Author Archive
general
Proverbs

Proverb – Taiwanese

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Yi3 ge mei3 de2 ren3 bu2 jian4 de2 you3 yi4 ge mei3 de sheng1 huo3.

“A beautiful person may not have a beautiful life.”

My informant heard this proverb from her mother at the age of nine.  She saw a model in a magazine and told her mother “I wish I was as beautiful as her.”  Her mother looked at my informant and said this proverb to her.  Her mother used this proverb to teach my informant that being beautiful does not make you happy.  My informant also says that her mother would use this proverb to stress the importance of education and a close group of friends who make you happy.

My informant says this proverb is very popular in Taiwan and can be used by anyone.  Generally, it is used to encourage young girls to aspire to more than being just beautiful.

Collector’s Note: I believe this proverb resembles the American one that “beauty is only skin deep.”

general
Proverbs

Proverb – Russian

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“Do not make an elephant out of a fly.”

My informant heard this proverb around the age of five from her mother.  My informant had fallen down while playing in the backyard and came in crying to her mother.  She told her mother that she had hurt her knee and began wailing about it.  Her mother looked at her knee, saw only a scrape and said this proverb to her.

My informant says this proverb means not to over exaggerate or not to worry too much.  Although it can be used for either exaggeration or worrywarts, my informant says it is used mostly for exaggeration.  Often times it is used if someone tells a story that has a great deal of exaggeration in it and can no way be true.  She says that this proverb can apply to anyone, not just children.

My informant heard this proverb again from her father after she had gotten a low grade on her homework.  As she told him the grade she got on her homework, she started crying.  Her father gave her a hug and told her this proverb to make her feel better.  My informant says this proverb made her feel better because she realized that one homework grade was not going to affect the rest of her life.

general
Riddle

Riddle – American

Make the following equation true by drawing only one straight line:

5 + 5 + 5 = 550

Answer: 5 4 5 + 5 = 550

My informant saw this riddle on a Facebook wall post from her roommate.  She was bored one day and did not want to do homework, so she asked her roommate to give her something to do.  Her roommate posted this riddle on her Facebook wall.  My informant worked on the riddle for a very long time but could not figure out the answer.  Eventually, her roommate gave my informant the answer to the riddle.   It is interesting that my informant heard this riddle from an engineering major, since the riddle is a play on a math problem.

My informant believes this riddle is popular among math and engineering students as well as anyone who enjoys mathematics.  My informant also believes that because she could not figure out the riddle because she is not as skilled at mathematics as her roommate is.

I believe that figuring out this riddle has nothing to do with mathematics.  I think this riddle is visual.  Those who are very observant and visual people are more likely to solve this riddle.

Collector’s note:  How this riddle was shared demonstrates the influence of the Internet on the spread of folklore.

Customs
general
Initiations

Tradition – African-American

Newlyweds jump over a broom at the end of the wedding ceremony.

At my informant’s wedding in 2004, she and her husband jumped over a broom after they were pronounced man and wife and before they walked back down the aisle.  When I asked my informant about this tradition, she said it was an African-American tradition.  She said it began during the times of slavery when slaves could not legally marry; they used jumping over the broom to signify the beginning of the unofficial marriage.  The broom my informant and her husband jumped over was a regular plain broom, but more festive, decorated brooms can also be used in this tradition.

My informant says that this tradition is primarily used by African-Americans who take pride in their historic roots.  She says both her mother and grandmother jumped over a broom at their weddings.

Annotation: Dundes, Alan. “’Jumping the Broom’: On the Origin and Meaning of an African Wedding Custom.” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 109, No. 433. (Summer, 1996), pp. 324-329.

Dundes talks about popularity of “broom-jumping” among African-Americans, the variants of the “broom jumping” ceremony, and also the history of the tradition.  Dundes says there is no evidence that the “broom jumping” tradition can be traced back to Africa, but it can be traced back to the Gypsies of England and Scotland.

Customs
Foodways
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition – New Orleans, Louisiana

“On Epiphany, my family would have king’s cake during the course of the day.  It is a ring-shaped cake made out of bread that has sprinkles of green, purple, and gold on top of the icing.  There is a small plastic baby inside the cake.  Each member of the family would get a piece and whoever ends up with the baby in their piece gets to be king or queen of the day and wear a paper crown.”

My informant learned this tradition around the age of three or four in her hometown of New Orleans.  Her family taught it to her on the Epiphany when they all gathered at one of the family member’s houses to spend the day with the family and have a family dinner.  Whoever gets the plastic baby becomes the king or queen of the day.  All the family members had to be extra nice to the king or queen.  The king or queen would get to sit at the head of the table during dinner and lead the family in a prayer before they began eating.

My informant says many families and groups of friends celebrate Mardi Gras using the king’s cake not only in France but also in New Orleans.  Usually those who celebrate are big, close-knit families who believe in the value of family and enjoy spending time together.

King’s cake is also called the “galette de rois” in French and is popular around the Mardi Gras season.  In my French class, we ate king’s cake on the actual day of Mardi Gras rather than on the day of the Epiphany.

Annotation: Marcia Gaudet. “Ribbon Pulls in Wedding Cakes: Tracing a New Orleans

Tradition.” Folklore  117.1 (2006): 87-96. Humanities Module. ProQuest.  USC

Libraries, Los Angeles, CA.  24 Apr. 2007.

<http://www.proquest.com.libproxy.usc.edu/>

This article mainly talks about recipes for king’s cake, but it also has a history of the cake and when it is used.  They are used mainly during the Mardi Gras season and is very popular in Louisiana.  The tradition was brought to Louisiana by the French.

Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition – German

Oktoberfest

“When my family lived in Germany, every late September/early October our town would celebrate Oktoberfest, the beer festival.  It usually starts the last two weeks of September and lasts up until the first Sunday of October.  At 12:00 on the beginning of the festival, there is a twelve gun salute and the mayor of our town taps the first keg of beer and yells ‘It’s tapped!’  During the festival, we drink lots of beer and eat sausage, hendl, käsespätzle and sauerkraut.  There are fourteen beer tents at Oktoberfest and usually we would have roller coasters and ferris wheels as well.”

My informant started going to Oktoberfest with his family at the age of five.  His parents took him to play at the amusement park while they also sampled some of the festival’s beer.  They then began to take him every year.  As he got older, my informant began to partake in Oktoberfest for the drinking and the partying.  The famous Oktoberfest beer is called “Wiesnbier” and is brewed especially for the festival.  It is stronger than regular beer.

My informant says that mainly teenagers and adults participate in Oktoberfest because it is sometimes too rowdy for children and older citizens.  However, he says that more recently there have been restrictions put on Oktoberfest so that families can feel more comfortable participating in the festival.  My informant says that Oktoberfest has become so popular that over six million people from around the world travel to Munich to see Oktoberfest.

general
Legends
Narrative

Contemporary Legend – American

In Disney’s Aladdin, Aladdin says “good teenagers, take off your clothes” while visiting

Jasmine on his magic carpet.

I heard this urban legend at the age of eleven in my fifth grade French class.  While we were watching Aladdin in French, my friend turned to me and told me this urban legend.  However, she told me you could only hear Aladdin say it if the volume is turned all the way up; when the time came for Aladdin to say “good teenagers, take off your clothes,” I could not hear it because our class was listening to the movie at a normal volume level.  I have heard this urban legend from several other people; however, I cannot remember when or where.

I have heard other urban legends that suggest Disney has put sexual references into several of their children’s movies.  I believe that it is possible for Disney to have sexual references in their movies; certain employees may find it entertaining to sexual subliminal messages in children’s movies.

Recently, I researched this urban legend on the Internet to see whether or not it is true. According to the Urban Legend Reference Pages, this urban legend is false.  Disney claims that the real script at this part of the movie is “C’mon, good kitty. Take off and go.”

general
Legends
Narrative

Contemporary Legend – American

“So my friend was babysitting for this family for the first time.  She called the parents to ask if she could watch TV and they said that after she put the children down for bed, she could watch TV in their bedroom since the TV downstairs did not have cable.  She asked them if she could put a sheet or something over the clown statue in their room because she was afraid of clowns.  The parents then told her to take the kids and get out of the house immediately; they would call the police.  My friend did what they said and as soon as the parents got home, they told her that they did not own a clown statue and that it must have been someone dressed up as a clown.”

My informant heard this urban legend from a friend around the age of twelve or thirteen from a friend of hers in Houston, Texas.  She found this urban legend particularly frightening because she and her friend both babysit.

My informant says this urban legend is mostly told to teenage girls who babysit as a job or who babysit to earn extra money.  It is scary for these girls because many already feel uncomfortable being alone in a strange house with children as their responsibility.

After researching this urban legend on the Internet, there are several websites that tell of the same urban legend.  I do not believe this urban legend actually happened to my informant’s friend; I believe she told it from a first person perspective to make it scarier.  Since she tells the urban legend as something that happened to her, it makes the legend seem more like reality.  It is just like saying “If it happened to me, it could happen to you.”

Adulthood
Game
general
Life cycle

Drinking Game – American

Beer pong is a drinking game played at most fraternity parties.  You need twenty-four red cups, two ping pong balls, and a long table to play.  The cups are placed in a pyramid formation starting with one cup, then two, then three and then four totaling eleven cups on each side.  The cups are filled about 1/3 with beer, and one of the remaining two cups is placed on each side of the table and filled with water (this cup is used to wash the ping pong balls after each throw).  There are two teams each with two people.  Each team starts with a ball. One player from each team takes a turn attempting to throw the ball in one of the cups.  Whoever makes a ball into a cup first gets to play first as a team.  Both balls are given to the team that shoots first.  If a player makes a ball in a cup, one player from the other team has to drink the beer in that cup.  If both players make their balls in the cup, both players have to drink from the cups they made and the team gets to shoot again.  If both players make their balls in the same cup, they get to shoot again and the other team has to drink not only the cups they made but also three other cups.  After one team makes all the cups, the other team is allowed a rebuttal.  As long as one of the team members makes a cup, the team gets the balls back.  As soon as the team misses a cup, the rebuttal is over and the other team has won.

My informant learned this game when he pledged a fraternity at the University of Southern California.  He learned it from his fellow brothers in his fraternity house.  This game is usually played at every party they have, and the house even has tournaments of this game.  He often plays with the same partner and says that many people play with the same partners once they have found someone they make a good team with.

My informant says the rules of this game can vary from fraternity house to fraternity house.  At some houses, they use more cups and make a larger pyramid.  At other houses they make the other team drink all the cups surrounding the one cup both players make.  At some fraternity houses, this game is known as “Beirut.”  My informant says that this game can also be played with drinks other than beer, such as mixed drinks.  He also says he has seen a variation of this game in which chasers were used in the cups, and the players took shots when they had to drink and used the chasers from the cups.

This game can be played by anyone but is mostly found on the college scene in fraternities and in dorms.

Adulthood
Game
general
Life cycle

Drinking Game – American

“Ride the Bus”

Ride the Bus is a drinking game that uses a whole deck of cards.  Twenty-one cards are placed face down on a table in a pyramid formation: six cards, then five, then four, then three, then two, then one.  The remaining cards are equally dealt out to the players.  The row of six cards means one sip, the row of five means two sips, the row of four means three sips, the row of three means four sips, the row of two means half a drink, and the row of one card means one full drink.  The dealer starts by flipping over the bottom right card.  If any player has a matching card, he or she can put down the matching card and give any other player however many sips that row is worth.  For instance, if the card flipped over was on the row of six cards and I had a card that matched, I could make any other player drink one sip of their drink.  If a player has two matching cards, he or she can give any other player twice the amount of drinks that the row is worth.  After all the cards are flipped over, any players who still have cards left have to ride the bus.  The dealer gathers all the cards and reshuffles them.  Then he lays out six cards face down.  Number cards mean no drinks, a jack means one sip and the dealer lays down another card, a queen means two sips and the dealer lays down two more cards, a king means three sips and the dealer lays down three more cards, and an ace means four sips and the dealer lays down another four cards.  This continues until the dealer has flipped over all the cards.

My informant learned this drinking game at his fraternity from his “big brother,” a brother in the house who acts as a mentor.  Some of the brothers in the fraternity were playing drinking games one night and his “big brother” had the group play Ride the Bus. My informant says he plays this game from time to time when they want to have a low key night with friends.

My informant says this game can be played by anyone who drinks.  Although it is mainly found in fraternities and on college campuses, other people enjoy playing the game too.  Some people enjoy playing this game with a small group of friends in a quiet room, whereas some play it with strangers at big parties.

My informant says there is a strategy to the game.  The key is to play your cards later in the game, when they are worth more drinks.  For instance, rather than play a jack on the row of six cards where it is only worth on sip, wait until a jack is flipped on the row of two cards where it is worth half a drink.

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