Author Archives: Kathryn Hillman

Game

Drinking Game – “Biz”

My informant learned the drinking game, “Biz,” from her friend in high school.  She and her friends would religiously play this game before they went out to parties.  She has implemented this drinking game into her college life as well.  Her audience, a group of college students that were planning on attending a party, but had spare time to kill before they wanted to leave.  They had two goals, to drink and have fun.

The main purpose of drinking games is to create a purpose for consuming alcohol.  Typically, games propose some form of challenge and the people that mess up have to drink as a punishment.  It is ironic because in most games, the punishment is to drink, when drinking is the whole point of the playing.  In “Biz,” everyone must start sitting in a circle.  The minimum number of players you can have is three.  The more people you have participating, the easier (and less fun) the game is.  Starting at zero and continuing in numerical order, each person must say a number.  Each time a person is supposed to say a number that includes seven or is a multiple of seven, that person must replace that number by screaming “biz.”  Every time someone says “biz” the order of people in which numbers are said switches (clockwise to counter-clockwise or vice-versa).  When it is a persons turn, they must not say the wrong number, forget to say “biz” if appropriate, take too long, or drastically mess up the rhythm.  If they do, they must take a long sip of their drink.  After they drink, they have to start back at zero.  The game creates a vicious cycle because the more you drink, the more you mess up, and the more you mess up, the more you must drink.

Sumner remembers this game because she loves to play it, and enjoys teaching it to new groups of people.  It is a great source of entertainment, and for most, a very fun way to get intoxicated.

Additionally, there are many different versions of general drinking games.  I have heard of different variations of this game, where people will say different words or use different numbers.

This item is an example of modern folklore that has been developed relatively recently by today’s generation and is most common at high school and college campuses throughout America.  Drinking games have become very prominent since drinking among teenagers and college students has become more accepted and common. They demonstrate how different kinds of folklore cater to different cultures and lifestyles.

Proverb

You can only eat so much Cake

My informant first heard this phrase from his father-in-law, James Wolford, who was a very hard working and laborious farmer.  Robert said it to his daughter, Lauren, in regards to her lifestyle at the time.  She had graduated from college a few years prior, circa 2000) and had not yet attempted to find a career.  She thought she was living the dream because it was like a constant vacation.

To Robert, this phrase means that there comes a time when you can have too much of a good thing, in Lauren’s case, carefree vacation time.  If you are on vacation all of the time, you will soon lose appreciation for it.  There has to be some contrast in your life, meaning you must work hard and the vacation should serve as a reward.  Additionally, he said it with the implication that she would soon be “off the payroll” and would have to be financially self-sufficient.  This phrase is important to him and he chooses to remember and use it because he lives by it himself.  He does not want to retire early because he knows he will eventually get bored of vacation.

The phrase’s literal meaning parallels its figurative meaning because one can literally only eat so much cake before they get sick or tired of the taste.  Too much of a good thing can be bad.  If someone vacations all of the time, they will lose ambition, devotion, character, among other things.  Work is good for people mentally and physically, and should be rewarded with a vacation.

Proverb

“Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it.”

Sumner heard this item of folklore from her father, Henry Billingsley, who does not know where it originated.  He would use it often when Sumner was growing up (circa 1992), most commonly when she would whine or complain about an issue.

When Sumner would hear the proverb, she would instantly know that no complaining would be tolerated and that her father would not sympathize with her.  She interprets the proverb to mean that if she is experiencing a problem, she must recognize the problem, find a solution, and solve the problem.  You must not just sit there and whine about it, you must be proactive and actually do something.  My informant believes that this proverb is a humorous way to illustrate the steps it takes to overcome an issue.  The first step is recognition.  If the problem is not recognized, you will not be able to find a solution.  If you do not find a solution, you will never be able to overcome the problem.  To Sumner, “crying the river” is a sarcastic way implying that you can whine about the issue initially, but the substance of the proverb lies in “building the bridge and getting over it,” meaning that whining will not be tolerated for long, and something must be done.

This proverb is especially important to Sumner because it is part of what sculpted her character as a child.  Today she takes pride in the fact that she is pretty tough skinned and refuses to let things bother her enough to whine about them.  Now she even uses the proverb when appropriate.

This is a widespread saying that I heard most frequently when I was in high school.  My parents would not usually say it to me, but my friends would commonly use it.  I believe teenagers are the most typical audience because they are consumed with themselves and their own problems, never wanting to trouble themselves with anyone else’s problems.  It is a simple way to tell them to just get over it and stop complaining.  Additionally, I see a deeper meaning to the proverb.  The act of building a bridge signifies that in order to get over problems, work is involved.  You have to make a conscious decision to do what it takes to solve the recognized problem.  Also, because this proverb was so common, I have heard a truncated variation of it; “cry me a river.”  This was always said figuratively and sarcastically because the informant was not literally asking the recipient to cry or whine.  The rest of the saying was insinuated; the speaker was clearly implying for the other person to move on past their problem.

Proverb

When there’s a will there’s a way

My informant does not know where it originated because it is used so commonly, however she said it is especially important to her because it has applied to multiple aspects of her life.  This is a proverb that Sumner lives by, and often gives as advice to other people.  The audience always varies because she uses it so constantly.  Whenever someone is expressing to her that they want something, Sumner will tell them “when there’s a will, there’s a way;” meaning if they want something badly enough, there is always a way they can get it, they just have to get creative!  Sumner interprets this to mean exactly what it says.  She believes there is always a solution and that “there is no shame in doing what it takes to get the job done, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”  Additionally, she said that it goes hand in hand with advice her father would always give her; “if you want something, you have to take it, because no one’s gonna give you anything in life.”

Sumner partially credits the importance of this proverb to one specific instance, when she was applying to the University of Southern California.  USC tried to make her a spring admit, claiming she was as qualified as the fall admits, but there was not enough room.  Sumner said, “I wanted to come in the fall and I came in the fall!”  What kept Sumner motivated was that she was convinced that one desk in a classroom really would not make a difference, especially when half of the kids would not go to class anyway.  Sumner definitely had the “will” to go to school in the fall, she just had to focus on, and create a “way” to make it happen.  Sumner contacted at least one counselor at the school twice every week.  She would continually ask if there were any spaces, if any spaces had opened up, if there was anything else she could be doing, and if there was anyone else she should be talking to.  She just proved to them that she really wanted to be there, and then figured they would let her in.  Sure enough, as soon as a spot opened up, she was the first to be admitted.  Her persistence was the “way” in this scenario.  This incident just reinforced in her mind that when there is a will, there is most definitely a way.

I interpret this proverb to mean that if you are persistent, ambitious, and show determination, you will be able to achieve your goals if they are within reason. However, you must be sure not to harm others or sacrifice your own character to get there.  This proverb must be kept in perspective with what is important.  You must stop and think about what you are willing to sacrifice to get what you want, how badly you want it, and proceed from there.  All in all, it encourages people to take fate into their own hands and be proactive, rather than rely upon other situations and people and just accept the results.

Event – University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Mustachio Bachio

“Mustachio Bachio usually happens in April on a Wednesday night (because that’s half price jack and coke night at the 90.)  What happens is everyone in the Caribbean comes and there is usually a few kegs and we have t-shirts or tank tops made.  1st thing you do is either grow out a moustache or draw one on your face with a marker.  There are all kinds (curly, handlbar, little, big) after you draw your moustache you get handed a red solo cup full of Jack Daniels and you have to drink the whole thing. There are always trash cans set up because people usually throw up when they drink. Once you drink your cup of Jack, everyone has a couple beers from the keg, talks, parties, and everyone walks to the 90 where you continue to drink more Jack.  Usually a night of debauchery, most of the time you black out.”

Kevin says that Mustachio Bachio is a very traditional party at his college, the University of Southern California.  He does not know who threw the first party, but he believes it has been happening for about five years.  Mustachio Bachio happens sometime in April, always on a Wednesday because that is when the 901 club has a half price deal on Jack and Cokes.  The event is exclusive to boys that live in an apartment complex called the Caribbean.  They all gather in the courtyard, where there are kegs of beer and Jack Daniels.  The boys design and wear matching shirts or tank tops.  They also have to have a mustache of some sort.  Some draw it on and some spend weeks growing one out.  There are always a huge variety of mustache styles, everything from curly to handlebar).  After the boys meet in the courtyard, they are handed a red solo cup of Jack Daniels and have a chugging contest to see who can finish fastest.  There are always trash cans set up because the boys often vomit.  Once everyone finishes their drinks, the boys head over the 901 club and continue to drink and party.  Kevin and the rest of the boys look forward to this night of debauchery the whole year.  The event is particularly important to these boys because it designates a time when they all hang out with each other, avoiding the typical distraction of other people, girls especially.  It is a good bonding experience for them.

College life today centers significantly around drinking.  Due to the drinking habits of college students, many articles of folklore have been created, such as events, traditions, and drinking games.  Mustachio Bachio is an annual party that serves as an excuse for boys to drink an absurd amount of alcohol.  This demonstrates how folklore is created to cater to the activities of college students.

Tradition – Maryland

The Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes, which originated in 1873, is a race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses.  It is held on the third Saturday in May every year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.  The winner of the race traditionally receives a horseshoe of black-eyed susans, which is Maryland’s state flower.  Because of this, the Preakness Stakes is often referred to as “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.”  This race is the second and shortest of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing, and usually coins the Kentucky Derby winner.  The Belmont Stakes is the race following the Preakness.  My informant grew up going to the Preakness Stakes every year.  When he was a growing up he would attend with his parents, however for the last 5 years he has been going with a large group of friends.

On the day of the race, Kevin and all of his friends go to one guys house at 7 in the morning, where they begin to drink and party.  From there, a bus picks them up at 9.  All of the people load onto the buses, where they continue to drink and party with each other.  The racetrack, Pimlico, is about a 45 minutes drive.  When they get there, everyone unloads and walks onto the infield, which is just a huge field crowded with tailgates and jam packed with people.  Everyone brings their own booze, usually about one 30 pack of beer per person.  People all gather around, and post up in a designated spot where they hang out all day.  Throughout the day, there is a lot of drinking that occurs while everyone watches the horse races.  Kevin says, “the event is also fun because they get to meet a lot of funny ‘red-neck’ people.”  Additionally, all of Kevin’s high school friends show up to the race.  Local college students go to Preakness as well.

This event enables Kevin to identify with the folkgroup of Maryland citizens.  Preakness always happen in Maryland, meaning it is an event that most Maryland residents can identify with.  It is also a special day because it unites Kevin with all of his friends from high school.  While they are all away at colleges all over the country, they look forward to Preakness, where they will all get to bond.

Preakness in Maryland relates a lot to different folklore in Long Beach, where I am from.  For example, we have the same kind of experience on the fourth of July and for the Grand Prix car race.  These events unite groups of people and enable them to establish a feeling of nationalism.  There is folklore from all parts of the country that parallel very closely.

Annotation: “Preakness Stakes.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 26 Apr. 2007  <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9061227>.

Tradition – Maryland

Crabs in Maryland

My informant told me about this summertime tradition in Maryland that revolves primarily around the obsession with the crabs that are fished out of Chesapeake Bay.  For as long as Kevin can remember he has been involved with the traditional festivities that cater to the “crab craze” of Maryland.

This is an article of folklore because it is a long time tradition in Maryland.  The people of Maryland have realized what their state has to offer, and has utilized that to start a traditional festival.  Everyone in Maryland knows about, practices, and identifies with this tradition.  It is part of what shapes the culture in Maryland and enables the residents to relate with one another.  Kevin says that he really feels a strong connection with his neighbors and friends at home when they engage in this summertime tradition.  The crabs brings them together and they are all able to spend a lot of time with each other, tell stories, and catch up on the events of their lives.  It is this crab craze that instigates many barbeques, parties, and get-togethers.  Kevin says, “crab cakes, football, and beer is what Maryland is all about.”  He enjoys it because it is so different from Los Angeles, where he lives most of the year.  It reminds him of where he came from, and he says it is so nice to relax, in comparison to his quick paced life in LA.  He is proud to identify himself as a Maryland native because they are famous for having the best crabs in the nation.

I think the obsession with crab and all that surrounds the tradition is a very unique article of folklore native only to those in Maryland.  I had no idea that they have some of the best crab in the nation, and I enjoy the fact that Maryland residents are so proud of it.  This made me realize that every different city, no matter how small or big, has fun artifacts that separate it from other cultures and places.  It reinforced the fact that folklore really does enable people to establish a sense of identity and be part of a group.  Additionally, this reminded me to my family’s tradition of barbequing every Sunday during the summer.  My parents take pride in their barbequing skills, and it is a designated time that my family can relax together and catch up.  Like Kevin’s crab tradition, the barbeques feel like a break from real life.

Proverb

“Do you see in black and white or in shades of grey?”

This was a question that my informant asked his girlfriend Clarissa when they first began dating.  After getting divorced, Robert began to date again.  He is very particular in the women that he likes, and thought this question was a good determining factor of a woman’s thinking process.  A person that sees in black and white is someone that is very rigid in his or her thoughts.  For example, an extremely religious person would be someone that sees in black and white.  There would be no shades of grey because it would be like reading from the bible and not having any varying thoughts from what it said.  According to Robert, “someone that can see in shades of grey is someone that would read the bible, interpret its words, and maybe throw some of what the Buddhists have to say.”  They are more flexible in their thinking, rather than having opinions that are set in stone.  He believes that seeing in shades of grey is a very healthy way of thinking.  My informant remembers this proverb and considers it to be very important in his life because he likes to use it as a screening process when he was on the dating scene.  Rather than being a literal question, it was more of a thought that you could use when evaluating a person.  He would never really ask the question, he would use it as more of a guideline.  Toward the end of his relationship with Clarissa, he realized that she saw mostly in black and white, was very stubborn, and had opinions she was not ever willing to discuss.

This article of folklore is important to me as well.  I consider myself to be a very opinionated person, however I am always willing to consider all aspects of a situation before creating my own opinion.  Therefore, I believe that I see in shades of grey.  I was taken aback when I heard my dad say this proverb, and it really made me think and evaluate it.  I know many people that see in black and white, but in a world as culturally diverse as our own, a person must be able to read between the lines, interpret things, and be open minded.  In order to create, establish, and maintain genuine relationships, it is vital that one can see in shades of grey because there is no way you will always agree with the opinions of others, you must be flexible in your thoughts.  Additionally, one must work toward having a balance between seeing in shades of grey and black and white.  In my opinion, it is not good to be extreme on either end of the spectrum, meaning a pushover compared to someone extremely stubborn.

Folk Belief

If you beg for three days, you will make so much money you will never go back to your regular job

Kathy heard this belief from her mother, a Japanese citizen.  It is common for people in the Japanese culture to believe that if a person takes three days off from their job and begs for money on the street they will make such a good living that they will never go back to their old job.

Kathy heard this belief when she was very young, circa 1960.  Because she grew up with this saying, it accounted for her initial and lasting impression of homeless beggars.  Her mom originally told her this belief because she was going to give money to a beggar on the street.  Her mom explained that with few exceptions, many beggars are completely capable of working, however they choose to be lazy and sit while collecting money.  This belief stuck with my informant.  She believes that “many times it is just a lazy convenience and they put on an act of being destitute or unable to work, when in fact they are making a darn good living.”  Kathy does not believe it is fair to the rest of the population that works very hard for their money.  She believes that it is easy money in some aspects; however, in other ways it is not.  Beggars on the street cannot have any sense of pride.  They cannot be proud of themselves in front of their children if they need to beg for income.  As soon as a beggar is able to swallow their pride, and decide to reach incredible lows, their “job” is easy.  Kathy feels as if they are preying on people that are sensitive and sympathetic, which is wrong.

I found this belief very strange.  I am a very sympathetic person and often give money to those in need.  I personally don’t mind what they do with the money; I just want to be able to think I have contributed to any amount of happiness to another person.  If they are indeed capable of working and they want to beg on the streets, I still sympathize for their state of mind.  I also don’t believe that someone can make a substantial living begging for money on the street.

Saying

“I feel like a bull”

My informant has been saying this phrase for as long as he can remember.  He is the creator of the phrase, but it has become folklore because his entire group of family and friends now use the saying and associate Tom with it.

When Tom says the phrase “I feel like a bull,” he is referring to his current state of mind and how he feels.  He grumbles the phrase as well, to “add to the effect of the saying, and sound like more of a ‘bull.’”  Tom uses this phrase when he has done something that he is proud of, or just feels great in general.  For example, when Tom will go on a run, a swim, or even have an exceptionally good day at work, he will grunt, “I feel like a bull.”

Tom’s interpretation of his own proverb is very literal.  In a herd of cattle, the bull is the leader.  He is the ultimate king, maintaining the macho position in the herd.  Tom only says this phrase when he is completely on top of his game.  When this occurs, it is as if there are no other males around.  Tom says that this phrase makes him feel like he is really on top of the world.  The reason it is important to him is because he really cherishes his good health and treasures his life so much.  To everyone that knows Tom, this phrase does not represent a self-absorbed character, but an appreciative one.

I think it is great that Tom created this phrase.  People that do not know Tom may interpret it to think he is boasting, but it really is about his appreciation for life.  Tom takes very good care of himself, and is very grateful for everything that he has.