Spanish Expressions – Part 2: El Pez por su Boca Muere

Sayings and Expressions

Learning another language can be great fun when you start getting the hang of conversational sayings and expressions. You get to discover a whole cultural framework that is different and exciting. Although they tend to vary from region to region and country to country, there are many sayings that transcend borders and boundaries, and become quite widely used and accepted for their versatility and communicative effect. One of these is the expression “Por su boca muere el pez.”

Literally, it means…

Literally, it translates to “the fish dies by its mouth,” where the fish represents the person being talked about or even addressed directly, and “dying by the mouth” stands for being caught, hooked, or snagged. It refers to someone saying too much, or saying more than is good for them. That is, “el pez por su boca muere” means someone has given himself (or herself) away by saying something they did not mean for others to know.

The saying, “El pez por su boca muere,” is best understood if you put it into context.

When to say it

Say a friend stands you up. When you ask what happened she gives you a lame excuse. As she stretches out her explanation more than necessary, you catch her in a lie, and that is when you say, “El pez por su boca muere.” Meaning, you just gave yourself away! I caught you! Liar, liar pants on fire!

Layers of meaning

When someone has done something they were not supposed to, it’s not uncommon give in to weakness, and try to “cover up,” giving excuses. In Latin American culture, telling the truth is valued, and equally so, reading into what someone is saying to discover or disclose the truth behind the words. There are layers and layers of meaning in normal interactions in Spanish, and you can learn to read into them by learning proverbs, sayings and common expressions.

The stinging retort

This stinging proverb, and its other forms, “Por la boca muere el pez,” and “El pez por su boca muere,” are used all the way across the ocean in Spain, as well as up and down Latin America. It is the title of an alternative rock song in Spanish. “Pela boca morre o peixi,” and in Portuguese is the title of a rap in Brazil. For more about the nuts and bolts of Spanish grammar, check out the great resources here in this channel.

You may also want to read: ‘Accelerating Spanish Language Learning Through Idiomatic Expressions