Author Archive
Digital

And his name is John Cena

Background

John Cena is a well-known WWE wrestler and Hollywood actor. In 2012, a prank call aired on a local radio station (“Z morning Zoo”) where the DJs repeatedly played a sound clip advertising John Cena’s wrestling career to a wife who was fed up with her husband’s obsession with WWE wrestling. Two years later (2014), the channel “RuinCommentsOfficial” uploaded a recording of the prank call to YouTube which gained over 20 million views. Another year after that (2015), the sound clip from the video resurfaced as a popular meme on on Vine, an internet platform where users can post 6 second video clips. Several other websites, such as Reddit and Tumblr, also contributed to this trend. Since then, hundreds of thousands of versions of the John Cena clip have appeared across the internet.

Context

The sound clip from the radio station prank call and a video of John Cena will pop up in the middle of a video which was seemingly about something unrelated to John Cena and WWE wrestling. There is usually no connection between the interrupted video and John Cena. Occasionally, the John Cena audio clip is mixed with a preexisting video meme.

Text

The prank call video that the meme originated from:

A compilation of John Cena vine:

Thoughts

Far more people participated in the spreading of the John Cena meme than actually watch WWE wrestling or are fans of John Cena, so there was a reason people were drawn to this folklore than actually had a personal investment in the subject matter. However, because of the way the meme originated, internet users were able to adapt the collective internet “inside joke” of the John Cena audio clip to fit into any other type of video that may interest them. Therefore, every person who came across the John Cena meme could contribute their own take on the joke and no one needed to even know who John Cena really was to join in on the laughter feel connected to the internet community.

Legends
Narrative

La llorona

Text (J is the informant, M is the collector):

J: So, she’s like this lady who, umm, was depressed or something until she killed — decided to kill her kids in this depressive episode. And then she went to, like, a river and — actually, I remember learning about “cenotes.” You know what that is?

M: No

J: In Mexico, they have them. They’re really really big, like huge circles and it’s like a water hole. And like you go really deep. And people used to, like I think during the Mayan and Aztec time, like they would sacrifice people and throw them in there.

M: Mhm.

J: So, I think I remember La Llorona having something to do with the cenotes. Like, killing her kids and dropping them in there — in a cenote. And then, so it was scary because there’s like a myth like after that — after she killed herself and like threw herself into the cenote, like she would find… like she would kidnap kids and do the same thing. That’s kinda the reason I was so scared of cenotes, too. Like the idea of a cenotes, really just a big water hole. There are a lot of like stories associated with it. With people being sacrificed and thrown in there and, uh, dying, so I’m pretty sure La Llorona.. She also used a cenotes. And it says that if you go near La Llorona that she’ll… you’ll know that it’s her because she’s saying, “Oh, mis hijos, donde estan mis hijos,” which means like “my kids, where are my kids?” And then she’d like take you and kill you.. And throw you in the cenote.

Background

The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She learned this legend from one of her aunts who would tell the story to her and her cousins very late at night during family parties in Mexico. She said that the legend always made her feel very scared of La Llorona and cenotes, but it also made her feel more connected to the Mexican side of the family and her family’s history in Mexico.

Context

This piece of folklore was performed while a group of college students sat around a bonfire at night during a camping trip. Several people had already told a scary story before this one, so the atmosphere was slightly on-edge.

Thoughts

I think the informant was spot on in analyzing her feelings about this legend. The reason adults probably tell this legend is to encourage kids to stay away from dangerous waterways, specifically cenotes. However, when this legend is brought outside the context of Mexico, part of the appeal is probably that, as such a prolific Mexican legend, it helps people identify themselves with their Mexican heritage.

For another version of this legend, see:

Coleman, Wim, Pat Perrin, and Martha Avilés Junco. La Llorona. South Egremont, MA: Red Chair, 2015. Print.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Taiwanese Summer Tradition

Text

During Summer, which is usually August, there’s this thing, which is.. Um.. we believe that the doors between Ying and Yang, which is between heaven and..um….. Earth and hell will open, so all the three, um…. worlds will open together and become one on Earth. So it’s like, it’s kind of the concept of purgatory opening on Earth.. It’s kind of weird. But then, at this time, usually ancestors will come back, ghosts will come back, and especially those who has no relatives or those who does not have people…. to respect them after their death. So, those are ghosts with bad intentions, and people do fear them and respect them at the same time. So, during this whole month, usually people go to temples. They pray for them. They pray that one day they can leave purgatory and go up to heaven. And they’ll bring food and, um, basically.. pray for them. So, that’s what we do during the whole summer and, at the end of August, the door will close again and we hope that those that we prayed for, and we gave food for, will go up to heaven.

Background

The informant said that she learned Taiwanese traditions from her grandparents, or it was talked about at her school (there would be stories in their textbooks about them). She emphasized that it is very important to her that she learns these traditions and keeps them up, even though some of them conflict with her own religious beliefs, because they are part of her cultural heritage. She said that it makes her sad when she sees Taiwanese-Americans who do not know or practice any Taiwanese traditions, because they are missing out on something that is a part of who they are and helps to define them.

Thoughts

Outside of simply being widely practiced in Taiwan, this tradition seemed deeply rooted in Chinese and Taiwanese beliefs about ancestors and respect. It makes sense, then, why this tradition is so important to the informant, who is from Taiwan, but is currently going to school in the U.S. and plans to live in the U.S. in the future. Carrying on this tradition seems to be a way for her to keep her connection to her Taiwanese identity, even though she now lives outside of that country.

Legends
Narrative

Baccalaureate Audacity

Text

Um, so we have a story for — about a student who took the French baccalaureate, and um … when it comes to the philosophy exam, it’s always like … it’ll be some like weird question sometimes. And apparently one year, the question was “what is audacity?” And, we have four hours to complete this test. So, some kids are writing like eight pages long, and some kids were writing like basically nothing. And other people, like there are other things you can choose to do if you’re taking the philosophy exam, it doesn’t have to be like one question, so people were doing other things. But, you can’t leave the exam until about an hour or two into it. So, this kid wrote one thing on his paper. It was literally a line long. And then… uh, kind of looks at his desk. And everyone’s kind of looking around wondering what’s happening. And uh, ‘cause we can’t mind our own business. But, um… So what happens is, once the hour — the first hour– is up, he goes and he turns that in and leaves. And, when everyone gets their results, you know we have a tendency of telling each other our results. So, what happens is, he gets his results, and his friends — obviously everyone’s asking what they got. They ask him and he said he got a perfect score, so 20 out of 20 in our case. And they said “what? We saw you. You only put one sentence. What did you say? And to the answer… to the question “what is audacity?” his answer is “this is audacity.” And just turned that in.

Context

This piece of folklore came up when a couple of college freshmen were sitting around a dorm room discussing senior year exams and the college application process. When the informant began to tell this story, I rushed and got my camera to record it. The informant said that the initial context she heard it, and would typically hear it, was when her and her high school classmates were discussing baccalaureate exams, usually right before they happened.

Thoughts

According to the informant, this legend was told during times of high stress in the baccalaureate process. Since those exams are so important and determine the student’s ability to get into the college they want, there is a lot of anxiety surrounding them. I think that this piece of folklore is spread to relieve some of the stress of the upcoming exams. It implies that you don’t have to do the longest and most elaborate work to be successful. Also, the fact that the main question in the legend is “what is audacity?” might imply that the more important thing when dealing with anxiety over the future is to just be audacious and bold.

Folk Beliefs

You’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach

Background

The informant is Chinese-American where both of her parents are from China, but she has never been there herself. She said that her mom had several superstitions that she would tell her as a child. The informant seemed to feel fondly about this habit of her mother’s.

Context

We were on a group trip to Catalina Island and we were having a picnic on the beach. One of the things we were eating, as a group, was almost an entire watermelon. In the middle of our picnic, the informant shared this superstition. After she said it everyone laughed, and some said that they had heard something similar.

Text

My mom used to tell me that you’re not supposed to eat watermelon seeds, because if you do that you– you’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach.

Thoughts

I would guess that the informant’s mother told this superstition to her daughter, in part, as a way to warn her against eating watermelon seeds. While it probably won’t make a watermelon grow in your stomach, it isn’t the best for you either. The informant seemed to perform the piece of folklore somewhat ironically as a way of sharing her fondness for her mother with her friends.

 

Holidays

The Baby Jesus gave me my presents

Background

The informant spent the early years of her life in Venezuela, but her family moved to the United States when she was 9 years old. She only remembers some of her life in Venezuela.

Context

The informant shared this story while having a lunch break during a leadership retreat. People were discussing when and how they discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real and she laughed and explained that at the age we were finding out that Santa wasn’t real, she was just learning that the idea of Santa even existed.

Text

[I was unable to get a direct transcription of what was said]

The informant said that she had never heard of Santa Claus until she got older when talking to other American children. Instead, on Christmas, her parents told her that her presents were given to her by the Baby Jesus himself (Niño Jesús). She would have to place her shoes in front of the nativity scene, and the next morning her presents would be on top of them.

Thoughts

The informant talked about this tradition as if it was humorous because of how different it is from American tradition, but in a way that celebrated that difference rather than making fun of it. It seemed like she is able to use her Venezuelan Christmas traditions as a way differentiate herself from her purely American peers and connect herself with her Venezuelan upbringing, even though she seems very much American now, having spent over half of her life in the U.S.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Soles must face down

Background

The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities. She learned this superstition from her mother who she says has tons of different superstitions about the world.

Context

The informant first explained this superstition to me and the seven other people we live with after one week of knowing each other. We have a communal area near the front door where we keep our shoes. She told us about this superstition and asked that we make sure the soles of our shoes are never facing upwards on the mat.

Text

So, my mom taught me, uh… so, my mom, who is from Comoros, taught me that in Comoros, um.. she was taught that you can’t have your shoes facing… Uh, the sole of your shoes facing the sky or the ceiling, because when they’re– when you’re walking, generally, you’re walking on the ground and you’re doing it normally. And, uh, but when your shoes are facing up, they’re walking on god. So, they shouldn’t be facing up.

Thoughts

When the informant discussed this superstition, she prefaced it as if it were a silly little thing that her mom always thought. However, the informant still does avoid the behavior that the superstition describes as bad luck and even went so far as to tell the people she lives with to heed the superstition, as well. In this way, it appears that there is another reason she is performing this folk belief other than actually believing it. As she consistently mentions her mother when describing the superstition, I would guess that performing this folk belief, for her, has something to do with the connection to her mother.

 

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Two socks or no socks

Background

The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities. She learned this superstition from her mother who she says has tons of different superstitions about the world.

Context

The informant brought up this superstition when she saw one of our friends walking around with only one sock on. She freaked out a little bit and said that she should take off her sock or put on another one immediately. Everyone was laughing as she described it, including her.

Text

So, my mom always taught me that, um.. You’re never supposed to walk around with one sock or one shoe on and not the other because it means that, your — that one of your parents is going to leave, or die, or.. something. Basically, you’ll be– you’ll have one parent away, because you have two shoes like you have two parents and if you get rid of one of the shoes that you’re supposed to have, just like you’re supposed to have your two parents, then something bad is gonna happen.

Thoughts

When the informant discussed this superstition, she was laughing about it. However, the informant still does avoid the behavior that the superstition describes as bad luck and even tells other people to heed the superstition, as well. In this way, it appears that there is another reason she is performing this folk belief other than actually believing it. As she consistently mentions her mother when describing the superstition, I would guess that performing this folk belief, for her, has something to do with the connection to her mother.

 

Folk Beliefs

Your belly button will shrink

Background

The informant is Chinese-American where both of her parents are from China, but she has never been there herself. She said that her mom had several superstitions that she would tell her as a child. The informant seemed to feel fondly about this habit of her mother’s.

Context

The informant described this superstition that her mother held following the description of a similar superstition that her mother held. In this way, it was among a list of funny superstitions the mother held that made her seem somewhat quirky.

Text

You should not run or exercise, or whatever, after you eat or else your belly button will shrink… and you won’t have a belly button… and you might die or something

Thoughts

The informants mother probably initially performed this superstition for her daughter either because she actually believed it or to warn against doing strenuous exercise immediately after eating. While it likely won’t shrink your belly button and kill you, it can still cause stomach cramps. The informant seemed to perform the piece of folklore somewhat ironically, laughing at the strange repercussions even as she told it. However, it is still something that stuck with her and that she shares with others as a way of exhibiting her fondness for her mother with her friends.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Put a cactus on your sunburn

Background

The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She said that she spends a decent amount of time in Mexico still (she usually visits a couple weekends during the school year and goes for slightly longer periods during the summer). She visits a lot of family in Mexico, including her grandma, a lot of cousins, and aunts and uncles. She learned this folk remedy from her grandma during these visits.

Context

The informant said that her grandma would use this folk remedy every time her or one of her brothers or cousins got sunburnt. She said that this was a fairly regular occurrence around her grandma, as she lived in a part of Mexico which was much closer to the equator where the sun was more intense.

Text

When we would get sunburnt, my grandma would take the green goop from the inside of the cactus and rub it on our skin. I don’t know if it actually helped or anything… I think it might have… Anyway, uh, she.. It was, like, very slimy. And she did it all the time.

Thoughts

This folk remedy for sunburn seems to come directly from the terrain of Mexico, where cacti are very prevalent. It makes sense that her grandmother would learn and perform folk medicine that is readily available in the region where she lives. Furthermore, when I was collecting this piece of folklore, I realized that the informant seemed to look very fondly on what good be unpleasant memories of sunburnt skin. For the informant, this performance of folk medicine probably also recalls for her some of the comfort her grandma provides to her.

 

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