30 May 2011

Red, Yellow, & Black

This morning when I arrived at work I saw several people standing around and looking down at a couple of snakes that our watchman killed because he thought they were poisonous. When I took a look at the snakes I quickly dismissed the notion that they were poisonous but with this type of snake the mistake is quite common. In Florida and along the Gulf into Northeastern Mexico there is a snake called the Coral snake that has bands of red, yellow, and black along its body. It is quite venomous and there are several subspecies. In Texas it is called the "Texas Coral Snake" and in Mexico it is commonly called "El Coralillo" (Kohr-ah-LEE-yoh). However, there is a non-venomous snake called the "Scarlet King Snake" in English, and "El Serpiente Escarlata Real" in Spanish, that looks something like the Coral snake but with several differences.

The Scarlet King snake rarely gets over twenty inches in length while the Coral snake can grow to thirty inches or more. The bands of color are also different. The colors alternate red, yellow, black, yellow, on the Coral Snake and on the Scarlet King snake the colors are red, black, yellow, black. When I was a Boy Scout (fifty years ago) they taught us a little rhyme to help us tell the difference. It went:

Red to yellow
Kill a fellow.
Red to black
Venom lack.

In the photos below you can see a Coral snake that was killed by a laborer near Monterrey, Mexico where I was working in 1999. Below that there is a photo of one of the Scarlet King snakes that was killed today. The Scarlet King snake is a friend of man and a very beneficial little animal. The problem is that many people fear snakes so much that they usually kill them before they try to identify them. The poor little Scarlet King looks so much like his dangerous cousin the Coral, that in order to be on the safe side he usually gets the double "whammy"...OUCH!

14 May 2011

Slipping and Sliding

The other day my wife Gina went to the supermarket and there she bumped into an old friend who was a classmate in grammar school whom she hadn't seen in many years. After squealing and hugging like women do on such occasions they settled in for a nice chat and I thank goodness that I wasn't there in person to witness it because these reunions generally take at least a half an hour during which time I usually just stand there transferring my weight from one foot to the other and back again like an old milk wagon horse. Gina told the woman that she has a grandson and asked her old friend if she had any grandchildren. The woman told her that she had no grandchildren but she had two handsome sons in their mid twenties who hadn't married yet because they were looking for just the right girl. Gina asked her what they did for a living and her friend said that they were both between jobs right now but that they were very smart and had some very good prospective work lined up.

I told Gina that it sounded to me like the woman is a "mamá cuervo" or "mother crow" meaning someone who is always exaggerating the appearance and abilities of their children despite the obvious fact that that the kids aren't very attractive or bright and not doing very well. There is a cute little story about the background for the term "mamá cuervo" that I wrote about in November of 2008 You can read by clicking on "Stories 001 - Mamá Cuervo". Unmarried guys in their twenties who are still living at home and waiting for some great prospect to come along and fall into their laps are called "Ninis" (NEE-nees) here in Mexico. The word "nini" stands for "ni trabaja, ni estudia" or in other words "neither works nor studies". I asked Gina if that was the case with this lady's sons and Gina replied:

"Mira Bob, la vida es como la casa del jabonero...el que no cae resbala".
Look Bob, life is like the house of a soapmaker...he who doesn't fall, slips.

Picture a house where they are using the kitchen to make soap all day and everything is covered with a film of soap, especially the floor. Sooner or later everyone who lives there is going to slip or fall. The phrase is fairly common and it means that you never know what is going to happen in life and that we are all susceptible to problems. Gina went on to say:

"Una persona que carece de entendimiento menosprecia a su prójimo, pero una persona prudente calla."
A person who lacks understanding scorns their neighbor, but a prudent person keeps silent.

Gina is right. As my Ma always used to say, "If you can't find anything good to say about somebody then don't say anything at all. I hope that the lady's sons find great jobs very soon and marry fantastic women...and that takes care of THAT!

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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.