For certain, one of the most entertaining parts of learning Spanish is mastering all the expressions that come along with the language. Not only is this fun, but Spaniards are especially fond of teaching foreigners all the colloquialisms because for some reason it’s more comical when someone from another country utters a phrase that supposedly only a local would say. In many cases, Spanish expressions have a literal English equivalent, but this is not always the case; in fact, it’s quite funny to see how another culture conveys a similar concept with a different metaphor. In this post we’re going to take a look at some Spanish sayings that Americans typically find humorous.

Más sabe el diablo por viejo


1. Do oysters really get bored?

As we mentioned in a previous post, Spaniards have a rather funny saying to express extreme boredom. At some point in your life, particularly as a child or at school, you’ve most certainly been bored stiff/to death/to tears, as we say in English. In Spain, people use the expression aburrirse como una ostra — to be bored as an oyster. This saying is comical because most Americans have probably not questioned whether animals get bored in general, much less oysters. If you think about it, though, it must be boring to sit on the seabed all day filtering water, hence the reference.


2. I suppose the Devil must be rather old…

American society typically attributes wisdom to those who are advanced in years, yielding many sayings along those lines. We often say, “The older you are, the wiser you get” or the cynic may say, “With much wisdom comes much sorrow.” The Spanish, however, have a peculiar expression which is Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo, meaning ‘The Devil knows more from being old than from being the Devil.’ Although the concept is easily understood, and in fact some people do say, “The Devil knows a lot from being old,” the Spanish phrase goes further as to add the idea that experience is not only valuable, but perhaps more valuable than training or education.


3. Rhyme over reason?

So everyone has heard that silly saying “See you later, Alligator” and it’s equally silly response “After while, Crocodile.” Obviously, this expression is based solely on the rhyme which results and the fact that alligators and crocodiles are similar animals. In Spanish there are many expressions that rhyme and are equally silly. A prime example is:

¿Qué pasa, calabaza? Nada, nada, limonada. — What’s happening, Pumpkin? Nothing at all, Lemonade.


4. Are goats crazy?

Chances are at some point in your life you visited a petting zoo, and if so, you probably got head-butted by a plethora of potentially rabid animals. You probably figured that the goats were just sick of being harassed by children celebrating birthday parties and their behavior was merely a result of all they’ve been through — or maybe not. Spaniards seem to have another explanation for this phenomenon: goats are crazy! Thus, if anyone appears to be a bit ‘nuts’, they say that that person está como una cabra — that they’re like a goat.


5. A wooden knife?

Despite the English saying not being as common, everyone understands the concept that when someone does something for a living, the potential advantages of their profession don’t normally benefit their friends and family. How many times have you seen a pastor’s kid who is the craziest of the lot? Or a mechanic who has a ‘hoopdie’? In Spain this phenomenon is expressed verbally on a regular basis in the following manner: En casa del herrero, cuchillo de paloliterally, ‘At the blacksmith’s house the knives are wooden.’