Author Archive
Folk speech

Desprit Idjit

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

Me: Where did the term come from?

L: A crazy woman named Shawna that was leading a tour around Ireland through the ring of Kerry on a huge coach bus. Every time the coach would get stuck, by some car not making room for the coach, or some person walking in front of the coach, in the middle of a sentence explaining what we were seeing at the time, she would blurt out, “Desprit ijit!”

Me: What does it mean?

L: It means a person that is so clueless and is not paying attention, so in English it would be a desperate idiot. Someone who is painfully stupid. It was really more of a pronunciation thing because she had a thick Irish accent. She repeated it throughout our entire trip probably six or seven times a day. So, there were a lot of idiots.

Me: Do you still use the phrase?

L: Desprit ijit? Yeah. All the time. It’s the funniest thing, it cracks everyone up. I use it when I’m driving a lot. But you have to say it with the accent because otherwise it just isn’t as funny.

L talks about how a random phrase that some people in the U.S. likely use, though it sounds different due to the accent, has become so funny to her. The accent of the tour guide and the phrase she said constantly, “desprit ijit,” was so funny to L, and she liked it so much that she has started to use it on a daily basis. She exudes Shawna, the tour guide’s, personality when she get behind the wheel because she has to deal with “deprit ijits” who just don’t know how to drive.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Leave the Same Way you Came

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

L: If my mom comes in the front door and leaves out the back door, or any other different door, she thinks it’s bad luck for either her or the homeowner. You have to leave out the same door you come in though. That’s whether she’s going into other people’s house or you’re coming in to her house. She insists that everybody enters and leaves through the same door. It’s very weird.

Me: When did she she start doing this?

L: She’s done this her whole life?

Me: Any idea where she got it from?

L: Probably her mother.

Me: Did her mother do it too?

L: I think so, but I’m not really sure. I vaguely remember her doing it.

Me: And it’s just bad luck?

L: I’m not really sure if it’s bad luck for the person entering and leaving the house, or the homeowner. Or both.

L talks about her mom and her grandmother who have/had this strange idea that one must exit through the door they entered through. They believe that if someone doesn’t do this then they will bring bad luck either to the homeowner, themselves, or both. L  does not follow this practice unless her mom forces her to and she thinks the idea that not following this will bring bad luck is malarkey. She does not like that her mom follows this belief because it is annoying when she is closer to one door but her mom tells her that they have to go out through the door she came in through.

Childhood
Holidays
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Tales /märchen

Krampus the Evil Elf

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

L: Krampus is from centuries back in Germany.

Me: So who is Krampus?

L: Krampus was an evil elf who would watch children to make sure they were good and if they weren’t goo then they would punish them. It’s like the the line from Santa Claus is Coming to Town: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Krampus is always watching.

Me: Did you ever tell your kids about Krampus?

L: No, we told them to look out the back window to see the deer and we told them that they were Santa’s reindeer, and that they better be good or Santa would know. They were so well behaved after that. We also used a garden gnome and told them it was an elf.

Me: Wow, that’s manipulative.

L: Well, folkore is a parent’s way to get their children to behave.

Me: Yeah, I can see that.

L: But my friend Kathy told her children about Krampus to make them behave as children. The kids are still obsessed with Krampus. The have Krampus dolls, they have paraphanalia all over the place.

L does not believe in Krampus, nor did she tell her kids about him. She knows the story because she heard it when she lived in Germany for a few years as a child as well as from her friend who did tell the story of Krampus to her children. Instead of Krampus, a scary figure, L used real things like deer and gnomes to convince her kids that reindeer and elves were watching them to make sure they behaved. This worked well because the kids saw the “elves” and “reindeer” with their own eyes and therefore had less doubt that they were real.

Here is a link to the imdb page for the movie that came out last year based on this tale: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3850590/

Childhood
Folk speech
general
Humor

Never Ever Ebbers

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

Me: What’s something funny your family likes to joke about?

L: Oh! Never ever ebbers.

Me: What is that?

L: Well, they are a very creative and inventive name for a drip castle made on a beach.

Me: Ok. Where did they originate?

L: They originated in Ogunquit, Maine, on a small lighthouse beach. My four year old daughter was sitting on the beach and she was very engaged in making this castle and I remember leaning over and saying “can I help you make a castle?” And she just looked at me and said it is not a castle, it is “Nebber Ebber Ebbers.” I think she was trying to say Never ever land or something like that.

Me: But ebbers stuck?

L: We sat there making ebbers forever. I swear we were making ebbers for three hours. And then my husband and I kept asking what is never ever ebbers, and she would reply, “it’s nebber ebber ebbers!” so, the funniest part was when we asked her if we could eat the ebbers. She said no. Is ebbers a castle or a house? She’d say no. And finally I just agreed with her that it must just be never ever ebbers, and I learn something new every day.

Me: So it’s a family thing then? Like a joke.

L: Yeah. We’ve reminded her about it ever since then. We sometimes ask her what it means. when she was 10 we asked her what it meant and she said “what?” Then we asked her if she remembered the drip castles and she was like, “oh!” Then she shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know.” I guess we’ll never know! It’s sad, but it’s still funny.

L talks about a the name that her daughter created for the drip castles she was making. The phrase that her daughter started has become a family joke and now drip castles are called “never ever ebbers.” They will probably never know the reason she came up with the name, but it doesn’t seem like that matters. It’s justa  funny memory and a story to tell any time anyone ever makes a drip castle.

general
Humor
Riddle

Big Book of Riddles

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

Me: Do you have any riddles?

D: Well there was this riddle book that I used to love. “Big Book of Riddles” by Bennett Cerf. The book is probably 40 to 60 years old, and my parents still have it. I loved reading it with my kids when we visited them. The riddles were for children, but everyone always had a good laugh. My kids and my wife and I go though the book every time we visit. It has gotten to a point where we know every riddle in the book from memory.

Me: Can you tell me some of the riddles?

D: Sure. Why do firemen wear red suspenders?

Me: Why?

D: To keep their pants up!

Me: Ok.

D: What did the pig say when the farmer caught him by the tail?

Me: I don’t know?

D: This is the end of me.

Me: That’s a good one.

D: What do you call something that’s big, red, and  eat rocks?

Me: Umm.

D: A big, red, rock eater!

Me: They really gave these a lot of thought didn’t they.

D: Well the thing is, if you make it simple and put a small twist in it, it makes it a lot funnier.

Me: Hmm.

D: What makes more noise than a cat stuck in a tree?

Me: Uh…I have no idea.

D: Two cats!

Me: Wow.

D: What time is it when there is an elephant sitting on your fence?

Me: …

D: Time to build a new fence!

Me: Oh my god.

D talks about the book fondly and still gets a good laugh out of them. The are just stupid, dumb fun and he enjoy’s the feeling of being a kid again when reading them. The book still remains in his family after 40 to 60 years! His children will likely pass the book down to their kids as well, and if not the book then at least their favorite riddles. It’s funny how something so simple and childish and seemingly dumb can bring someone so much joy. It’s funny to think that reading a book of riddles can be a family tradition, but it is.

Here’s the link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Book-riddles-Beginner-books-Bennett/dp/B0007DL5JU/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=415%2BjVvyVCL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR115%2C160_&refRID=05WW8ZMV8F9E8CX6H72H

 

Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Buns

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

Me: What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?

D: I have a lot of favorite Christmas traditions, but one that I am particularly fond of that has been passed down from my mother are her Christmas morning Christmas buns.

Me: What are Christmas buns?

D: Christmas buns are made from pillsbury crescent roll dough slathered in melted butter, and lots of cinnamon and sugar, wrapped around a marshmallow and baked. The whole family pitches in to make them and while they are baking we listen to Christmas music and drink Irish coffees and hot chocolate. No one is allowed to open their presents until the Christmas buns are ready to be served.

Me: When did this tradition start?

D: In the 1960’s.

Me: Why did it start?

D: Because it sounded delicious. And it is delicious.

Me: And you guys have been making them every year since then.

D: Yeah

Though he likely has many different holiday family traditions, D chose Christmas buns as his favorite. The familial attachment to the tradition seems to mean a lot to him. The fact that the recipe is from his childhood and his mother used to make it every Christmas makes it more important for him to keep the tradition going. His family now all participates in making the Christmas buns before opening their presents every Christmas and not only are they tasty, but the act of making them is fun as well. The joy of Christmas is spending time with family and enjoying ones company, and by making these Christmas buns every Christmas morning, they start the day off right.

general
Proverbs

Proverbs

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

D: Funny thing, it’s hard to remember proverbs out of the blue. They’re so associated with experiences that I usually only think of them in context. On the other hand, I use them all the time to explain things to patients because they get complex ideas across in a familiar and easy way.

Me: What proverbs do you use often?

D: Well, I just used “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” today when talking with a colleague of mine about treating his wife’s normal blood pressure. She gets distressed in some doctor’s offices & her blood pressure rises. In the end we both agreed that “things are normal & should not be messed with.”

Me: Any other proverbs you use?

D: Another classic I use all the time with patients is “if you don’t use it, you lose it” as a universally-recognized motivation to “get off your butt.”  I’ve tried it with my dad too, but with no success.  My mom and I even mapped out their condo on a piece of paper with distances marked and put it on the fridge in hopes of encouraging him to get out and walk.

D: There’s also: “the larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” This is a recent one which is a favorite of mine, by a pastor in New York named Ralph Sockman, who preached in the 1930s-1960s.  My corollary has been “the more the islands of knowledge, the greater the archipelago of understanding.”

Me: What do you mean by that?

D: What I am trying to say is the more stuff you know, the more stuff you understand. I say this to my son a lot. It’s using the things you learn in life like putting the pieces of a puzzle together in order to understand other stuff.

D, while having a bit of trouble at the beginning trying to remember a proverb, ended up talking about three proverbs that he really likes and uses a lot. He uses proverbs in his everyday life, especially with his patients at work, to get across a point that might otherwise be confusing, or maybe even boring. By using proverbs and saying things in a different way, it is more likely to reach someone than by saying the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different reaction every time. So while proverbs didn’t seem to be a prominent part of D’s everyday speech, they are something he uses very frequently.

Life cycle
Narrative

Origin of a Name

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

Me: Can you tell me about your Scottish heritage?

D: Well, my last name is Campbell, and it’s, well, the name is Scottish. Um, the name comes from the Clan Campbell.

Me: Do you know what the name means?

D: Campbell, or, well, I guess it was Cambéal if you want to to get specific, which is made up of two Scottish Gaelic words that when put together translate to mean “crooked mouth.”

Me: Why crooked mouth?

D: It (Cambéal) was more of a nickname than anything. It took the place as a surname later on.

Me: But then why were they nicknamed “crooked mouth.”

D: Oh, yeah, well the Clan Campbell wasn’t a very popular group in Scotland highlands. They supported the British government, so the highlanders didn’t really get along with them. Mostly the name is taken to mean, untrustworthy or tricksters, other things alongs those lines.

Me: Why? I mean, can you give me some history?

D:  The Campbell’s were responsible for many massacres, and many people hated for their support of the British government, but I think the most prominent one is probably the Massacre of Glencoe. In the late 1600’s, the British government used their supporters, the Campbells, in a plan to suppress Jacobitism. After spending over a week in Glencoe, taking advantage of the MacDonald’s hospitality, the Campbells killed around 40 unarmed Clan MacDonald men, women, and children. And I visited Glencoe during a backpacking trip with my buddies in college. I remember asking for Campbell plaid. The saleswoman at the shop gave me a dead stare and told me “we don’t sell that here.” There were also signs in some store windows that said “no dogs or Campbells allowed.”

Me: Wow, they really don’t like Campbells there do they?

D: I think Glencoe is a specific case because the massacre was so terrible. I didn’t get the same reaction in other parts of Scotland. For the most part, it was a long time ago and people don’t care so much anymore. I found Campbell plaid pretty easily as soon as we travelled closer to Edinbourgh.

Me: How do you know all of this?

D: My father mostly, and this little green book he gave me. It that talks all about the history of the Campbell Clan. I gave the book to my kids to read as well. It’s important to know where you come from.

D’s heritage obviously means a lot to him, most of it ties into his last name. He knows a lot about Clan Campbell and their history. He has the tartan specific to the Clan Campbell as well, so he is proud of his heritage. Regardless of the questionable things that his ancestors did, the family still has a rich history. He wants his kids to know about their ancestry as well because he passed down the book about their family that his father gave him to his children.

Here is the link to the book D is talking about: http://www.amazon.com/The-Campbells-Campbell-Scottish-Mini-book/dp/1852170360

general
Gestures
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Respect for your Elders

S is a 21-year-old Filipino woman. She is currently majoring in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Philippines and therefore identifies as Filipino, however, she also identifies as Chinese. S speaks English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hokkien, the last being two of many languages specific to the Philippines.

S: Do rituals count as folklore?

Me: Yeah.

S: Ok, so like, one of the things is like when you meet an elderly person, you like place their hand on your forehead.

Me: Like your hand. on your forehead?

S: No, like I would take your hand and place it on my forehead, like the elderly person’s hand. Like, it’s called, um, Mano. M-a-n-o. Yeah, so it’s just like a sign of respect, you do that with everyone, like even people you don’t meet (know), like if their really elderly. And like you always add like the word po, p-o, at the end of every sentence.

Me: P-o?

S: Yeah, ’cause it’s just like a sign of respect for, like, regardless of gender, you just, you like add it. so you say like, oh, like in the Philippines you’d say like “Oh, come, let’s eat,” and then you would add po at the end. It’s just something like that. It has a lot to do with respect and just like valuing those kinds of uh, values.

Me: Valuing their age I guess. And like their wisdom maybe?

S: Yeah. Exactly.

S explains the ritual, or practice, in the Philippines when meeting an elderly person. You take their hand and place it on your forehead. You do this out of respect, to honor their years and their wisdom. Respect is a common theme in both the Chinese and Filipino traditions and rituals that S has talked about, as well as many other Asian cultures.

Legends

Balete Drive (Ghost Story/Legend from the Philippines)

S is a 21-year-old Filipino woman. She is currently majoring in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Philippines and therefore identifies as Filipino, however, she also identifies as Chinese. S speaks English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hokkien, the last being two of many languages specific to the Philippines.

S: There’s a lot of ghost stories from like the Philippines. Like there’s this one street in the Philippines, it’s called Balete Drive.

Me: Can you spell that?

S: B-a-l-e-t-e. Balete. It’s in Manila and ’cause I guess it got it’s name from like all the, ’cause it a kind of tree, so then there’s like a whole bunch of like tree in like that specific street, and no one ever wants to pass through there ’cause it’s just so fricken scary. And they say like in those trees, each specific tree, like there’s like this thing that lives up there and like it smokes and like…

Me: Is there like an actual story that goes with it, or is it just kind of a…

S: I can’t, I’m not exactly sure like what’s the origin, but I just know that there’s just a weird scary creature up there. Yeah, I don’t know, I mean, it’s pretty popular though.

Me: So you just don’t pass on that street?

S: Yeah, we just don’t go though that street. Because it’s too scary. I don’t know. But see that’s the thing, like we have so many ghost stories and just like ghost, like yeah, there’s like too many. There are many different kinds. But like I don’t think you should share that, or like search that, it might freak you out. Like once you start googling and see pictures of it, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Yeah, so maybe not.

S describes a street, Balete Drive, in Manila that is said to be haunted. She says that there are things that live in the Balete trees that are so prominent on the street and that they haunt Balete Drive and they smoke and are generally just scary to think about. It is obvious that she is still scared of this road and that she, even as an adult, will not go walk on that street for fear of the creatures of legend that are said to haunt it. She warns not to go on that street as well as not to even look it up because it would be scary. Even talking about it made her a bit uncomfortable, even though she does not know the origin and the story behind the legend, it still scares her and has a lot of influence on her.

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