Author Archives: ivyhong

Very Good Rice Takes Time, Will

To help pay the bills, the informant recently started working towards a bartending certification again. It was a relaxed, informal environment— people were waiting for a meeting to start— and they were sharing this exact piece of folklore with a friend


When you start to learn how to bartend, what do they tell you to help remember the mixes in the well?


“Um, so when you’re bartending, um… When you’re at the bar, there’s a well which is like the common liquors that you use in; it’s- to remember the kind of order and which liquors they are when you’re first learning you can learn the phrase “very good rice takes time, Paul- Will,” sorry. Some, some wells have different liquors but in California, it’s whiskey.


So “very” is vodka, “good” is gin, “rice” is rum, t or ta- “takes” is tequila, “time” is triple sec, and “Will” is whiskey. And so it’s just like an easy way to start getting used to using the well, um in a like timely… manner.”


Since mnemonics are there to fill a specific purpose and recall a specific set of information, I had not realized that they could also have multiplicity and variation. It seems that variations would be in response to a change in environment, as in this case, or a change in both time and landscapes, such as how the mnemonic to remember the planets of the solar system changed to reflect Pluto’s reclassification.


Also, it is possible that those who use mnemonics are largely beginners of the related topic. Using this mnemonic as an example, one might assume that its use might fall with a bartender as they become familiar with the well through greater bartending experience. Alternatively, the mnemonic could simply speed up a bartender’s familiarity with the well, with the bartender continually referring back to it.

Being a mnemonic unique to bartending, this is also a fun example of occupational folklore.


Scaremongering, HIV, and Fruit

I requested the informant to recount some pieces of folklore, some being ones that they have told me before. This is an urban legend they heard in middle school about how someone contracted HIV.


The informant says that this teenager bought a cup of chopped fruit from a street vendor in his neighbourhood. The next day, he started feeling sick and throwing up. When he went to the doctor, they told him he contracted HIV. As the story goes, the fruit vendor had HIV and had accidently cut through his gloves and into his hand without noticing. The boy did not notice the blood when he was eating it.

As some people still hold a lot of misconceptions and ignorant ideas about HIV, I am not entirely surprised that these almost scare-mongering, horror stories still exist. Presumably, people will drop these misconceptions as they grow up and learn. Information often dispels fear, a driving force behind these legends. For example, the informant later learned that one cannot contract HIV through consumption of infected blood, unless one has an open wound in the mouth seeing as HIV-infect fluid needs to enter the bloodstream. Having said that, it is possible that the person from the story had an open wound on their mouth.


The informant shared this information at my request. They shared this with me when I asked if their college, UCLA, had anything superstitions and such.


The informant said that before someone starts their first year at UCLA, they have to touch this inverted fountain to get “bruinitized.” They’ll also have to touch it one more time after they graduate; however, if they touch it before, the superstition goes that they’ll stay an extra quarter. The informant also mentions that incoming students were told to do this at orientation.

Most colleges have their own folklore. This follows the general pattern of a few I have heard before, where there is a threat of being held back. This also fits another pattern college folklore tend to have, where first-years may have to go through a ritual of sorts before they are considered a “full” Bruin for example. The fact that this was something new students were pushed to do at orientation also supports the idea that these rituals are there to help newcomers feel included.

Bloody Worms

The informant shared this information at my request. They told me about how some people used to sell “bloody worms” in high school.


The informant said these “bloody worms” were simply gummy worms in red Kool-Aid. They were also typically in a small, plastic bag. They also mentioned that students also sold a variation called “bloody bears,” which used gummy bears instead.


They’ve never actually bought them, and is not entirely sure how or why students came to this specific combination of sweets. If they had to guess, the informant would say it might have given the food items more flavour.

I see this as an example of young people trying to make their way through life. Here, they would like to make money, so they are selling items easily accessible to them. I would guess that this folk dish came about after one takes two loved snack items, both full of sugar, and combine them into an even sugarier snack.

Chinese Zodiac and Charms

The informant gave out the following piece of folklore at my request. They are of Chinese descent, and the setting was casual.


They said that for people born under the Year of the Ox, wearing a rat, rooster, or snake charm is “good” for them. When asked what that meant, they said that the charms are like friends.

This was interesting, because most charms I hear of are for good luck, wealth, and similar ideas. But similar to them, it may be a charm for more friends in the future, in addition to an animal figurine actually being a companion of sorts. The informant also mentioned that it does not have to be a charm; one can wear the complementary zodiac animals in any form.

Chinese Lunar New Year

The informant gave out the following piece of folklore at my request. They are of Chinese descent, and the setting was casual.


They said that a long time ago, there used to be this creature that wasn’t quite a spirit, or like the guardian lions. These creatures were called “年” aka Nián, meaning “year” in Chinese. They would come down and attack this town every year to steal food, and eat humans. The humans heard that these creatures were afraid of loud noises, so they lit fireworks to scare them away. After seeing how Nián never came back, they began to light fireworks every year.


Some variations also include the color red and masks to scare off Nián. What was interesting about this interaction was the informant’s reaction when I said I, a person also of Chinese descent, was not familiar with the complete legend behind Chinese Lunar New Year. It reminded of the discussions the class had about what it meant to be of a certain identity.

One thing to clarify is that while several nations and cultures observes the lunar calendar, there are usually a few distinct differences between how one culture celebrates it, and how another celebrates it.

Flipped Over Shoes

The informant is Catholic, and of Irish descent. They agreed to meet up with me, and share pieces of folklore for this project.


“So this is like- It’s not actually like my personal heritage I guess, but, um one of my neighbours is, uh African and whenever we went to her house, she would tell us… We were close with her, like I went over there a lot. Um, that like if your shoes, or like with the soles, the bottom of it is facing the sky, then it’s like really bad luck. It’s like it means you’re gonna die or something. So, she would always make us turn our shoes over, and then like we started doing it at our house to cause we got used to it.”


This could perhaps stem from how having the bottom of shoes facing up creates a dissonance of sorts with the environment. Perhaps like how “up” is good in the U.S., having something normally facing “down” face up simply feels like a bad sign.

I also thought it was nice how easily this habit transferred over to the informant’s family.

Irish Fest

The informant is Catholic, and of Irish descent. They agreed to meet up with me, and share pieces of folklore for this project.


What is Irish Fest?


“Um, so…I- In Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I’m from, they have this thing called Irish Fest every year, and- because there was a really big population of Irish people in Milwaukee, and Irish fest is the biggest festival for Irishness outside of Ireland and- Like a lot of people from Ireland actually come to Milwaukee for it because it’s, um like a bunch of Irish music and stuff is played there, and they don’t gather as much in like Ireland. Like it’s the biggest music festival for Irish music. Um, so me and my family, every year we go to Irish Fest and, um well- I don’t know. So there’s like Irish dancing and, um there’s Irish music and we always eat reubens, which are like an Irish thing. It’s like corned beef.


Do you usually eat reubens outside of Irish Fest?


“I… We do, but not as much. We usually eat it on Saint Patrick’s Day, and… and Irish Fest.”

This ties into when the class talked about how heritage is inherited, something one is born into. Despite how the informant does not live in Ireland, they and other Irish descendants seem to feel drawn to the festival as a way to feel connected to their heritage. I also found it interesting how people from Ireland fly in for the festival as well.

Socks and Softball

The informant is Catholic, and of Irish descent. They agreed to meet up with me, and share pieces of folklore for this project.


So what folklore do you have about softball?


“Um, so I play… well I play a lot of sports, but I play softball. And we, whenever we were on a winning streak, like if we like… won a game, you would not wash your socks. Like you had long softball socks, and you wouldn’t wash them if- until you lost again. So like, it was suppose to be lucky. You couldn’t wash them; it would like, wash out the good juju or whatever.”


Although the informant was in a school sport, one can still consider this as occupational folklore. As another field where people rely on chance a lot for success, those involved tend to follow superstition as there are usually not harm in doing so.

That said, the idea of not altering the state of something for fear of washing away the good luck can also be found in Chinese culture. For Chinese Lunar New Year, families do not sweep during the first few days, nor are they suppose to cut their hair. Like how a win in a game may have upgraded the socks to a charm for good luck, a new year brings in good luck to a household.

Flipping the Fish

The informant is of Chinese descent and shared this piece at my request. It was an informal environment.


Why is it improper to flip over a fish as you eat from it?


“Oh okay so, back in the, um olden days in China when fishermen were on their ships, they wouldn’t flip over the fish when they eat- ate it because it would give a bad omen and possibly flip their own ship over. So when you eat the fish, you don’t, um flip it over; you have to pull off the spine and just continue eating it.”

This is an example of homeopathic magic, where like produces like. As we discussed in class, professions where chance plays a large role tend to have a lot of superstitions. This particular case is interesting because the informant and their family are not fishermen, and neither are most of the people that does it. Whether their boat would flip over is of little actual concern to them. Having said that, I think it became more of a habit for people than anything.