Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gift Horses

CARLOS: You know what we say in Spanish?


CARLOS: A caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes.

How do they say it in Spanish... slower?

CARLOS (slower):
A caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes.

Ah. We have the exact same saying in English.

And as well we should! It comes, my friends, from St. Jerome, famous translator of the Bible into the Latin Vulgate. Jerome gave away his extensive writings free of charge, and thus, to a critic, threw back this pithy rejoinder.* From this beginning, it now occurs in over a dozen languages, suitably calqued.

Although I never thought about what the hell it means until today. For those who don't know, the idea is if the horse is a gift, you shouldn't inspect its teeth (which would give you some idea of the age and health of the animal).

darovanému koni na zuby nekoukej, darovanému koni na zuby nehleď

Dutch: een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken, Men moet een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken

Finnish: lahjahevosen suuhun ei saa katsoa

French: à cheval donné, on ne regarde pas la bouche

German: Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul

Hungarian: ajándék lónak ne nézd a fogát

Icelandic: ekki vera vanþakklátur

Italian: a caval donato non si guarda in bocca

Polish: darowanemu koniowi nie zagląda się w zęby

a cavalo dado não se olha os dentes

Russian: дарёному коню в зубы не смотрят

Slovak: darovanému koňovi sa na zuby nepozeraj

Spanish: a caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes

Swedish: skåda inte en given häst i munnen

*Which is not to say Jerome originated the phrase. It may well have enjoyed wide currency at the time -- or not. It's simply the earliest instance.


Julio said...

Oh, I see you have been learning Spanish phrases... for sure it wasn't talking via Skype with your friends!!! Ja. Hope to see you soon, pal.

Anonymous said...

You don't say. I always assumed it had to do with the Trojan horse. Thus, it seemed like bad advice.