Dicho: Merequetén and Rock-Breaking Heat

un calor que raja piedras

I don’t know about you, but sometimes unexpected Spanish stuff  – sometimes things I had not thought of in years — fly into my coco. Words, sayings, dichos. Things that I would hear my grandma or tios say decades ago. Things I don’t have a regular chance to say in my mostly English-speaking day.

It’s like a lightening jolt, I tell you. Like, some lizard brain reminder that I am supposed to be thinking in another language, breathing in another culture.

A couple of days ago, as the temperature read 105 degrees in Nashville, this one jumped into my head:

“Hace un calor que raja piedras.”

Lose translation: It is hot enough to split rocks.

And then I thought of “Le zumba el merequetén,” which is just the right Cuban dicho when we’re frustrated, or hot. We say “Le zumba el merequetén” in a combination big sigh and complain-y voice. We say it often. Cubans make complaining an art form, after all.

Le zumba el merequetén makes absolutely no sense. Merequetén isn’t even a real word.

I googled it and found this explanation over at Lo Que Pica el Gallo.

They don’t really know what the heck it means either. Something about lobbing mangoes, maybe?

Zumba really means “heave” and it has been “heave” since way before the trendy dance workout was trademarked. So, when we’re hot and frustrated, we say we could heave something…some merequetén, a funny sounding word that tends to get the point across just as well as ”Hace un calor que raja piedras.”

I did find a translation that says it means: “It blows our minds.”

So, indeed, this heat is blowing my mind.

As is all the weird, interesting, illogical Cuban stuff that jumps into my brain.

And you? Does this happen to you? A sudden remembrance of cultural stuff you totally didn’t even remember you remembered?

Or is the heat just getting to me?




Share, por favor!

By Carrie on July 14, 2011 · Posted in dichos + del alma

15 Comments | Post Comment

Tracy says:

I didn’t know either of those phrases so I learned something new today :)

My boys are with my (Anglo) parents at the beach this week. I’ve been wondering if it feels weird for them to be outside our very Salvadoran home for this long, not hearing Spanish or eating the usual foods, etc… Maybe some random things have popped into their heads the past few days.

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Cristina says:

In Colombia, when a day is really hot, people always say “hace calor, va a temblar”…(Earthquake weather) :(

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Natalie says:

One of my mom’s favorite sayings is “Le zumba el mango” which means something is unbelievable (mostly in a bad way). Somewhat related to “le zumba el merequetén” but not exactly the same. I love Cuban Spanish!

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Aurelia Flores says:

I get it — it’s not just heat, but also music, a smell or a movement that can inspire these kinds of ‘sparks’ of memory in us. Thanks for sharing! I also had not heard those sayings, but I’ve got plenty of others… ;) And here’s hoping you get through the heat!

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Uchi says:

Thanks for sharing ! I enjoyed your post!

I love this expression “En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo” for example It can be used when: a doctor smokes, a Chef eats out everyday. Help me with the translation.. hehehe..

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Bren says:

jajajajaja. i love you! way say le zumba el mango! LOL! i love the rocks one, though. so classic. when it’s hot, we really just keep it real and say, hace calor pa’l demonio! jaja. where or where do we come up this stuff. When someone’s bs’ing, we say “esta comiendo lo que pica el gallo!” — so similar to what you found on Google. tell me you gotta love our crazy and so unique culture.

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Sujeiry, 1st Lady of Love says:

This happens to me as well and I blurt it out at my day job where none of the teens I work with know Spanish. They look at me like I’m nuts lol.

One of my favorite Dominican saying is “Hacerse el chivo loco,” which literally means play dumb. I also love “sacar los pies” which means to bow out or move away from someone.

Great post!

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Joscelyn at MamiofMultiples.com says:

Now living in full time in Florida I know really understand the meaning of “hace un calor de madre”…HA HA!
My Cuban father would be so proud! LOL :)

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Chantilly Patiño says:

Lol…love this! My hubs often has random saying, some rather difficult to translate, pop into his head and we have lots of great convos about his memories of his grandfather and all the dichos that were passed down before he moved out of Texas. He never got those dichos from his father because his father wasn’t lucky enough to have the language imparted on him, but we try our best to keep abuelo’s memory alive in our home, despite the fact that I never got to meet him. Love those moments. <3 Great post!

Posted on July 14th, 2011

Eva Smith says:

My mom use to tell us dichos almost everyday of our life. She also has a lot of fables that she would tell us from time to time. One of the ones I always remember, “Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres” has always stuck with me. Love this post and thanks for the reminder how important & funny dichos are in our lives.

Posted on July 15th, 2011

Tia Mirtha says:

One that Papa used to say “Esta chiflando el Mono”.. when it was very, very cold. I really don’t what the Mono had to do with been cold. Uno de los muchos dichos Cubanos.
Or when there are too many people in a room or place. “No ahi cama pa tanta gente”…
Or “El Diablo son las cosas”.
Or “Al carajo albaniles que se acabo la mescla”.. Let’s get out of here.. the party is over..

Posted on July 15th, 2011

lisleman says:

I happened over here from a google+ profile.
My español is limited to vacation time and getting from the cerveza to the baño. These were all new phrase for me.
Interesting stuff phrases and how after years of use nobody remembers where they came from.
Roy Blount has a new book out called “Alphabet Juice” that covers American lingo. This topic reminded me of it.

Posted on July 15th, 2011

Mariana says:

The heat has gotten to you.

I kid, I kid! I also often think of things my mami/abuelita/tías used to say or sing to me. It’s awful how memories fade so fast, though. I should write more stuff down.

Posted on July 17th, 2011

Julie Diaz Asper says:

I remember my abuelita’s food, romance novels and costume jewelry more than her sayings. She was extremely nice and talked to everyone as if they where old friends so I guess she thought more by example than what she said.

Posted on July 18th, 2011

cristina says:

I also know it as “le zumba al mango” one saying that I always find funny is “heramos poco y pario mi abuela” used when when there’s a lot of people and more show up!

Posted on July 28th, 2011