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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Sugar Cookie recipe

Cookies:

1 cup shortening Crisco

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla

1 tsp baking soda

4 ½ cups sifted measured flour (sift flour fluffy)

 

  • Cream shortening, sugar, egg, salt, vanilla,, soda stir in together
  • Add flour ⅓ at a time. Shape dough in oval rod, wrap up in put in plastic bag.
  • Chill 2 hrs in refrig. at least.
  • preheat to 350
  • Let sit ½ hr
  • Rolling pin, flour pin+counter lightly, cut ¼ of dough
  • Roll to ¼ to ⅜ thick
  • Cut w/ cookie cutter
  • Bake 12-15 min. —not brown

 

Icing:

Cream together:

2 cups shifted confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup soft butter or 3 tablespoons hot whipping cream

Add and beat until smooth:

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 to 4 tablespoons milk, dry sherry, rum, or coffee

If the icing is too thin, add more:

Confectioners’ sugar

If too thick, add:

A little cream

 

The informant had gotten the recipe for the cookies from her mother-in-law, who had gotten the recipe from her mother. The mother-in-law is from Ohio, and her mother was from Italy and came to America a few years after her marriage. There have been a few changes to the recipe over the years, as ingredients become more available—hence the option of milk, coffee, dry sherry, or rum to the icing.

 

The mother-in-law started the tradition of having these cookies at Christmas. The cookies are only made during the Christmas season every year, usually a few days before the holiday. There is one designated day of cookie making, where the cookies made that day are expected to last until the end of the holiday season and the visiting of all relatives. Depending on how many relatives are expected, and especially how many children are around, more or less batches are made on this one day. Because of the multiple batches, the icing of the cookies can be moved to the morning of the next day, though this often causes more stress.

 

In recent years, about 50 cookies are made. There are 3 different cookie shapes: a Christmas tree, which has green icing with little green sparkly sprinkles; a yellow star with multi-color non-parreil sprinkles; and a Santa Claus head, with black-frosted eyes, a red-frosted hat, and white-frosted beard with coconut shavings. Each relative tends to have his or her favorite cookie, with the Santa Claus being the least popular, though the most revered as it is the most aesthetically pleasing.

 

There are many stories told about the cookies from the time when the informant’s husband was a child with 2 brothers and a sister. One of the popular stories is how when the cookies would first be made available to the children, each sibling would steal 5 or 6 and hide them under their respective beds, with no covering. Jokes are made on finding icing stains on the underside of the mattress years later. Another is when the mother-in-law was a girl and would be sure to help make the cookies, so she could steal the cookies of the cooling rack before her mother could notice and her sister could get them.

 

This previous year, the informant was not going to go to her in-laws until later in January, but felt her husband and daughter would miss the cookies at Christmas, as they are one of the main aspects of her family’s Christmas celebration, so she made them with her daughter on Christmas day. She did not have the same cookie cutters, so she used a dolphin cutter with blue icing with a black-frosted dot for an eye.

 

When asked why these cookies were so important, she said that it is one of their family’s Christmas traditions. In order for it to feel like Christmas, there should be some kind of a tree (she’s had a Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree the past few years), some present giving, a good meal…and the cookies when she goes and visits her husband’s family. Her mother-in-law puts in a lot of effort for those cookies—a whole day’s work—and they have been around for years. The informant does not even like the cookies very much, “too sweet for my salty taste buds,” but that does not lessen their meaning.

 

The cookies will continue to be served by all of the mother-in-law every Christmas, and the tradition, or at the very least the recipe, will remain a part of her children and her grandchildren’s lives, and fond memories of Christmases at her house.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Humor
Proverbs

No women on boats

“Women in boats are bad luck. I’m sure you’ve heard that. [The reason:]Just distract sailors, yeah, because there’s always something that goes on and someone falls in love and love triangles or… Nothing against women, that’s just… Tempers flare very quickly. Um, ‘It’s not gay if you’re under way.’ Hahaha. ‘It’s only queer if you can see the pier.'”

 

The informant is one of the captains of the Miss Christi, the boat that ferries people to the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina island. He came to the island a couple of years after graduating from high school in San Diego. He worked at the general store in Two Harbors, then as a housekeeper at WIES. Twelve years later he became a captain. Originally, he wanted to study marine biology, but fell in love with the island when he came there and has never looked back. He still enjoys marine studies, and he is a certified scientific scuba diver. He has loved the water his whole life, but did not start boating until he came to Catalina. An avid spear fisherman, he has a lot of contact with the other fishers on the island, and many of his friends are involved in sea life in some way.

 

The informant was asked if he knew any superstitions of mariners, what is good luck or bad luck for a ship. He had heard of this folklore from his friends, who are boaters and fishermen.

 

Women not being permitted on boats is probably the most well-known seafarer superstition. Many boaters who are going on long trips out to sea consider it horrible luck to have a female on board. This belief has continued to present day: women were not allowed on submarines until a few years ago. This belief has also made its way into popular culture. It is often a part of any pirates or sailor movies, like in Pirates of the Caribbean and the fear the dress creates for the ship. This superstition is incredibly well-spread, if not fully followed.

There are some good reasons for this belief. Most sailors are just men like any other and are prone to falling in love or lusting after members of the opposite sex. If more than one man develops feelings for the same woman, then things can get ugly fast. As the informant says, love triangles can form, and feelings can get hurt—and unlike normal love triangles, there is no hope to avoid the other members of it as all are stuck on the same ship for months or maybe years at a time. Because the working of a ship requires such steadfast teamwork between sailors, any hard feelings between team members can put the entire ship at risk. This guideline of not having women on ships to complicate things soon progressed to women bringing bad luck to the ship.

Sailors, boaters, and fishermen are notoriously superstitious. Most groups who are the most superstitious are those who have a trade that is heavily reliant on nature. Farmers are one example, as the success of their crops relies on variability in the weather. Seamen, similarly, rely on currents, winds, and weather to take them from place to place. All it takes is one storm, and their ship could sink. Because they have so little control over their trade, they attempt to create good luck through superstitions. Things become associated with good or bad luck, and all sailors must follow these superstitions for fear that their boat will sink. Women is one such source of bad luck.

Men do get lonely after a long time away from wives and women company, so men have been known to turn to their fellow sailors for company. They may also prefer male company in the first place. On land, any male-male relationships would not have been acceptable even 20 years ago, but out to sea, with little societal constraints, then men could have relationships with each other and not be shamed the same way they would on the mainland. Seafarers even have sayings about this, as the informant shares, that prove this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Folk Beliefs
general
Proverbs
Signs

Red sun in the morning, sailor take warning.

“You know the whole like ‘Red sun in the morning, sailor take warning.’ or some shit like that. I don’t believe that. Look at, look at the uh forecast. That’s usually the most accurate is what’s going to happen.

 

The informant is one of the captains of the Miss Christi, the boat that ferries people to the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina island. He came to the island a couple of years after graduating from high school in San Diego. He worked at the general store in Two Harbors, then as a housekeeper at WIES. Twelve years later he became a captain. Originally, he wanted to study marine biology, but fell in love with the island when he came there and has never looked back. He still enjoys marine studies, and he is a certified scientific scuba diver. He has loved the water his whole life, but did not start boating until he came to Catalina. An avid spear fisherman, he has a lot of contact with the other fishers on the island, and many of his friends are involved in sea life in some way.

 

The informant was asked if there were any common sayings of seamen that he was familiar with. He has heard this folklore from his fishermen friends and people whose family has had the ocean for their trade for generations.

 

Though the informant does not believe in these sayings, he still remembers them and knows many sailors who do believe in them. If the sky is red in the morning, then there is a higher chance of storms or just bad luck for sailors. this may have something to do with the sun reflecting off clouds in the east, and as storms move east to west, then there is a chance of storms passing over the ship. Red sky at night, on the contrary, is perfectly okay as that means the storm has already passed the ship.

Sailors, boaters, and fishermen are notoriously superstitious. Most groups who are the most superstitious are those who have a trade that is heavily reliant on nature. Farmers are one example, as the success of their crops relies on variability in the weather. Seamen, similarly, rely on currents, winds, and weather to take them from place to place. All it takes is one storm, and their ship could sink. Because they have so little control over their trade, they attempt to create good luck through superstitions. Things become associated with good or bad luck, and all sailors must follow these superstitions for fear that their boat will sink. Red skies in the morning represent bad luck.

With modern technology, boaters can rely on radar and weather forecasting to determine if there is dangerous weather that day. The informant is one such, who feels he does not need to look at the color of the sky in the morning to determine if he will survive the day. There are others, though, who use both. They will look at forecasts and use that for the majority of their weather knowledge. If the sky is red in the morning, however, they are much less likely to risk the ocean regardless of what the weatherman says. Science and superstition can exist in the same belief system.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general

No bananas on boats

“No bananas on boats. It comes back, there’s a couple things, different reasons they claim for that certain superstition, um going back to when banana boats literally, coming from the Mediterranean, I mean not the Mediterranean, but the Caribbean and stuff like that. Um, one would be that, uh, spiders, venomous creatures liked to live in bananas, in the bunches and what not, so it was apparently kind of a bad thing, like oh, you got a bunch of bananas on a boat, you’ve probably got a bunch of nasty stuff living in there. Um, another one that I heard is that bananas float, and whenever you, a boat would sink, then that’s the only thing you would be able to find, would be a pile of bananas floating around. And you can go online, they’ll show you, there’s literally people who will not let you on their boat, they won’t even allow Banana Boat sunscreen on their boat. I mean seriously. Especially fishermen, they’re a very superstitious bunch, of course. It’s very interesting like why…? Yeah, and some people, I have a friend who’s boat name is No Bananas, and I’ve got another friend whose boat is called the Tipetina, but on the back has a picture of a marlin and it’s got a banana on its bill. So it’s just kind of a weird, like what the heck’s going on here? Banana boat. Google it, I’m sure there’s plenty of folklore online about it.”

 

The informant is one of the captains of the Miss Christi, the boat that ferries people to the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina island. He came to the island a couple of years after graduating from high school in San Diego. He worked at the general store in Two Harbors, then as a housekeeper at WIES. Twelve years later he became a captain. Originally, he wanted to study marine biology, but fell in love with the island when he came there and has never looked back. He still enjoys marine studies, and he is a certified scientific scuba diver. He has loved the water his whole life, but did not start boating until he came to Catalina. An avid spear fisherman, he has a lot of contact with the other fishers on the island, and many of his friends are involved in sea life in some way.

 

The informant was asked about some superstitions of fishermen—things you should never do or bring on boats. He has heard of this particular superstition from some of his friends, and has seen the stickers for it and has read about it.

 

As the informant says above, there are many boaters who do not allow bananas on boats. Even Banana Boat sunscreen is often forbidden. Though contemporary boaters likely follow this superstition because they have heard about it from their family or fellow boaters, there are some good reasons for the origin of this superstition. First of all, merchants bringing bananas from South America and the Caribbean would carry poisonous spiders and disease with them from these tropical locations. Bananas, and anyone who carried them, began to be associated with disease and vile things. Any reasonable boater would not want to carry bananas on their boats when they could easily be associated with these negative ideas.

The second reason that the informant mentions is a bit creepier. If a boat carrying bananas should sink, the bananas would remain floating on the surface to mark the location. Death is obviously something that sailors would wish to avoid, so anything that is related to death in anyway must be avoided. The bananas would outlive the sailors carrying them, and take on this eerie image. If a ship were to come on a pile of bananas floating in the middle of the ocean, they would know a ship had sunk there, and that their ship might be next.

Sailors, boaters, and fishermen are notoriously superstitious. Most groups who are the most superstitious are those who have a trade that is heavily reliant on nature. Farmers are one example, as the success of their crops relies on variability in the weather. Seamen, similarly, rely on currents, winds, and weather to take them from place to place. All it takes is one storm, and their ship could sink. Because they have so little control over their trade, they attempt to create good luck through superstitions. Things become associated with good or bad luck, and all sailors must follow these superstitions for fear that their boat will sink. Bananas are just other creators of bad luck, that must be avoided.

This superstition has even made its way into popular culture, through stickers that are sold (like the one on the informant’s boat). When businesses realize that many sailors believe in one superstition, then they will create products that will create good luck or bad luck. There may be talismans that stop the bad luck created by bananas, just as there are signs sold to prevent the bringing of bananas on boats.

Folk Beliefs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Changing the name of a boat

“It’s bad luck for you to change the name of a boat up. But, if for whatever reason you do decide to change it up, there is the rite of passage, so to speak. Um, a couple people have different ways of doing it. The most common that I’ve heard is to drive it around in a circle, backwards, three times. Yeah. And that’s to get the bad juju off, I don’t know if it’s really a left turn or a right turn, but that’s what I hear is if you’re going to be changing up your stuff, that’s what you do. Sign it off, write your name, get your new CF numbers and you put that thing in reverse to get the bad juju off. God speed.”

 

The informant is one of the captains of the Miss Christi, the boat that ferries people to the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina island. He came to the island a couple of years after graduating from high school in San Diego. He worked at the general store in Two Harbors, then as a housekeeper at WIES. Twelve years later he became a captain. Originally, he wanted to study marine biology, but fell in love with the island when he came there and has never looked back. He still enjoys marine studies, and he is a certified scientific scuba diver. He has loved the water his whole life, but did not start boating until he came to Catalina. An avid spear fisherman, he has a lot of contact with the other fishers on the island, and many of his friends are involved in sea life in some way.

 

The informant was asked why the boat WIES uses is called the Miss Christi. Apparently, the boat had been sold to WIES for cheap to the Institute as a kind of donation. It was called Miss Christi after the original owner’s wife. When WIES bought the boat, they had considered changing the name to make it more related to the University of Southern California or the Institute itself, but the staff argued that the rituals necessary to make the boat safe to drive on the water again were to complicated, and that it was just too risky to change the name. The informant then went on to explain the process to change the name, if absolutely necessary.

 

All boaters would agree that it is incredibly bad luck to change the name of a ship. Once a ship is named, it is named for life, and to change that name would disrespect the boat’s history and make light of the ship’s nature.

That being said, sometimes it cannot be avoided and the name of the boat must be changed. In that case, there is a certain ritual to go through to get rid of the bad luck. As the informant says, once the captain changes the name and gets the new registration for it, he must take it out in the water and drive it backwards in a circle. This is fairly dangerous, especially since there is still bad juju is still on the boat when driving it out on the water. It would be especially difficult if the ship was a sailboat or had oarsmen, as boats had in the past. It is not impossible, however, so it can be done if necessary.

The informant did not know what direction the turn should be, but if it is like much other Western folklore, it is likely counter-clockwise, sometimes known as widdershins. Whenever a ritual is trying to get rid of negative energy or change things that are already there, then it usually involves counter-clockwise movement. This name-changing ritual would likely use the same principle.

Sailors, boaters, and fishermen are notoriously superstitious. Most groups who are the most superstitious are those who have a trade that is heavily reliant on nature. Farmers are one example, as the success of their crops relies on variability in the weather. Seamen, similarly, rely on currents, winds, and weather to take them from place to place. All it takes is one storm, and their ship could sink. Because they have so little control over their trade, they attempt to create good luck through superstitions. Things become associated with good or bad luck, and all sailors must follow these superstitions for fear that their boat will sink. Respecting the name of the boat to make sure the boat will not sink is no different.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Chupacabra

“Um, it’s like a Mexican thing, I think. It’s like a little…it like eats little children at night as well as like chickens. It’s like a, what is it, it’s like a half, I don’t know what it is exactly. Chupacabra… Um, wait for it, wait for it. It means in Spanish ‘goatsucker’ and they drink the blood of livestock and if you’re a bad child and go out at night, they’ll eat you. It’s like a little thing. It’s like a little animal, but it’s like a made up, it’s like a, it has some like little animal that eats things. It’s creepy.”

 

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from northern California, from the San Francisco area. Her father is from England and her other from Switzerland, while she was born in California. She studies Computer Science and Computer Engineering. She enjoys playing in the marching band on campus and playing water polo. Though she has lived in California her whole life, though has taken many trips away from it, including a few to Mexico.

 

The informant was asked of urban legends she knew of, ones she had heard stories of or perhaps encountered. She thought of the Chupacabra, which she had heard about growing up, seen in a Scooby Doo episode, and had met believers of the legend in Mexico.

 

The Chupacabra is an urban legend whose renown has spread outside the country of origin. Though few outside Mexico believe it exists in their own countries, many believe it possible it lives in Mexico, or elsewhere in Central or South America. The informant does not believe in it, believes it is a made up story, but despite this disbelief, and likely the disbelief of many of those around her, that has not stopped the story’s popularity.

The urban legend is surprisingly contemporary with the first sighting in Puerto Rico in 1995. Popular media, like Scooby Doo and other conspiracy mediums, ran with the idea. Some claimed supernatural origins, others extraterrestrial.

Descriptions of the creature’s appearance vary widely. The creature is often described as an animal, sometimes as big as or bigger than a man, sometimes as small as the goats it supposedly sucks. Sometimes it is described like a bear with spines on its back, with large eyes (the better to see at night with). It is usually considered “heavy” or dense and muscular. At times, the chupacabra seems more alien than animal.

The one thing all of the sightings agree on is that it kills livestock, particularly goats—its name means “goatsucker” in Spanish. It has been known to kill hundreds of livestock at one time. If the legend is in fact not real, then it was most likely thought up as a way to explain the slaughter of hundreds of animals, either by some animals or even humans themselves. Now, whenever there is an attack of this nature in the Americas, and even elsewhere in the world, the Chupacabra is to blame.

There are some beneficial side effects to this legend. It can now be used to warn off bad children, that if they misbehave, the Chupacabra will come and eat them. This struck the informant the most, saying multiple times that it will eat children, especially children who wander off at night when they should be in bed asleep. The Chupacabra may even start to transform into a tale, with the moral being to never break curfew. This is a nice example of urban legends being used by parents to get their kids to behave in the right way.

Customs
general
Gestures

Water Polo End-of-game Etiquette

“Sometimes you actually shake hands depending. When you do that, the goalie’s usually the first person, then everyone lines up behind them. [...] You get out of the pool and do it, walk along the side. Um, I don’t know.”

 

The informant is a student to the University of Southern California, studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science. She is from the San Francisco area, though her father is from England and her mother from Switzerland. She started playing water polo her freshmen year of high school—though she had enjoyed swimming before that—and she has now been playing for 6 years. She is a member of the recreational water polo team at USC and plays about 4 tournaments a year, along with a few other scrimmages.

 

The informant was asked if there were any customs of water polo games, like how to thank the other team for playing, and this is the answer she gave. though there are no official rules requiring this shaking of hands, every team knows to do so, be it high school or college. She learned of this custom after her first water polo game in high school.

 

In almost every sport, there is a certain etiquette at the end of a game, a way to thank the other team for a good game. In soccer, many teams exchange jerseys, but few other sports take it this far. Most have a similar custom to water polo: both teams line up, often with the goalie—if they have one—leading. As the teams walk down the lines, they shake or high five hands, depending on how much time the teams want to spend. Sometimes phrases like “good game” are said.

The purpose of this custom is to prevent the teams from going off with bad feelings at the end of the game. Even if the other team fouled like crazy or played a weak game, both teams must come together and congratulate each other on a game well-played. It shows respect for the other players and the game itself. Though the teams were on opposite sides does not mean they need to have hostile feelings off the field or out of the pool.

Customs
general
Humor
Initiations
Musical

Band bus trip activities

“Under tunnels we yell. Uh, if the bus driver brakes too quickly or suddenly, we sing the bus driver song: ‘My father’s a bus driver, a bus driver, a bus driver, mhuhm…’ That gets um explicit. Um, people go up on the mic and, uh, tell jokes. [They introduce themselves by saying:] ‘Once upon a time, my name is’ and like your name, or like your name name cause you got like name names and like names. Um, [people respond:] ‘Why?’ and you say something funny, or not funny, depending. And then, like normally, they’ll boo you or ‘head, head, head, head’ which means go to the toilet.”

 

The informant is a member of the University of Southern California Spirit of Troy. She is a sophomore, both in the school and in the band ranks, studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. She plays alto saxophone and has travelled with the band to the Weekender and to Notre Dame.

 

The informant was asked about band folklore, and what they do on bus trips. As trips can be hours long, groups such as the band usually have unique ways of passing the time. The Spirit of Troy is no exception.

 

The first custom the informant mentions is that if you are on a bus and go under a tunnel, then for the duration of that tunnel you yell, at the top of your lungs. This helps make trips more interesting, as you can be having a conversation with someone sitting next to you, then both of you start yelling. This also serves to wake up anyone who dares try to sleep on a band bus. The act of yelling is also a very important part of band culture. During practices and any band events and gatherings, there are ample opportunities to yell. This all adds to training for game days, where band members are expected to operate at full spirit for 12 hours at a time—shouting cheers, orders, and cadencing all to keep spirit and hype up. The yelling in the tunnels is just yet another way of continuing this.

The informant also mentions a song the band sings if the bus driver slams on his brakes noticeably hard.  She starts singing the first few bars before mumbling off and claiming that it’s too explicit. The band has been trying to work on its image in recent years, cutting down on curse words and inappropriate behavior that goes on hidden from the public eye, in fear that these should become public. As a result, many band traditions have had to be trimmed down and made presentable to anyone who might hear them. This song is one other. It once used to trail off into  curse words and sexual images, but no longer. Though no G-rated version of this song has been created as of yet, something will likely replace it soon.

The purpose it serves is no different. On long bus trips, it is customary for whatever group happens to be traveling to sing songs together. Some favorites include “99 bottles of beer on the wall” or “This is the song that never ends,” all of which are written to take a long time to finish singing and to fight off the boredom for those extra few minutes. This band song has the added entertainment value that everyone must be paying attention to the bus driver’s driving in order to know when to start, and also the ability to make fun of the bus driver if he brakes too quickly. There are supposedly many verses to this song, allowing time to pass more quickly.

Then there is the tradition of “On the Mic.” The buses the band takes always have a microphone hooked up, to allow leadership to make announcements without having to shout over 50 rowdy college students. This mic becomes available to the band’s use during the trips for entertainment. The most important thing to remember when going on the mic is to introduce yourself properly, following the pre-ordained script. As someone walks up to take the mic, the band shouts “Who are you?” That person is expected to respond with “Once upon a time my name is [insert band name here].”

This brings up the topic of band names. Every person in the band is given their own band name, often referred to as their “real name” while the other name they have is “the name on your birth certificate” so as to avoid confusion. The name is often based on some trait, and it often ties back to a popular reference. They are often only a few words long, but can be entire verses of a song. Everyone is given a name as a freshman in band, almost always before their first band trip, so they are able to participate in this tradition. You are not a member of the band unless you have a band name.

The bus members respond to the person on the mic with “Why?” The person then goes on to tell a funny reason why that’s their band name. They are then expected to either make an announcement if they are leadership, or tell a joke. If the joke is judged bad, which it almost always is, then the bus shouts “Head, head, head!” or they should be ashamed and go hide in the toilet. Everyone is expected to go up on the mic, at the very least once a year. This ensures that all bus trips will have ample entertainment and jokes to laugh at, or at least aggressively boo.

general
Gestures
Legends
Narrative

The Story Behind the Shaka

“Oh it was just a guy who, the story behind the shaka is that there was a guy who was really sweet in Hawaii and he used to wave to everyone, and I think one day, he lost the three middle fingers in his hand and so he would wave at people and it would only be his thumb and pinkie finger, and that’s how everyone would wave back the same way and that’s ow the shaka was invented.”

 

The informant is a 19 year old, studying psychology at the University of Southern California. Her ethnicity is half Filipino, half Japanese, and she is second generation American. She was born and grew up in Hawaii. She lived in suburban town called Ewa Beach, on the island Oahu. Contrary to Hawaiian stereotypes, she does not know how to surf or swim well, nor hula dance, though she enjoyed drag racing and playing volleyball. She spent half of her education in private schools, and half in public school.

 

The informant provided the story after being asked about Hawaii urban legends, or the stories behind a Hawaiian custom. She had heard the story from her friends and family on Hawaii, and considered it a well-known story amongst people who have lived on Hawaii for a few years.

 

A “shaka” is a hand gesture that is made by holding your palm flat and fingers open, then closing your rind, middle, and index finger—it is the American sign language symbol for the letter “y.” You then “wave” the shaka by twisting your wrist side to side. It is often thought to mean “Right on!” or “Holla!” or “Cool!” It can take the place of a ave hello or goodbye, as a much less formal salutation or farewell; this is often accompanied by a “What up, dude?” or “Later!” It is also sometimes used in scuba diving to mean “so cool” or sometimes to represent laughing. It is usually associated with surfer dudes in particular, but also just anyone from Hawaii, or even California.

The story the informant tells is how the shaka was created. Apparently, there was a very nice man who would wave at people with his thumb and pinkie finger, and everyone would wave back the same way. This portrays the so-called “founder” of one of the main symbols of Hawaii as nice and sweet. It is similar to countries describing their national founders with ideals everyone should strive for, like George Washington and the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie.” Just as George Washington was honest, Hawaii’s is friendly.

Whether there was actually a man who waved at everyone with only two fingers or not, no one knows—that is not what is important. It is the fact that this symbolic hand gesture that is an important part of Hawaiian culture needed a story to explain it. They made the figure who created the gesture a paragon of Hawaiian ideals (friendly, welcoming, nice). The fact that the story is still around demonstrates how important the shaka and these ideals are to Hawaiians.

Customs

Weekly meetings with PhD advisor

“So in the PhD program, there are some rules for success with respect to you and your advisor. Uh, rule number 1 is that you should try to have weekly meetings. If you do not have weekly meetings, there will not be, you know, there will be no pressure on you to get things done, and there will be no pressure on your advisor to read a thing that you’ve don, or to think about you at all. So the best is to have some kind of weekly meeting where you are expected to have a little bit of something done, even just a little bit. Which carries me to rule number 2, which is you should try to do something every week. You should try to bring to your advisor when you see them, because if you are just going to your advisor empty-handed, then neither you, nor your advisor are going to get anything out of that. So if you go to a meeting, you should have a thing at the meeting.”

 

“I’m getting a Ph.D. in Linguistics, which is the study of how language works in the mind. It has to do with why we sometimes have trouble distinguishing “f” from “s” on the phone, why speakers of Japanese seem to mix up “r” and “l”, and why it’s perfectly reasonable to say “Aluminum bird-feeders sleepily wrestle with simple fractals” but not *”Whose was Mary reading novel?” (cf. “Whose novel was Mary reading?”).

I work in particular on sound things. My most recent work has to do with why the “c” at the end of “electric” sounds like a hard “k”, but turns into a soft “s” in the word “electricity”. There are also words like “divine” (pronounced with “ai” as in “fine”) that change to “divinity” (with an “ih” as in “fit”). This sort of thing happens in a lot of languages, and is rather strange. I believe it’s worth studying for many reasons; in particular, it tells us about how the mind stores words, and therefore has implications for psychology/medicine (e.g. understanding how aphasia works) and for cognitive science in general.”
The informant is studying at the University of Southern California, and is currently in the second year of his Ph.D. program. This folklore was collected by asking the informant what are some common practices of PhD students, or advice that he has received. He learned this from speaking with his PhD advisor and some of the more senior PhD students in his department.
According to the informant, the first rule of being a PhD student is to have weekly meetings with your advisor. Everyone in his department has at least one weekly meeting with their advisor, though it is not a requirement—it is just an unspoken practice of these PhD students, that they learn from each other. Each student likely has his or her own take on the rule: how long the meeting should be; whether the meeting should be made up if the student cannot make it that week; whether the time should be set in stone or can be flexible. That is the variation of the folklore custom.
Another custom of these meetings that the informant speaks of is to always have something to talk about, even it is very small. This increases the connection between the advisor and the student, as the student is required to prove that he has done some work over the week—as work should be done every week—and it allows the advisor to think about the student and the student’s work and provide feedback on what they are working. It is also awkward to walk into an hour meeting with absolutely nothing to talk about except what was discussed the week before. That would just waste the advisor and the student’s time.
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