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The Spanish are known for their proverbs and sayings (refranes y dichos). I’m sure that I know more proverbs in Spanish than in English although no one would accuse me of being a refranero (a person who has a proverb for every occasion). Proverbs are an important part of the language but some of them may require a little in the way of explanation. Here are a few choice examples.
A mal tiempo, buena cara
In bad times, a face held high
We are advised to face adversity with valor and good spirits, and not to let disappointment show and prevail over us.
A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda
God helps him who rises early
In Spanish we have a special verb to say “to get up early”: madrugar.
For those wishing to attain success, diligence is in good order. Exert yourself and help from Above will follow, says this famous Spanish saying.
Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres
Tell me who you are friends with and I´ll tell you who you are
Much can be inferred about a person´s character and tastes by noting who his friends are and in what circles he moves. Also, we are reminded that whom to choose as friends is not a matter to be taken lightly, as the people we socialize with won't fail to influence us, for better or for worse.
En casa del herrero, cuchara de palo
In the blacksmith´s house, a wooden spoon
It notes that in the place where it would be most expected to find something it´s often absent. It´s used as well when children don´t follow on their parents´ footsteps.
En boca cerrada no entran moscas
Flies don´t enter a shut mouth
Keep your fat gob shut and you will avoid a lot of problems.
En tierra de ciegos, el tuerto es rey
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king
Even a mediocre person can stand out if surrounded by morons.
Más vale ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león
Better to be a mouse´s head than a lion’s tail (A big fish in a small puddle)
According to this famous Spanish saying, it is preferable to lead at a more modest level than to be one-among many in higher circles.
En todas partes se cuecen habas
”Habas” everywhere are cooked
Habas are a type of broad bean. They used to be regarded as food for the poor as well as for animals.
No one and no place is exempt from problems and unpleasantness.
Errando se aprende a herrar
By making mistakes (errar: “to make mistakes”) one learns the blacksmith's trade (herrar)
By trial and error we learn.
Gato con guantes no caza ratones
A cat with mittens cannot hunt mice
One cannot knead dough without getting one’s hands into the thick of it. To get a task properly done one must forgo elegancies and refinements that are out of place.