Author Archive
Humor

Los Melones de Tapachula

My informant is a 48 year old pediatric oncologist at Stanford University. He is bilingual, binational and bicultural, born to a white American father and a Mexican mother. He grew up in both places but spent his formative adolescent years in Mexico City, where he learned this joke from a high school friend. He cracks up every time he performs this joke, which is often.

The joke in Spanish goes like this: “No es lo mismo los melones de Tapachula que tapate los melones chula.”

The literal translation is: “It’s not the same the melons of Tapachula as cover your melons cutie”.

This is a semi-dirty joke that employs wordplay, and is one of many “no es lo mismo” (“it’s not the same thing”) jokes. These jokes play with the sounds of a phrase and mix them up to make them something very different, as with this joke, which switches from the tame concept of melons from a certain town called Tapachula to a crude way of telling a attractive woman to cover up her breasts.

I love this piece and think it’s pretty funny, especially because the informant (my father) always laughs harder at it than anyone he tells it to. As a semi-dirty joke, it’s somewhat of a light taboo for him to break, especially in terms of telling this kind of joke in front of kids, so he gets a kick out of it every time he can perform it.

Foodways
Material

Hong Shao Yu – Ginger Fish

My informant is a 22 year old Chinese-American young woman studying communications. She heard this recipe or fish cooking strategy from her mother, who passed it to her and her sister. She likes it partly because she’s used to the flavor but partly because it’s hygienic, and also reminds her of her family. It means a lot to her because of this connection with her family.

This interview was conducted in the informant’s living room.

“So when Asian people cook, or I guess specifically like Chinese people, they make this thing called hong shao yu, it’s a type of fish that you kind of like, that you, I guess you pan-fry? and Asian people don’t eat like, old seafood, like they hate the old fishy taste, and so what you do, and like plus eating like dead seafood is like… dead shellfish is like bad luck, like you don’t eat dead crabs and stuff, yeah. Just read like Amy Tan. Um. But like fish is okay, of course cause a lot of times it’s dead before you get it, and so when you make fish, you have to stuff it with like, green onions and ginger. Like, TONS of ginger, because it gets… ugh gosh I don’t even remember what they call it, but if you translate it it’s like the fishy taste from old fish, but ginger’s so fresh that it’s kind of antibacterial, so it kills the bacteria and stuff. Now whenever I make fish or any type of seafood I’m like ‘Oh I want it to taste as fresh as possible, so I always put in like, tons of ginger. Something I learned from my mom.” “So is this something you do with your mom a lot, or just something you saw her do? When did you learn it from her?” “I’ve watched her do it a lot, like growing up I was just next to her whenever she made food, and so I’d always seen her do it. She cuts slices almost where, if fish had ribs, where the ribs would be, and she just puts in slices of ginger into the fish. I’d always seen her do that and I never thought about why… I always thought it was more for flavor and not for like, health reasons. She taught my sister and I how to make it about a year ago, and since my sister’s always been better than me I usually just let her do it, but I know how to do it now.”

My informant enjoys the taste of this ginger-y, onion-y method of preparing fish, as well as the supposed antibacterial functions this method has; the two seem to be connected by a cultural dislike of the “old fish flavor” she mentions here. This method connects her to her Chinese cultural roots as well as her mother and sister.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Folk Remedy for Mosquito Bites

My informant is my 74 year old grandmother, who is a language professor born and raised in Mexico City, and currently living and working there. She heard of this folk remedy from her mother when they would go to Veracruz (her mother’s hometown), because the climate there is very hot and tropical and mosquitoes are a big problem. She likes it because it’s useful and reminds her of Veracruz and her older relatives, and she can pass it on to the younger generations as a useful thing.

The folk remedy is for mosquito bites, and consists of tobacco and rubbing alcohol. You’re supposed to steep the tobacco for a bit in the alcohol and then rub the combination gently on a mosquito bite; she’s done this for as long as she can remember and always reminds us to do the same.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

420 Holiday/Metafolklore

My informant is a college student, artist and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.

He first heard about 420 in late middle school or early high school from friends, and first celebrated it three years ago. He has partaken in the festivities every year on April 20th since.

This interview was conducted during a break in class, outside the classroom on a balcony.

“What is 420?”

“Hold on I gotta look something up real quick, gotta fact-check for a second…”
“Naw man you’re not allowed to!”

“Aw really? Alright I’m not on my A game man, but I’ll tell you what I can remember… So the gist of it is that there was like a group of students once upon a time probably in the 60s that met afterschool everyday at 4:20 at a certain statue or a certain landmark on campus like right outside their school to go smoke, so that’s the reason, because it was at 4:20 in the afternoon. And there’s been rumors as to other reasons why, so like some people thought that it’s Hitler’s birthday and that’s why, but I don’t know why people would celebrate that so that’s kind of a dumb one but then another one is that there’s a law, some proposition in the police code that has to do with arresting people for marijuana that is 420 or something…”

“I heard it was police code, like ohh 420 alert, somebody’s smoking weed”

“Yeah that’s something I’ve heard before as well but that’s also not true. See some of these might have some truth to them so like for example I think Hitler’s birthday is actually on April 20th, but it’s just a coincidence like that’s not the actual reason. But back to the students, I mean I guess school let out at 4pm so they figured like hey, 20 minutes to get to the spot and they had like a smoke spot that I believe was behind a statue but I could be wrong about that, and, um, that just permeates into stoner culture, like everyone has their smoke spot, you know, cause it’s illegal in most places so you have to have a place you’re relatively sure is safe, so everyone has their spot that they’ve come up with… And we used to have a spot, you know back home…”

“Oh yeah? What was your spot?”
“Well there was this shortcut through the woods near my friend’s house that went to a public pool, and like we would just take that shortcut and like, go off into the woods, kind of off to the side, and smoke there, but they put some lights there so we like can’t do it this year cause unfortunately it’s well lit now, but RIP smoke spot… Anyway well the other thing is that now it’s like a holiday, right, so at 4:20am and 4:20pm and all day 4/20 [April 20th] people just smoke a lot of weed basically, and it’s turned into a cultural icon I guess.”

“How do you celebrate 4/20?”

“Well I mean I’ve only celebrated it three times… but uh, lemme think. Well, it’s the same as everyone, just get as high as many different ways as possible, like collect them all, like try to do every different method in one day, that’s one thing you could do that’s like kind of fun, I tried that once I think my second time.”

My informant is obviously very interested in having accurate information, and sets his stories apart from “wives’ tales” in stoner culture as truth and having been “fact-checked”. I found this interesting because upon asking him, most of what he thought was “wives’ tales” came from friends and most of what he thought was true he had fact-checked on online forums about weed. I also think that the context in which he heard this piece of folklore and the metafolklore surrounding it is interesting because it is in the early teenage years when people become introduced to the concept of drugs, especially pot, and when many people begin to try it. His attachment to the truth reveals his attachment to being a more “legitimate” person within his identity as a stoner.

 

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Mangoes and Marijuana

My informant is a college student, rapper,  and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.

He heard about this method of enhancing a high from his best friend back home. Essentially if you eat a mango 30 minutes to an hour before smoking pot, the high is supposed to feel stronger.

He performed this piece of folklore—or rather told me about it—during a break in class, outside the classroom on a balcony.

“So what is this mango… thing?”

“Right! So, mangoes. Um, so there is a chemical in mangoes that is also in cannabis and I don’t know what that chemical is off the top of my head but it is essentially the chemical that opens up, it, it opens up to the, probably the receptors… I guess, are they technically enzymes? I don’t know. They open up the receptors in your brain and make them susceptible to receiving THC, so normally what would happen is you smoke the cannabis and you get all the different chemicals that are in the plant when it combusts, and some of those include the THC, some of those include those chemicals that are in the mangoes, and they would both kinda hit you at the same time so as the receptors are opening up THC is also filtering through so some of that THC is lost because it’s being filtered through before the receptors open up. So with the mango, what people do is you eat a mango like an hour before, and all your receptors are open so when you smoke, you don’t have to waste, like, it doesn’t have to take, your body doesn’t have to take time to open those receptors before, before the THC attaches to them, it just gets all of it at once. So you get a stronger high.”

“Mhm. So where’d you hear this?”

“My best friend Oliver told me. And then uh, and then there’s also like a timing element, too, cause if you do it like right before, it’ll just make the trip—not the trip, the high longer just because like, um, it’ll kind of open those receptors slowly as your brain continues to process the remaining THC that’s left over. But then like if you do it an hour before, then by the time you digest it it will have all kicked in, so then it’ll just make it stronger, it’ll hit you all at once. So there’s a timing element to that as well.”

“Cool. Have you tried this before?”

“I have! I have.”
“Does it work?”
“It does, but it doesn’t work to the point where it’s like, amazing. It’s just kind of like a little extra kick.”

“You don’t think that might be, like, a placebo effect?”
“Oh I’m sure there is somewhat of a placebo effect, but it’s a combination, like, part of it is placebo and part of it actually is that you’re getting higher. Because it does, it does do the work, I’ve fact-checked this and everything. It’s a legitimate thing, it’s not just a wives’ tale. I mean it started out as folklore, obviously, and it still is, but if you wanna look it up for yourself there is legitimate information on this.”

My informant is obviously very interested in having accurate information, and sets his stories apart from “wives’ tales” in stoner culture as truth and having been “fact-checked”. I found this interesting because upon asking him, most of what he thought was “wives’ tales” came from friends and most of what he thought was true he had fact-checked on online forums about weed. He uses scientific sounding words like enzyme and receptors to do this, which may all be true but certainly reinforces, at least in his mind, the fact that they are more true with scientific backup. His attachment to the truth reveals his attachment to being more “legitimate” within his identity as a stoner.

general

White Lighter Superstition – Police

My informant is a college student, artist and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.

 

He learned about the white lighter superstition from his freshman roommate, who was also an avid smoker.

 

This interview was conducted in the informant’s bedroom, with another friend of his who had a different version of the superstition.

 

“So the legend of the white lighter… One version I’ve heard is that it’s bad luck because normally the… ok, this is more of an omen… whatever man. So what happens is the uh, ganja smokers will tap the lighter down on the pipe to push down the ash, and that makes it like stay on the bottom of it so you use dark lighters to conceal that but like, a white lighter, sometimes the police will look at the bottom of it, and if they see ash stains then they know that you’re using it for illegal activities. Well, depending on where you are.”

 

This is one of two versions of the white lighter superstition I collected, and has more to do with the illegality of pot and the luck component to getting caught or not getting caught. He learned about it within the context of smoking in a college dorm, where he was more worried about getting caught with pot because the risk and consequence was higher, and I assume that’s why he remembered this superstition.

Folk Beliefs

White Lighter Superstition – Musicians

My informant is a college sophomore, animator, and casual pot smoker. He sees weed as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity, and while he knows quite a bit of stoner folklore by just participating in the culture, he’s not very attached to it and it doesn’t mean much to him outside of a social context.

He learned about the white lighter superstition from a friend in high school, who relayed to him this take on it.

This interview was conducted in the informant’s friend’s bedroom, with another friend of his who had a different version of the superstition.

“So what’s your version of the white lighter bad luck thing?”
“Well you see, since I’m actually pretty sure that all… all, all lighters have a white bottom, um, it’s more of a bad luck thing because peoples… people that, that yeah—“ (Stephen interrupts) “Not all of them do, bro” “Well, BIC lighters… buncha musicians that were like ‘I like white lighters!’ died when they were like 20.” “So that’s why it’s bad luck?” “Yeah, cause you don’t wanna like, die when you’re 20.” “Ok, ok, so two musicians used white lighters and they died at the same age so therefore white lighters are bad.” “Yeah! Yeah.”

This is one of two versions of the white lighter superstition I collected that day, and has more to do with celebrity culture and bad luck concerning the phenomenon of famous musicians dying young. This lends a dark twist to the superstition but distances the consequence a bit from the bearer, as opposed to the other version, which has more to do with the luck component of being caught with marijuana.

Customs
Folk speech
Gestures
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cherries and Cherry Queens

My informant is a college junior studying cognitive science and creative writing. He is a casual pot smoker.

He heard this piece of folklore while working on a ranch near his Texas hometown, from an older man who taught him and his fellow ranch hands all about weed culture. He likes it and it means a lot to him because it reminds him of the time in his life when he was a ranch hand and of the people he worked and lived with at the time. He says he hopes to bring the same vibe of that group of people to his friends and smoking pals now.

This interview was performed in the informant’s bedroom.

“What’s a cherry?”

“A cherry is, um, when you light the bowl and then you smoke it and then after you’re done smoking it it’s still like, lit, like there’s still like a red glow in the bowl, so it’s called a cherry and you can pass it and then you say ‘oh it’s cherried!’ and then they quickly but without lighting it continue to just smoke it, and then if they can continue to pass it around the circle and it gets all the way back to you and it’s still lit, then it’s like super cool and like a very rare feat, and then you’re officially the cherry queen. Oh and cherry queen is like an automatic pass, like if you’re cherry queen, and you get cherried, no matter when it stops, it comes back to you and you get to light it again. So like if it goes all the way around the circle and then like two people down it’ll come back to you and reset at you.”

These kinds of very specific stoner traditions and stoner language prove to me that this subculture is very developed and widespread, which counters the notion of stoners as lazy and generally not serious. Within stoner communities or microcommunities, these traditions and lingo are very important and tend to distinguish experienced smokers from newbies.

Humor

Donkey wordplay joke

My informant is my cousin, a 9 year old boy born and raised in Mexico City to a half-white, half-Mexican mother and a Mexican father. He has an impressive repertoire of jokes that he knows, and impresses and cracks up the family every time he tells them, usually over the traditional Mexican mid-afternoon meal, which is the heaviest meal of the day and is typically eaten with family or friends, the same way dinner is here. He is very popular in school, probably in part because of his sense of humor as well as his natural charm.

This joke was performed over “comida” as the mid-afternoon meal is called, during an hour-long family-wide exchange of jokes. He learned this joke at school.

“Como haces que un burro se haga burra? Lo metes en un cuarto oscuro para que se aburra.”

Transliteration: How do you make a [male] donkey into a [female] donkey? You put him in a dark room so that he gets bored.

The word for female donkey in Spanish is “burra,” while “se aburra” means “[he] gets bored”, so it’s a classic and funny example of wordplay common among children. In fact, most of his jokes are wordplay, which is classic among children, especially as they are gradually learning the nuances and double meanings of a language, and particularly interesting as he is semi-bilingual due to his mom teaching English to him in the home.

Humor
Musical

Mexican Boy Scouts song

My informant is my father, a 48 year old pediatric oncologist at Stanford University. He is bilingual, binational and bicultural, born to a white American father and a Mexican mother. He grew up in both countries but spent his formative adolescent years in Mexico City, where he joined the Mexican Boy Scouts or “los escouts” as he calls them. It was there that he learned this joke from a fellow Escout, who he is still good friends with today.

He performs this piece of folklore frequently, usually in the presence of children—before, when my sister and I were little, he would teach it to us when we were camping, and now, since we’re older, he usually does it around our younger cousins, especially around mealtimes.

Here is the song:

“Queremos comer!
Sangre coagulada
revuelta en ensalada
higado encebollado
de sapo reventado
y de postre!
Helado con caquita de venado!!”

Translation:

We want to eat!

Coagulated blood

Mixed up in a salad

Onion-fried liver

of a scrambled frog

and for dessert!

Ice cream with little deer poops!

This little song has gone from being a piece of his adolescence to being passed on to our generation, so it means a lot to him as both a part of his past, and a reminder of old friendships, as well as a part of his family life now. He uses it to bond now with his younger relatives over the humorous idea of such a disgusting meal, and to reconnect, I think, with his inner child.

[geolocation]