Chilean saying: Nació con la marraqueta bajo el brazo… “Born with a hard roll under the arm…?”

Chile has a lot of “dichos,” popular sayings that enrich the language. I came across a new one today: “Nació con la marraqueta bajo el brazo” (Born with a hard roll under his/her arm). Excuse me? 

This curious expression is used in the same way English speakers would refer to someone being born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth. In other words, they are born into a family without economic concerns.

2 marraquetas

2 marraquetas

A marraqueta (mah-rrah-KET-ta-and don’t forget to roll those r’s!) is a favorite type of Chilean bread made from French baguette dough, but with its own very specific shape. It can be divided into 4 parts (which I would call rolls), although for some reason that I’ve never been able to figure out, 1 unit is actually 2 marraquetas and each has 2 parts to it.

Like French bread, marraquetas are crunchy on the outside and very light and airy on the inside. They are often used for sandwiches, such as the very typical ham & cheese sandwich served for breakfast (yes… breakfast).

So what’s the relationship between bread and wealth? I’m speculating, but my guess is that it has to do with bread representing abundance, references to “give us this day our daily bread” and, of course, as good descendents of the bread-loving Spaniards, for many Chileans, bread is a must at every meal, so having that problem resolved at birth is a very good start indeed!

39 responses to “Chilean saying: Nació con la marraqueta bajo el brazo… “Born with a hard roll under the arm…?”

  1. I like dichos too! Today I learned a new one: “Se me apagó la tele” which means you were black-out drunk! Ha.

  2. Good one! But I’ve gotta wonder… Did you have a rough night last night Abby?

    (sorry, couldn’t resist!) 😉

  3. hey, cool. Nice work here! Will for sure be back. And I’ve never heard this dicho, either, though for less than 200 pesos for two full marraquetas (which I also wonder about the math related thereto), you wouldn’t think you’d have to be born that way to enjoy it. Economies of scale?

    I can’t seem to stop blogging about the bread here, either. Must be something in the water. “see” you around!

  4. thanks!
    This expression came up when we got talking about an upcoming birth… something new every day and all that!
    And as far as I’m concerned, marraquetas are the best! Unless, of course, we get away from tradition and start talking focaccia from Le Fournil (and El Emporio La Rosa), I’m truly a lost soul!

  5. Call it ‘marraqueta’ in the local bakery here in Valpo and you’ll get sneered at for being a filthy santiaguino. It’s ‘pan batido’ on the coast 🙂

  6. Yeah- the old port vs capital rivalry!
    So does that mean they’re born with pan batido under the arm? Or Hey! Maybe that’s the reason for Valpo’s economic problems! The newborns aren’t doing their share of marraqueta making!!
    But I really AM curious… how about checking on that phrase at your local bakery and reporting back?

  7. La marraqueta gives the parents a certain hope for prosperity once their newborn is safely home, it represents closeness and the smell of fresh bread and fresh life , a new start and a time of happiness and stability around the new born. It´s the home “Jesus is born story”, and all is blessed.
    Eating bread in Chile is a must and even the poorest have bread and tea to live with.
    It´s a lot more complex than just the name that I don´t know where it comes from?

  8. What about this popular saying:
    ” dura menos que un peo en un canasto”

  9. Jules- thanks for your insight on the saying… you’re right- there’s a strong bond between bread (the staff of life) and well-being…
    Do you -ahem- want to explain the second saying? (shorter than a fart in a basket)… I haven’t heard it – but suppose it’s pretty obvious… or does it have another meaning or use?

  10. Sorry to be so rude and ruthless about a popular saying. It just refers to something that´s insipid , with no substenance, short lifespan, the tarste of gum or a short ride, it can relate to anything, from a taste, to a song, to a feeling. It´s terribly obscene for the daily use but very popular in the lower spheres of society. Funny too!

    How about this one ¨hacerle de chincol a jote”,

    Both chincol and jote are wild chilean birds. The saying refers to hunters shooting anything that flyes hence some people will do anything, or cook any recipe, or do any job, or do a litlle of anything refering to being able to doall kinds of odd jobs at a time , example a barman that is also cashier and also waiter and the possibly the owner…

  11. Well, I think you’re in need of a Chilean here… the three sayings mentioned in the post and comments are misinterpreted!!

    1) A child is born with “la marraqueta bajo el brazo” when their birth coincides with a bout of good luck or prosperity. You’re unemployed, your baby is born, and you land a job: the baby came with a marraqueta to feed you.

    2) “Dura menos que un peo en un canasto” solely refers to something that is fleeting. It can apply to a too-small salary, to a brief experience, a brief relationship, whatever. It is content-independent.

    3) “De chincol a jote” means basically “everybody”, as a chincol is supposed to be a very small bird, and a jote a very large bird. So it means “from the smallest to the largest”.

    For these kinds of things allow me to suggest the fine “How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle” by Brennan and Taboada (no I’m not joking – it’s a real book!)

  12. JJ comes through again! Thanks…
    And yes, How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle is a great book–a MUST for anyone who’s trying to figure out Chilean Spanish! I have the 2nd edition (1996) (I think it’s in at least the 5th ed by now), and for the record… I didn’t find any of the 3 expressions are there! (Although they may well be in the newer versions!)

  13. I only just saw this post, also I have been far too busy to even think. However the saying mi suegra always says (and I’m giving the English as I would never get the Spanish correct) is “The mosquito that bites the tortoise gets a broken nose” She uses it often for many many things.

  14. Hi Matt-
    This is a new one for me, so I called my suegra (who knows tons of dichos) and asked her, but she doesn’t remember it either… I translated it: “la mosquita que pica a la tortuga se quiebra la nariz” (o el hocico, although bugs don’t have hocicos…). I tried “zancudo” and she said she’d never heard a saying with zancudo… so she’s going to ask her neighbor because (he’s practically a 100 years old and knows everything!!) But in the meantime, I guess we’ll have to ask YOUR suegra… unless someone else knows this one?
    Next question… what does it mean, exactly?

  15. I have no clue as to what it means.
    She has sayings for many many things and they never mean anything to me. It’s probably just me being completely rubbish at anything other than English

  16. Ha-ha… but the thing is… now I’m CURIOUS!!

  17. In spanish -for you to practice- another dicho: “más vale pájaro en la mano que cien volando”…

    That stands for teh chilean tipical preference for practical things rather than promises, “better a bird in the hand than 100 flying”

  18. another good one! The English version is “better a bird in hand than 2 in the bush” (mejor un pájaro en mano que dos en el arbusto)… means the same thing!

  19. In the UK we say Better a bird as President than a Bush

  20. Ha-ha-ha…good one!!

  21. The photograph correctly shows what most people in Santiago call 2 “marraquetas”. However it shows what in Concepción is one “pan francés”, which can be divided into 4 parts.

  22. Even more confusing then! A Russian friend said that she thought she knew Spanish when she arrived, but asked what good it does her to know that “pan” means bread when they start asking about marraquetas and halluyas and facturas and dobladitas, etc.! Much less all the confusion about the different names for the SAME type of bread!

  23. Pingback: Cachando Chile: a Year in Review « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  24. Hello everybody. I am chilean, born and raised. I lived a couple of years in CA, that’s where i learned some english. I wanted to drop a few lines because the three sayings that you guys are talking about are really old and not very many people say them. I’d use the marraqueta one, but the other two are sayings my grandma would say. How about this one: “mas seco que pollo de momia”. “mas enredado que peo de culebra”. “menos brillo que zapato de gamuza”. Those are current, funny sayings you may have alredy come across and that would be good to know.

  25. Hi Felipe- Thanks for these contributions! I’ve been collecting this type of “más xxx que xxx” expression for a separate post… These are some good ones!

  26. Uyyy…First, a million apologies for mi bad English. Sorry.
    Trasnochando, I found this blog and I could not resist:
    just comment about the “marraqueta ” itself.
    In Stgo. is known as “marraqueta”, in Valpo is “Pan Batido”, but in Concepción, at South of the country, is known as “Pan Francés”…Idont know why, but i think it’s like baguette…or may be, the geographic variable for the “factor marraqueta”
    In Conce just it’s Pan Francés.

    saludos y felicitaciones
    (nice and instructive blog…even for Chilean people! thanks 🙂

  27. Hola Maria Ester-
    No problem with your English at all! And no worries, we (meaning me and many readers) speak Spanish as well as my personal favorite, Spanglish.
    I knew that the Santiaguino marraqueta was Pan Batido in Valpo, but didn’t know it was Pan Frances in Conce! Good to know! From what I understand, it is basically made with the same dough and essentially the same process as a baguette, so the name pan frances (French bread) makes sense! Thanks for writing!

  28. Y bueno, entonces esta vez escribiré en castellano!
    …recordé otra cosa!… En Conce, al pan de completo le decimos “Pan Copihue”…ni idea porqué, pero si uno va a una panadería y pide pan copihue, te darán pan de completo.
    Lo que pasa es que la gente dice que Conce es raro, yo no opino exactamente lo mismo (opino que es perfecto, jaja) pero de que tiene sus rarezas, las tiene.
    No se en que otro lugar que Conce, se le dice “5 minutos” a la vienesa o salchicha que ponemos en el completo…

    (ahora que lo pienso, debería haber escrito esto en la sección “completo”…)

  29. Hello. Vivi muchos años en Chile. Aprendi algunos “dichos” los cuales le brindo para su coleccion. MAS TRANQUILO QUE UNA FOTO. MAS DESABRIDO QUE UNA CACHANTUN CON HUEVO. MAS CAGAO QUE PALO DE GALLINERO. Ahora necesito ayuda en una polemica que tengo aqui con un amigo chileno. Yo insisto que le cambiaron el sabor a las marraquetas. Talvez el cambio sde harina o de cebada. El jura que no. que tiene el mismo sabor de hace 40 años atras. Yo no le creo. Alguien puede aclarar este impase ? mil gracias miz Margaret.

  30. Hi John. Muchas gracias por los dichos–¡buenos!–.
    Con respecto al sabor de la marraqueta: es difícil de decir, pero lo que es cierto es que no son igual de un local al otro y, por ende, te creo que pueden haber cambiado. Diferencias en harina me parece una explicación muy razonable–también cuánto sal y/o azúcar usan, la cantidad de levadura, tiempo de descanso, de amasado, de cocción–hasta el tipo de horno–todo puede afectarlo, y, por ende, me parece difícil que tendría el mismo sabor de siempre. También dices que viviste aquí–¿ahora ya no? Claro que cuando nos apartamos un tiempo, las cosas al volver parecen haber cambiado en formas que alguien que haya estado en forma permanente no capta (y, por otro lado, la memoria nos engaña a veces también). En fin, ¡me inclino por tu lado del argumento!

  31. Nice blog
    What about “más apretado que mano de guagua”. It makes reference to a person who does not like to share and/or spend money.

  32. Hey Javier have you heard “mas apretado que mano de trapecista” or ” mas apretado que tuerca de submarino” ???

  33. @Javier- yes, there are a whole series of “mas apretado que” expressions–
    @Renato-thanks! never heard the trapecista version!!

  34. En lo ajeno reina la desgracia: anyone know what this signifies?

  35. @Kelly,

    It means that there’s always trouble when dealing with things that do not belong to you or are not part of your nature. For example, there’s a book you borrowed from a friend and you, unintentionally, spill a cup of coffee on it. It could be used with ideologies (a Democrat politician using methods you see more frequently on Republicans and he fails applying them or using them affects his credibility), objects or anything else.

  36. It comes from old Spanish “nacer con un pan bajo el brazo”. It seems Chileans wanted to specify the type of bread 🙂
    By the way, you are quite right about the reason of this saying

  37. Pingback: Foodie figures of speech: a world of edible idioms | News & Specials

  38. Raúl Simón Eléxpuru

    Here’s one I made up: “más fregado que cubierta de barco”. On second thought, maybe it is más fome que…

  39. jajaja- I like that! (both of them!) jajaja

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s