Have you ever thought about the immortality of the crab? You have now.

Thinking about the immortality of the crab (Spanish: “Pensar en la inmortalidad del cangrejo”) is a Spanish idiom about daydreaming. The phrase is usually a humorous way of saying that one was not sitting idly, but engaged constructively in contemplation or letting one’s mind wander.

The phrase is used to express that an individual was daydreaming, “When I have nothing to do I think about the immortality of the crab” (Cuando no tengo nada que hacer pienso en la inmortalidad del cangrejo). It is also used to wake someone from a daydream; “are you thinking about the immortality of the crab?” (“¿Estás pensando en la inmortalidad del cangrejo?”)

Some spanish-speaking poets have gone as far as thinking about thinking about the immortality of the crab:

The immortality of the crab
Of all the immortalities, I believe in

only yours, friend crab.

People break into your body,

plop you into boiling water,

flush you out of house and home.

But torture and affliction

Make no apparent end of you.No…

Not you, poor despicable crab -

brief tenant in this mortal carapace

of your individuality; fleeting creature

of flesh that quails between our teeth,
not you -
but others of your vast species;
infinite crab
 takes over the strand. 

José Emilio Pacheco

and this little ditty

The immortality of the crab
The deepest problem:

of the immortality of the crab,

is that a soul it has,

a little soul in fact …
That if the crab dies

entirely in its totality

with it we all die

for all of eternity

Miguel de Unamuno

Similar phrases are used in various languages.

Czech: přemýšlet o nesmrtelnosti chrousta – an idiom that talks about the immortality of the may bug

Finnish: istun ja mietin syntyjä syviä – an idiom that talks about sitting and wondering about the world’s early origins

Portuguese: pensando na morte da bezerra – an idiom that talks about “thinking about the calf’s demise”


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