Author Archive
Proverbs

Chinese Proverbs

Piece:

When I was a small, my parents made me memorize some classic proverbs:

Men, at their birth, are naturally good

Their Natures are the same; their habits become widely different

“What do they mean to you?”

hmmm. I think there was a very high value on education and being conscious of my surroundings. I put family as a very high value, or I was socialized to be.

Informant & Context:

My Informant is a Chinese-American student at the University of Southern California, who speaks Mandarin at home with his family members. These traditional Chinese proverbs were translated by him.

Thoughts:

These proverbs really stress ideas of optimism. The first proverb, blatantly so, the second one does so by emphasizing the impact of ones surroundings on an individual. My informant definitely takes this as a positive thing—a call to be conscious and observant rather than morose that difference has arisen.

Folk speech

Noob Origins

Piece:

N00b and nub are corruptions of “noob”, itself a corruption of “newb”, short for “newbie”. “Newbie” was in use at least as far back as the BBS era of the 1980s and early 1990s, where it referred to a user who was new to BBSs. It was less of an insult and more friendly than “noob”, which was popularized by Counterstrike players in a context where a poor player can ruin the game for others.

Newbie itself is modern slang, where according to Wikipedia it referred to new soldiers in Vietnam. The word’s origin before this is unclear, but it appears to be a word created to turn the adjective “new” into a noun, perhaps as a diminutive (Barbara -> Barbie, for example).

 

Informant & Context:

My informant is a commenter on the website Stack Exchange, who goes by the username Joe Dovakhiin, a popular message board website in the online gaming community. The comment was in response to a forum question about the origins of the word Noob. I believe the comment was legitimized by the more than twelve thousand thumbs ups it received by other forum users.

Link to forum: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/10420/how-did-the-term-noob-originate

 

Thoughts:

This is one of the most classic or conventional gaming insults in my opinion. It is a phrase that has continued to be used throughout my lifetime, and has a life span almost as large as the video game industry itself. This phrase is especially interested because it has maintained popularity in the entire gaming community whereas other phrases have gone in and out of style like fads.

Myths

The Crows and the Serpent

Piece:

The Crows and the Serpent

This story is from the Panchatantra tales. In indian culture when the kids are going to bed, parents will read out of this book. All of the stories have morals to them. In that story pretty much what happens is there are a bunch of crows living in a tree. One day a family of snakes moves under the tree. So then obviously the crow family is really mad about that, because snakes eat crows. So the next day crow parents go out in the morning to search for food for their kids. They come back later and all their babies are gone–because the snakes ate them. So then they have more kids and decide to come up with a way for the snakes to not attack them. So then the mom decides to stay in the nest when while the dad searches for food–but because she’s alone, the snakes attack her and eat all their babies again. So they have to come up with a new plan to save their next babies. So they call their friends over who are foxes. They tell the foxes about how the snakes keep eating their babies. The fox tells them to use their brain. He says that all the royal families bathe really early in the morning, and leave their jewelry on plates. So he tells the crows to steal one of the necklaces and drop it into the snakes’ home. So the crows wake up really early the next day, before the snakes are awake, and steal a necklace from one of the royal families. Some guards are chasing them as they fly away, and then they drop the necklace into the snake hole. The guards then have to kill the snakes to get the jewelry out of the whole, which they do, and the crows stop having their babies eaten.

This moral of this story is to use intelligence over physical strength.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this story is an Indian-American student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Seattle, Washington. She grew up in a fairly culturally traditional Indian household. This story comes from a set of stories that many Indian parents read to their children.

Thoughts:

The thing that stands out to me the most about this story is that the crows are the heroes. In many stories in western culture, crows are often the antagonists—the same can be said for foxes.

The story has a very concise message: Use intelligence to solve your problems instead of strength.

Folk speech

New Zealand Slang

Piece:

“Do you have any slang in New Zealand that you don’t hear here at all?”

Oh yeah, we have lots.

Togs – swimsuits (apparently the old english form for swimsuit)

Jandals – flipflops

Motorway – freeway

Cuzzie – friends

Scarfies – people from Dunedien

Jafa – (Just another fucking Aucklander) People from Auckland

Stubbies – really short pants that men wear

Chur – thank you. I lot of people say chur instead of thanks.

Wops wops – middle of nowhere

“Is there a reason for any of this?”

No. Well some of them maybe

Westies/Bogans – People from west Aukland but it’s like dumb unwashed hippies

Munted – Broken

Oh, and we call ketchup tomato sauce.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a USC student from New Zealand who lived in Auckland for 18 years. The above are popular youth phrases in New Zealand whose meaning does not carry over to the US.

Thoughts:

The most interesting ones of these to me are Jafa, and Westies because they are discriminatory phrases about people from Auckland, the city my informant is from. The previous pieces of folklore I had acquired from this person suggested a greater assimilation of culture between different peoples in New Zealand, but these phrases suggest that there are stereotype based rivalries between different geographic groups in New Zealand. Though I did not get one, I’m assuming there is also a word that Auklanders use to insult the people that call them Jafas or Westies.

Myths

How the Kiwi Lost It’s Wings

Piece:

How the Kiwi Lost It’s Wings

One day Tanemahuta, the god of the forest, rounds up all of the birds and says that there are too many bugs on the floor of the forest eating the trees. If one of the birds doesn’t go down to eat all of the bugs, the trees will all be killed and the birds will have nowhere to build their nests. First he asks the Tui, but the Tui says that he’s too afraid of the dark on the forest floor. So Tanemahuta brands him as a coward with a white scarf (white tuft) around his neck. Then he asks Pukeko “will you come down to the forest floor.” And Pukeko says “no the mud is too rough and it will hurt my feet.” So Tanemahuta curses Pukeko so that he now lives in swamps. Then he asks Pipiwharauroa, who says, “no I can’t, I’m building a nest.” And then he curses Pipiwharauroa so that he can never build a nest again. Then he asks the kiwi. And Kiwi knows that somebody has to do it, so he will. So then he grows thick legs, and a long beak to put in the mud and to get rid of his beautiful feathers for ugly brown ones. And then Tanemahuta rewards the kiwi by making him the most beloved bird in the world.

 

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a USC student from New Zealand who lived in Auckland for 18 years. The story she is telling is a Maui origin story about how the Kiwi lost its wings and became the bird of New Zealand. A more complete version of the story can be found here: http://www.kiwinewz.com/html/losewing.htm

 

Thoughts:

This is a very interesting story about an act of selflessness. It is interesting to me, not only because I do not have anything similar to say about the bald eagle and how it became the symbol of America, but also because the story originates from the aboriginal Maui people of New Zealand. My informant is a white New Zealander, who is not part of that group, however she called this a traditional New Zealand story—implying that all of New Zealand culture is shared.

general
Myths

The Origins of New Zealand (Maui Origin Story

Piece:

The origins of new Zealand – myth (Maui)

“So, Maui is the son of Rangi (sky father) and Papa (mother). He wanted to fishing one day, but his brothers wouldn’t let him. So he made a hook out of, like, a magic jawbone or something and then he hid in a boat. I’m not sure why he hid, but his brothers were mean to him or something. Then he caught a really, really, really big fish that is the North Island. It’s so big that they fall out of the boat or something and the boat is the south island. And his brothers don’t wait to pray to someone before cutting up the fish. And that’s why there are mountains and rivers and gullies in the North Island.”

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a USC student from New Zealand who lived in Auckland for 18 years. The story she is telling is a Maui origin story about how New Zealand came into existence.

Thoughts:

This is a very relaxed approach to storytelling. The unabridged Maui origin story can be found here: http://www.newzealand.com/us/feature/the-legend-of-new-zealand/. The vast majority of the points match, but a lot of the details of the story have been removed in my informants version.  I find it incredibly interesting to hear a white person from New Zealand telling aboriginal origin stories. To me this indicates a more concrete sense of heritage in the country, and a more collective sense of identity for the country.

Foodways

Food in New Zealand

Piece:

“So what do you eat normally in New Zealand?”

“We eat a lot of lamb. There are 13 sheep for every person in New Zealand. I guess… mince (minced meat) and cheese pies. We eat that a lot. It’s like a normal lunch or dinner food. But it’s like too normal to be our cultural food…”

“So what’s your cultural food?”

“Well there’s a lot of dessert. Do you know Pavlova? It’s like a meringue cake. Oh and there’s Hangi. It’s like the traditional form of cooking in New Zealand. Meat gets buried underground for like 8 hours. It’s this real smokey flavor. ”

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a USC student from New Zealand who lived in Auckland for 18 years. She is speaking about cultural food in both senses: the first being food she commonly eats, and the second being historical or traditional food.

Regarding Hangi: it is a traditional Maori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. It is still used in special occasions. (Wikipedia)

Thoughts:

These items of food don’t seem especially odd by western standards. Presumably this is because they take a lot of influence from English culture and English food—where a lot of American culture is rooted as well. It was slightly odd to me that my informant cited a Maori tradition as the cultural food of New Zealand—considering that in the USA, we don’t define traditional American culture as Native American culture.

Folk speech

Johnnystock

Piece:

In melee (Super Smash Brothers Melee, a game by Nintendo) you have 4 stock lives. There’s a player named Johnny who has a habit of playing poorly—he overall is just mediocre and then suddenly you’re just dead.

“So is Johnnystock like the first two lives where he plays poorly?”

No. It’s just like when someone suddenly kills you. Like out of nowhere.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is an active member of the competitive Super Smash Brothers Melee community, which has been active since 2001. He has attended multiple tournaments and watched others on live stream web sources such as Twitch and Youtube.

Thoughts:

This is the first piece of folk speech in video games I’ve recorded that isn’t an insult. Since it is mostly used in verb form (to be Johnnystocked) it serves the purpose of lauding the Johnnystocker rather than chastising the Johnnystocked individual. This is an example of folk speech arising as a manifestation of the actions of those at the center of the community (the professional players).

Folk speech

Destruction

Piece:

Destruction (pronounced like Christopher Walken shouting)

A melee (Super Smash Brothers Melee, a game by Nintendo) term from the melee community—a commentator named D1 would try to hype up the game whenever something cool happened. Because he over-exaggerated how intense the gameplay was and continuously said “destruction” at mildly interesting moments, the phrase became a joke in the community and is used whenever you want to hype up something that isn’t actually hype worthy.

i.e. whenever a player accidentally kills them self or misses an attack.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is an active member of the competitive Super Smash Brothers Melee community, which has been active since 2001. He has attended multiple tournaments and watched others on live stream web sources such as Twitch and Youtube.

Thoughts:

I find it interesting that a lot of the folk speech insults in online games originate from an attempt to parody something in the community’s spotlight. This particular one parodies a specific commentator in combination with a particular player’s mediocrity. Folk speech in this community is also highly interesting due to the local nature of the game; since the game is offline, the only way to spread game culture is to attend tournaments and other events related to the game.

folk metaphor

Taking someone to the Squash Courts

Piece:

At the boarding school Cate, “taking someone to the squash courts” meant you were going to hook up with someone. Not that people take others to the squash courts to hook up with, but once upon a time people did that. At least that’s what people say.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who graduated from this boarding school (Cate). His knowledge of this phrase dates back between 3 and 11 years ago, though it is reasonable that it has existed for longer. The squash courts at the school were a very secluded and private place.

Thoughts:

American culture has a huge phobia of sexuality—it is extremely taboo. Whereas in other cultures that coveted spot is taken by violence, American children are taught to hide their sexuality. As a result, different pockets of the country choose to make euphemisms to describe the act, acknowledging it while at the same time making it a more speakable act. In my opinion is essentially equates to using “He who shall not be named” in place of Voldemort (in reference to Harry Potter). Even hook up is a vague term as it implies a consenting, physical act between two individuals, but does not describe the nature or extremity of the act. I believe that the term “hook up” is so colloquial as slang for engaging in an act of intimacy that it has become necessary for teenagers to water the phrase down further, so as not to make themselves feel dirty while talking about the act.

[geolocation]