The Cockroach
March 11, 2011 8:10 AM   Subscribe

La cucaracha, la cucaracha - ya no puede caminar - porque no tiene, porque le falta - marihuana pa' fumar. (The cockroach, the cockroach, - can't walk anymore - because it doesn't have, because it's lacking - marijuana to smoke) The records of the Dutch accordion-playing duo Henny Voskuyl & Coby Mol (known as Die Kirmesmusikanten). Cecil Adams about the lyrics to the song.
posted by growabrain (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
How peculiar. I grew up very close to the US/Mexico border, and grew up singing spanish lyrics to this song. But certainly not with the marijuana reference, and the verses (none of which I can recall right now) were certainly much more modern and aimed at elementary school students.

This is very interesting. Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 8:15 AM on March 11, 2011

That was nightmarish. European variety TV in the '70s and '80s was a godawful post-hippie infusion of the sickly-sweet early '60s with the available talent presentable enough for what was then a mainstream audience. And this nonsense went on for hour after hour, often the same show and audience throughout the weekends of my youth. And people watched it as religiously as they did Lawrence Welk, Sonny & Cher and The Osmonds a decade earlier in the United States.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

They're very popular in Germany, hence the Germanized name "Kirmesmusikanten." But in Dutch, they're known as the Kermisklanten (which translates roughly as the Fair Folks -- fair as in country fair). Growing up, I thought everybody agreed they were godawful.
posted by monospace at 8:51 AM on March 11, 2011

You can always dip your toe into the pool of wonder and horror that is Sábado Gigante. But I will warn you, it's more addictive the more you watch.
posted by hippybear at 8:56 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

We always learned it "[…] porque no tiene la patica/patita principal"—"because he's missing his main foot," which, um, kind of makes more sense as far as not being able to walk? (Patica can also mean "duckling," which would make decidedly less sense, but whatever).
posted by wreckingball at 8:59 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speedy Gonzales sings La cucaracha!
posted by sisquoc15 at 9:01 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

wreckingball: those words ring a bell from across the years. Maybe that's what I grew up singing.
posted by hippybear at 9:04 AM on March 11, 2011

We always learned it "[…] porque no tiene la patica/patita principal"—"because he's missing his main foot,"

My kids go to a Spanish Immersion school and that's how their teachers taught them to sing it, but every time they do, my Cuban grandmother giggles and says, "Those aren't the REAL words!!" She knows the marijuana version.

But then again, if a child gets hurt, she sings them this song:
Sana sana Culito de Rana. Tire un peito por la ventana.
(Heal, heal, little frog's ass. Throw a fart out the window.) Always made me feel better.

Another Grandmother favorite is:
La Manita la tengo quemada / ya no tiene huesito ni nada. Llamare al senor cirujano / pa que la arregle al nino la mano.
Which means something like, "The little hand is all burned, it doesn't have bones or anything. Call the doctor to fix it."

If any of these words or translations are insanely wrong, I don't actually speak Spanish. I sort of sing them phonetically to my kids, so I'm making up the spellings. They aren't here to correct me right now.

posted by artychoke at 9:20 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only lyrics to this song that I ever knew growing up bilingual in LA were the ones with the weed references.
posted by blucevalo at 9:27 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I came in to mention Speedy Gonzales. It blew my mind the first time I heard him singing about weed.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:33 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lila Downs sings a version of La Cucaracha with this verse.

Also, that first link is scary.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I learned it as

"porque le falta, porque le falta, una patita de atras."

("Because he's missing his little hind foot.")

I had no idea!
posted by functionequalsform at 9:47 AM on March 11, 2011

I learned about the marijuana lyrics from Cities of the Red Night, William Burroughs's science fiction epic, but I always thought they were unique to the novel… because it's William Burroughs, after all.
posted by Nomyte at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2011

I'm from the Mid-Atlantic region. Somewhere I learned it as "Porque no tiene, porque le falta/ dinero para gastar" (because he doesn't have money to spend). Weird. No clue where I got that from.
posted by sarahnade at 10:21 AM on March 11, 2011

From the Cecil Adams link:
As possible evidence on this score I note that in Minneapolis, the Kyoto of midwestern culture, La Cucaracha is the name of a restaurant. Somebody really ought to clue these people in.
Um, Cecil dude, La Cucaracha is in Saint Paul, we know what La Cucaracha means because we've got tons of Spanish-speaking residents, and it is a great restaurant. Not sure what you mean by the Kyoto of midwestern culture, but from the context I suspect it isn't a compliment.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:36 AM on March 11, 2011

In this instance, a "cucaracha" is actually an old car. That's why it's smoking/costing money.
posted by Gilbert at 11:40 AM on March 11, 2011

I never knew "marijuana" got removed from this song of my youth until this discussion. I was probably too stoned to notice when it happened.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:03 PM on March 11, 2011

The Wiggles sing it as "porque le falta, porque no tiene enchiladas de comer".
posted by briank at 1:03 PM on March 11, 2011

Some verses I came across refer to the Moorish wars in Spain, which concluded with the conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492

I really really really want to see these.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2011

Does anyone recognize the college that's the setting for There Will Be Bud?
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:14 PM on March 11, 2011

And yet people have a hard time getting my username right.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:15 PM on March 11, 2011

I remember as a kid singing, "porque no tiene, porque le falta, una pata pa' bailar". I don't know if I learned it that way from someone or misheard it.

Funny about the "La Cucaracha" restaurant. Though nobody ever seems to give it any thought, the local catering trucks and produce vendor trucks often play the "La Cucaracha" melody with those silly pre-programmed horns to alert potential customers that they are open for business.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:12 PM on March 11, 2011

The uče-cream truck here plays 'La Cucaracha' the song dates back to the times of Pancho Villa. Pancho Villa had an old car, and they called it 'la cucaracha'. There were a lot of Villistas who smoked marijuana. I spent time in Mexico as a kid. I never heard the ridiculous back foot, main foot variants of this song, never knew they existed.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:54 AM on March 12, 2011

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