Things ain’t what they used to be: Old wives’ tales

Things ain’t what they used to be: Old wives’ tales

ICE CREAM: Snatched from my husband’s hand by his over-cautious father Photo credit: Pixabay/StockSnap

OLD wives are much the same the world over, although the things they say to intimidate young wives tend to vary.

As a young wife I found it safer to ignore them, so I let our daughter walk barefoot when she was learning to walk and worse still, eat bananas whose seeds hadn’t been removed despite the horrified reactions of elderly Spanish relatives.

She survived both, as well as the infamous “corte de digestion” – basically stomach cramps – awaiting anyone who swam too soon after eating, although anything could bring it on if you did something unwise in the exercise and/or food department.

Never having experienced or witnessed the feared corte de digestion, I once asked my husband for an example.

“Remember the photo of me when I was about three years old near the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid? The Sunday we went out with my favourite uncle?” he asked.

In one hand my future husband holds a balloon, in the other the cornet his mother had just bought him in the days when an ice cream was still a special event.

“Immediately after Tio Benigno took that photo, my father snatched it away and threw it on the ground,” he said.

“He was convinced I’d have a corte de digestion so soon after lunch.  So now you have some idea of how serious a corte de digestion can be,” he said with decades of bitterness in his voice.

Whether or not I believed in the dreaded consequences of a corte de digestion, I could see where everyone was coming from, which is more than could be said for the Worm in the ear.

Maria, the cleaner from Jaen who might or might not have been insulting me as she sang so beautifully while she did our washing, also instructed me in the importance of never ever letting the Worm in my small daughter’s ear emerge.

She explained that one morning the friend of a friend of her sister’s went to wake up her son and there it was.  The Worm was curled up on the child’s pillow and he eventually went deaf.

“What sort of a worm?” I wanted to know.

“Oh, quite small,” she said, “a bit like a caterpillar, everybody has one.  So always be careful with your daughter,” Maria warned.

That was 50 years ago and no-one that I have ever asked has been able to shed any light on the Worm in the ear or even heard of it.

Was it an old wives’ tale or a retelling of something that once happened which was later dramatised and embroidered on? Although come to think of it, that’s probably how an old wives’ tale originates anyway.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at