Informant: April Voong
Primary Language: English; Other Language: Cantonese
Residence: San Diego
“Don’t eat spicy food when you’re pregnant.”
April has heard this saying among her family members since she was a child, and she later found out that they believed eating spicy food during pregnancy would result in the birth of a hot-tempered child.
Many Asian cultures place emphasis on the type of food one must eat during pregnancy, since certain foods are considered to have qualities that influence the personality of the baby. In the case of April’s family, spicy food was believed to be the cause of short tempers; since the food itself is spicy, all the heat and sharpness of taste would be transferred over to the baby’s personality.
Name: Veronica Cohen
Nationality: Puerto Rican
Primary Language: English; Other Language: Spanish
Residence: West Los Angeles
“If you go swimming right after you eat, you will turn into an ugly mermaid.”
Veronica told me that this is something her mother said all the time when she was a child. She said that when she was younger, she loved swimming and would try to do it whenever she could. In order to prevent her from going into the water so soon after she ate, Veronica’s mother would tell her that she would turn into an ugly mermaid if she didn’t wait 30 minutes before jumping into the pool. For the longest time, Veronica made sure to wait after eating, since she didn’t want to become an ugly mermaid.
This can be seen as a sort of remedy because Veronica’s mother had to think of a way to prevent her daughter from getting indigestion in a fun and imaginative way. Children have a hard time remembering rules, especially rules that keep them from doing what they want. Since children are not going to realize that mermaids don’t exist, they are likely to believe that they will turn into ugly creatures when they don’’t listen to their parents.
Informant: Brittney Bang
Primary Language: English; Other Language: Korean
Residence: Westwood, Los Angeles
“Never say no when asked to hold a baby.”
My friend, Brittney, has a boyfriend who is El Salvadorean. She first heard this saying from her boyfriend’s mother, who told her that it is terribly bad luck to say no when asked to hold a baby because the baby will get sick. She had always believed in this saying, ever since someone refused to hold her son, and he was hospitalized for a week afterward due to a serious illness.
Superstitions are common in Hispanic cultures, and the mom seems to be a firm believer in the idea that certain actions can influence luck. Family is also considered extremely important in Hispanic culture, so it makes sense that refusing to hold someone as innocent as a baby can be said to bring bad luck.
“Don’t buy shoes for someone you love, or they will walk away.”
This is a common Korean superstition; many people believe that buying shoes for someone they love will make them walk away. Essentially, they believe that they are providing the tools needed to walk away.