s best friend and man’s closest relative let’s move on to one of man’s most annoying companions, the fly.

Vamos arando, dijo la mosca arriba de los cachos del buey.

I’d never heard this one before until Celine, from Relative Imperfections mentioned it in reply to a post where I was asking for Spanish sayings and proverbs worth looking at. She mentioned it as Arando, dijo la mosca, which I think works better than its longer counterpart, but you need to be familiar with the full version for it to make total sense.(At least, I needed to find the full sentence before understanding what it was about.)

Vamos arando dijo la mosca, arriba de los cachos del buey seems to have its origins in Chile, and you can check other sayings in the portal for Iberoamerican universities.  I suppose if the saying had originated in Spain, you would say encima de los cachos del buey.

I really like the image of this saying. The fly, sitting on top of the ox’s rump, lying there in the sun, with her little sunglasses and saying to the ox, “Come on, let’s start ploughing!” While all the little fly is doing is going for a free ride on the ox’s rump.

I think this is a great one to say to someone who just keeps bossing you about but rarely does something themselves. Who rarely pega ni clavo– now there’s another interesting one. No da ni clavo, or no pega ni clavo, (they don’t hit the nail or they don’t stick the nail) means that someone is doing nothing, being very lazy, that they’re not working. Of course it’s different to has dado en el clavo, which is the Spanish equivalent to “You’ve hit the nail on the head”.

But I digress and risk moving away from our furry friends. The fly, on top of the ox, saying !Vamos arando! Maybe this is a good one for you to say to someone who keeps bossing everyone around (some might call it delegating) but rarely does anything themselves.

So, a brief summary of today’s phrases:

Perro ladrador, poco mordedor.

Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda.

Vamos arando, dijo la mosca arriba de los cachos del buey.

And the bonus material for today:

No da ni clavo.

Has dado en el clavo.

Thanks for getting to the end of this post. If you have any Spanish sayings you particularly like, or any in English for that matter, then do let me know. Connect on Twitter or leave a comment on this blog.

Dog photo credit: cindy47452 via photopin cc

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