Author Archive
folk metaphor
Folk speech

The Blue Frog

  1. Original Script: 청개구리
    1. Phonetic Script: Chung-kgeh-kgu-ry
    2. Transliteration Blue frog


  • I know this because my mom used to say it to me when someone was acting strangely for attention
  • I learned it from my mother
  • It just means that when you’re behaving oddly you’re like a blue frog trying to fight the normalcy of the usual green frog.
  • The context of the performance was just me and Mom discussing various folk speech in Korea because she always has some sort of phrase to say to me for all sorts of situations.
  • I think it’s a very typical piece of Korean folk speech. I noticed through hanging out with other Korean families and watching historical Korean movies that a lot of their customs and culture is built around animals and consistency (as valued in their primary religions of Confucianism and Buddhism). However, growing up I got the impression that to stand out is discouraged unless it’s because you’re more gifted than others. So it makes sense to me that there’s an entire phrase dedicated to those who fight normalcy.

Milton and the Mason Temple

  1. “One time a few friends and I went to Manteca and went to some random ass party and got very drunk and a friend goes “Hey want to go to Milton?” and apparently Milton was this city out by Calaveras and there were 5 residents on the census but if you ever go you’ll only ever see 1 person sitting on a rocking chair on a porch holding a shotgun in front of a white masonic church. They say that the church was used to torture people and beyond the church there’s a field with a portal to hell so if you throw something back there like a beer can or some bottle one night it’ll be gone the next morning. So they went, a friend and I were there waiting in the car for them to come back and they come running back and we left but they never said why. This was my junior year of high school. Last year there was a news piece saying that church burnt down and there’s not trace of it, but the high schoolers say that it’s even more haunted now because the ghosts of the people who were tortured in that church were released so they’re wandering the streets of Milton.”
  • She knows this story because of personal experience of watching her friends come back spooked by something there, even if she isn’t sure what that is
  • She did however learn of these scary things happening from her friend who encouraged her to go and see this small town
  • Context: we were reminiscing together about the old stories people used to tell back at the high school we went to together, and the one of the Masonic temple is a big one at school.
  • I think it’s really interesting, this version of the story. What I normally hear is that people will go in the middle of the night and try to get as close to the building as possible, touch it, and go running back to the car. However, this is the first time I’ve heard mention of an old man and a shotgun, or of the census of five but only one present individual. I also feel like these sorts of stories taking place in nearby cities are a product of the classic high school student trying to one up the others by doing something especially daring or stupid. I for one never really tried these things but I have been told that it’s something I need to try at least one time in my life.


Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Noodles for your Birthday

  1. “So on our birthdays we eat noodles because we believe that they’ll give us log life. Ya. It’s not like my family thinks if we don’t eat it we’re going to die sooner. It’s just that we’ve been doing it for so long we just keep doing it again.”
  • She knows it because she’s Filipino and it’s part of Filipino culture
  • She learned it from her family who practices this tradition and passed it on to her and her sisters
  • It’s just supposed to mean that eating noodles will give you long life if eaten on a birthday
  • Context of performance: we were just discussing various types of family traditions and culture
  • I think it makes a lot of sense, the idea of noodles representing longevity. Noodles are typically long, smooth, and consistent which would be the ideal type of life to lead as you grow. I just don’t know how I feel about the consumption of those noodles leading to long life, however. I don’t feel as if there would be any specific benefit to eating those noodles however there’s not really another way to connect with a symbol that’s a food besides eating it. I think it’s possible that they hope by consuming that food they are giving themselves the opportunity to be able to reflect the qualities of the noodles which they want to be representative of their lives.



The Sorority Ghost

  1. Original Text: “I’m pretty sure there’s a ghost, not pretty sure. We’ve mentioned her a few times on (sorority Facebook page). The door swings open and shut for no reason. It’ll open and close. There’s a Bluetooth speaker that you have to flip a switch on and it makes the noise, and sometimes it’ll make the noise even without it. So sometimes I turn on music for her because I think that she likes music. Like to make her happy. I had a dream that the lights went off and someone whispered “she never left”. She’s here, doesn’t bother anyone. Don’t think she died here, probably died tragically after college but (sorority) was her happiest days so she came back. And she doesn’t want to leave. Nobody else is convinced but I’m convinced. She’s very low maintenance. People have always been talking about it. Maybe talk to other people? Only people who have lived in this room actually believe in her. And people who were friends with people who lived here”
  • She knows it because she lives with this supposed ghost and has tried to interact with her.
  • She didn’t really learn it from anybody because, as she mentioned before, it’s something she’s personally experienced. However, upon further investigation by herself with girls who have also lived with this ghost she’s discovered that a lot of others believe in her as well (they all assume the ghost is a she).
  • Context of performance: we were on the topic of ghost stories one day when we were hanging out.
  • I find it really interesting how those who have had to live with said ghost work to make sure she’s happy and that they’re catering to her needs. It’s also difficult for me, however, to accept ghost stories as such because I personally don’t believe in ghosts and I have yet to experience this ghost’s abilities. At the same time though, I really respect the person from whom I got this piece, so I don’t doubt that she’s actually seen the aforementioned spooky, and the only way to really explain those happenings would be through the idea of a ghostly presence which can be confirmed by other girls in the sorority.
Folk speech

You’re Really Dumb

  1. Original Script: 낫놓고 기역자도 모른다
    1. Phonetic spelling: Naht-noh co kgi-yuck-ja-doe moh-run-dah.
    2. Transliteration: Put down a knife the first letter you won’t know
    3. Full Translation: Even if there was a Korean machete next to you you wouldn’t recognize that letter
  • This is another one of those things that you pick up on because of the nature of “friendly” conversation amongst friends in Korean culture.
  • She learned it from her college friends who loved to show affection by picking on each other
  • What happens is a traditional Korean machete is shaped like the first letter of the Korean alphabet, ㄱ. The point of the joke is that the person this is being said to is so dumb that they wouldn’t recognize the first letter of their alphabet even if it was laid right in front of their eyes.
  • Context of performance: I was just asking if she knew any interesting Korean everyday phrases.
  • I think it’s interesting because in English there’s a similar phrase, I believe which is said to someone who’s saying something slightly dumb. We’d say something along the lines of “You’re so dumb you wouldn’t see it even if it was right in front of your eyes”. I also find this one interesting because it plays along to the playful banter culture of Korean friends where insulting each other is the way to show affection.
Folk speech

That’s Ridiculous

  1. Original Script: 지나가던 개가 웃겠다
    1. Phonetic spelling: jee-nah kga-dun kgeh kga oos-kgedth-tha
    2. Transliteration: the passed dog would laugh
    3. Full Translation: the dog that’s passing by would laugh
  • She knows it because it’s something commonly said amongst a group of friends very comfortable with each other.
  • This is something she learned from her fellow college students and the alumni. It plays into the playful nature of Koreans who find a lot of enjoyment and opportunities to bond by making fun of each other.
  • It is usually said after somebody says something absolutely ridiculous, so ridiculous that even the dog passing by who hears a lot of ridiculous things every day would find it to be ridiculous.
  • I think it’s really interesting how there’s a culture built around the idea of banter and jokes in Korea, especially as a product of the aftermath of the Korean war. Older folks from an old Korean church I used to attend would always talk about how citizens today work harder on being happy and positive especially after the terrible event of the Korean War, even if it requires them jokingly insulting each other in order to find that happy mood.
Folk Beliefs

Animal Dreams of Korea

  1. Original Scrip: If you have a dream and there’s a cute baby animal it means you’re pregnant, and if you have a dream where there’s a snake in your home, it means that something bad is going to happen to your family, like a robbery.
  • She learned this from hearing her mom talk to her friends about their kids having children and just discussing general future telling omens.
  • The context of the performance was when I asked her to explain it to me again. I had remembered seeing a scene portray this on a Korean soap opera and so I asked her to clarify what that had meant.
  • I think, again, it’s interesting how large of a role animals play in Korean culture. In another piece I learned from this performer there was a reference to animals. Furthermore, there’s always an emphasis of innocence and positivity associated with baby animals, therefore it makes sense to me that a baby animal here would represent a happy situation such as pregnancy here. However, I do think it’s really interesting how the snake represents a negativity or bad omen. This primarily reminds me of the story “The Little Prince” in which there is a scene of a snake in grass which eventually was the demise of the main character. I would imagine it has a connection to the Christian concept of temptation being presented in the Garden of Eden by a snake. However, this is interesting because that would imply influence by a more Western religion, not Buddhism or Confucianism.
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Jade Bracelet

  1. My friend when she was little was wearing a jade- a jade bangle on her left wrist I think, and a gold bracelet on the right. Her mom never told me what that meant… or if it had any significance or anything, but she also remembers like, reading a novel and- with a Chinese American protagonist and it said… it’s suppose to bring wealth to the child in the future. And you have to like take off the bangle… before it gets too small for your wrists.”
  • She knows this because she needed to collect folklore for a project and this happened to be something she learned during the process
  • She learned this from a friend of hers that she interviewed for the project
  • It’s just another Chinese folk belief of how to ensure prosperity for your children
  • The context of the performance is that she and I were merely discussing the different types of folklore we’ve found over the last several weeks.
  • I think it’s interesting how much of an emphasis is put onto making sure children have their best chance at the future in East Asian cultures.
Folk Beliefs

The Mirrors at Night

  1. So my friend’s mom puts up contact paper on the big mirrors they had in their bedrooms. Like, the closets have these like mirror doors that slide over each other when they open them. So, um she covers up the top mirror with contact paper, and, um when they go to sleep we slide the second mirror door underneath the covered one. When I asked her about, she just said it was because it’s believed that our spirits like leave our bodies and night and when, um, we’re sleeping so they covered the mirrors so that the spirits wouldn’t get scared of their reflection”


  • She knows it because she was collecting folklore and this happened to be something she collected
  • She learned this from a friend of hers who apparently didn’t know why her mom did this
  • It was mostly a safety precaution for the sake of the spirits at night.
  • I find it interesting how in a lot of cultures there’s an emphasis on making sure that the spirits are comfortable. I also think it’s interesting how the mom did this and didn’t’ really explain to her daughter why she did what she did. It was just kind of something the daughter accepted as routine without questioning why. Apparently she thought it was to keep her from getting scared of her own reflection at night.
Tales /märchen

The Fox and the Cuckoo


  1. “Once upon a time there was hill. On the hill, there was a tree and there was a hole in a tree. In the hole in the tree, there was a nest. In the nest there were three eggs. On the three eggs there was a Cuckoo. So one day a fox comes to the tree and says, ‘This hill is mine, this tree is mine, there is a hole in the tree.’ He calls up to the bird, ‘What do you have up there?’ The bird says, ‘It’s just me and my three baby birds, living peacefully.’ And the fox says, ‘Nope, that is too many birds. Throw one down or I am going to go get my axe and cut down the tree.’ And the bird says, ‘I found this hill, on this hill I found this tree, in this tree I made a nest, and laid three eggs. I’ll give you one if you let the rest of us be.’ So she threw down a baby bird and the fox left. A few seasons later, the fox returns. The fox comes to the tree and says, ‘This hill is mine, this tree is mine, there is a hole in the tree.’ He calls up to the bird, ‘What do you have up there?’ The bird says, ‘It’s just me and my two baby birds, living peacefully.’ And the fox says, ‘Nope, that is too many birds. Throw one down or I am going to go get my axe and cut down the tree.’ And the bird says, ‘I found this hill, on this hill I found this tree, in this tree I made a nest, and laid three eggs. I’ll give you one if you let the rest of us be.’ So she threw down a baby bird and the fox left. The mother bird starts crying and a crow hears and flies to the tree. The crow asks the mother bird why she is crying and she recounts the story. And the crow goes, ‘Don’t be naïve, this hill is everyone’s, it does not belong to a single person. Besides, where would a fox get an axe?’ The next time he comes back, don’t listen to him and he will go away. So the mother bird thanks the crow and the crow flies away. A few seasons later the fox returns. The fox comes to the tree and says, ‘This hill is mine, this tree is mine, there is a hole in the tree.’ He calls up to the bird, ‘Throw down a bird or I will cut the tree down.’ The mother bird sticks her head out and says, ‘No this is everybody’s hill, it does not belong to you. And you don’t even have an axe.’ And the fox goes, ‘Is that so? Who told you that?’ And the mother bird says, ‘The crow told me that. Go away you’re not getting anything.’ And the fox goes away and walks around for a bit thinking. He decides to get back at the crow for what he did, so he goes and he plays dead in a field. The crow flies overhead and sees the seemingly dead fox in the field. The crow swoops down to harvest his eyes. Right as the crow reaches the fox, the fox jumps up and bites the crow’s neck, trapping it. He asks, ‘Why did you tell the mother bird that I don’t have an axe, what’s it to you?’ And the crow says, ‘I’m sorry, but if you let me go I’ll make it up to you by giving you my hidden stash of treasure, if you want it it’s all yours. So the fox lets the crow go, and the crow goes to show the fox where the treasure is hidden. From above he notices that there is a farmer’s dog taking a nap under a bush. He tells the fox that my treasure is in the bush. The fox dives into the bush looking for treasure, and the dog wakes up delighted in the fact that he now has lunch. The fox then laments about his life and his past evils. The fox gets eaten by the dog. Everyone else lived happily ever after. The end.”
  • They know it because they needed it for a project
  • They learned it from a friend of his
  • It’s just a cute little tale about cleverness and how to outsmart certain situations
  • Context of performance was that he just happened to recall this story so he read it to me from what he had previously recorded.
  • I think it’s a cute story explaining how to outsmart the cunning fox. I also, however, find it interesting how two of the seemingly most commonly referenced animals, the crow and fox, are referenced as enemies. While they’re both not usually friends in stories like this, I find it interesting how the crow is actually a good guy in this situation, helping the cuckoo, when normally the crow is more similar to the fox and causing trouble.