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The Origin of the Word Gringo...

Green Grow the Rushes, Oh

Armies don’t march to this tune any more, but it survives as a neat group song.  Here are the verses. 

The leader sings:   “I’ll give you one, oh.” 

And the group responds…“Green grow the rushes, oh!”

Leader: “What is your one, oh?”

Group: “One is one, and all alone, and ever more will be so.”

Leader: “I’ll give you two, oh”

Group:  “Green grow the rushes, oh!”

Leader: “What is your two, oh?”

Group: “Two, two, the lilly-white boys, clothed all in green, oh.”

“One is one and all alone, and ever more will be so.”

Leader: “I’ll give you three, oh”

Group: “Green grow the rushes, oh!”

Leader: “What is your three, oh?”

Group: “Three, three, the rivals, two, two, the lilly-white    boys…” …etc… 

The verses go on…

“Four for the gospel makers”

“Five for the symbols at your door”

“Six for the six proud walkers”

“Seven for the seven stars in the sky”

“Eight for the April rainers”

“Nine for the nine white shiners”

“Ten for the Ten Commandments”

“Eleven for the ‘leven that went to heaven”

“Twelve for the twelve apostles”

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We have heard lots of plausible origins of the word Gringo, this is the best one we've heard so far.

General Pershing with Poncho Villa In surfing the net I came across a slightly different explanation for the word “gringo” that I had never heard before. Interestingly enough while the word is decidedly of Mexican origin the explanation I found was on a Belize site. Belize being located on the south western side of México on the Yucatan peninsula has obviously adopted the use of the word “gringo” as well. 

Following is a “reprint” (republish in the web world) from site written by Rick Zahniser,

General Pershing stomps out pests of Mexico in a 20th century cartoonWhere "Gringo" came from

There are various theories about where the term came from.  One encyclopedia suggests that it is derived from the Spanish word for Greek -- as in "that's Greek to me."  I believe this story, which was related by Miz Hybarger, my fourth grade history teacher. 

During the Mexican War (1846-48) the Yankee soldiers were singing a marching Portrait of General Pershingsong called “Green Grow the Rushes”.  The Mexicans heard this marching song and started calling the Yankees “Gringos” because of the recurring word “Green Grow”.  (I've included the words to this song here.)  

Obviously, the word connotes the sum of experience that a stranger has with these Norte Americanos who come to visit and stay south of the border.  Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's bad, just like people everywhere.

Insider Notebook: Don't be a "Codo Gringo"

Minimum wage in Baja is between $43 and $48 a day. That's not bad you say, well that is in pesos so move the decimal point one to the left. Right around $4 USD per day.

So, many professions count on tipping (propina), which is inflicted on the Mexican customers as well as us gringos. In restaurants you will find 15% still a valued tip. 20% is anticipated in the more upscale/touristy joints. I have found tipping for a haircut, particularly if they own the establishment, surprised them. Here are some additional places visitors to Mexico might not expect to tip:

The gas station attendant: Your attendant should handle all the pump work, clean you windshield, promptly handle you change and factura information if required. $10 (pesos or a buck) on fill seems appreciated. If they handle gas cans, clean them up and place them back in your car, you should throw down a little heavier.

Chamber maids: Now this is expected, but often overlooked in the states. Here the propina makes up a much more significant portion of their wage.

Parking lot security: Many of the larger supermarkets have lot attendants to prevent theft and accidents. (remember you statistically double your chance of having an accident when you put the car in "R") This is particularly helpful if you shop the same place often and toss them $5 or $10 pesos. (fifty cents to a dollar) At first I thought this was a parking lot scam until I checked with the management of Soriana's. Most of these guys you see out there in the 100° heat are pensioners who don't qualify for the minimums. I drop a few coins to these guys when I shop and the other day one of my 'amigos' saw me struggling with my bags, ran over, took my keys and opened my car for me. So far I have yet to get a cart ding in that lot which puts me ahead about $100 USD!

Bag boys (persons) It's a common after school job for kids and now seniors and it doesn't pay squat. A peso or two per bag is appropriate out of the change back from your tab. These kids are working to pay for school uniforms, books and even to support their family at an age when American kids only worry about Playstation and cartoons. Be generous, these kids (or seniors) aren't out spending it on crack!

Wait persons, doormen, bartenders all anticipate and should work for your tip. Don't reward bad service either. Leaving a few pesos rather than none after a meal is still the international sign of distain for bad service as it is in the states. However, if you employ this heavy tactic you might want to back out of the restaurant.

By the way, "codo" means elbow. When used in this context it is often accompanied by tapping the left elbow three times with the right hand. It translate to: "He is such a tightwad he has to be tapped three times in the elbow for the money to come loose from his grip."