Author Archive
Digital
Riddle

Riddle About Man

Riddle: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?

Answer: Man. He crawls on all hands and knees as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks using a cane in his old age.

This is a well known riddle, cited from The Braingle.com.

According to the UnMuseum, this riddle was given by the Sphinx to all travelers. It would eat all the travelers who could not answer his riddle, until Oedipus gave the correct answer of “Man,” and caused the Sphinx to die.

The fact that his riddle from such a long time ago is so well known even today shows the universality of riddles about humanity. This riddle causes people to reflect and look at themselves and their lives in order to answer the riddle. It makes people think about the concept of life and aging, and brings an awareness to the natural progression of life in a clever way.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Chinese Proverb: Kind Words

Informant is a 53 year-old Chinese female. She was born and raised in Beijing, China. She now lives in Southern California.

Informant’s folklore: A kind word will warm a person for three winters; evil speech will hurt people and make people cold in June. This means that when you say something nice to a person, you make them feel happy and warm. It will even keep them warm through three winters, at the coldest times. If you say something bad about someone, in this way, even when it’s June and it’s really hot weather, that person will feel coldness in their hearts. This saying means to never say bad things about or to someone, because it will hurt them.

Collector: Do you like this saying?

Informant: I love this saying, because a person you must say nice words to people. You shouldn’t use words to hurt people.

Collector: What does this mean to you?

Informant: Everyone has a different way to help people. Some people have money or materials to give to other people, but other people don’t have anything to give. But when you don’t have anything to give, a kind word is enough.

Collector: Where did you hear this saying from?

Informant: I learned it from my mother.

I think that this proverb is a saying to live by. It’s a saying about the power of words–how words can help or hurt people. It shows people to be kind to each other, because words and ideas can shape people into the persons they want to become.

Proverbs

Chinese Proverb: Wish for Plums to Quench Your Thirst

Informant is a 53 year-old Chinese female. She was born and raised in Beijing, China, and now lives in Southern California.

Informant’s folklore: In China, there’s a proverb called “Wish for Plums to Quench Your Thirst.” Cao Cao and Liu Bei were at war. But during the war, the troops walked a lot and trekked for a long time, so much so that they were tired and couldn’t walk anymore. So, they were thirsty and tired. So Cao Cao said, “Hey we should keep walking forward! Ahead there’s a garden of plum trees, and when we get there, there will be water.” So this proverb means that when you hear of plums, your mouth starts to water, and when your mouth salivates, it satisfies your thirst.

Collector: Where did you hear this proverb?

Informant: Everyone knows about this story, and I heard it from my mother.

Collector: Do you like this proverb? What does it mean to you?

Informant: Yes, because to me it sounds like when you’re so tired, or worn out doing something, if you have hope, you can make it to the end.

This proverb originated from Chinese history dating to thousands of years ago. I think that there’s a universality to the meaning of the proverb, in that it’s about human will power. The proverb shows how despite your physical conditions, your mind can overcome hardship and keep you going to accomplish your goals.

Folk speech
Humor

What are “Dank Memes”?

The informant is a 20 year old, American college student, who studies at the University of Southern California.

Informant: “Dank memes”–is just like like, you know how marijuana is dank? It’s described as dank. So people describe these memes as dank memes. It’s basically just shit you find on the internet, and stupid stuff that people post about whatever topic.

Collector: Do you collect dank memes?

Informant: No, I just look at them, and laugh.

Collector: How did you hear about dank memes?

Informant: Just on the internet. Like on Reddit. Here’s the perfect example of a dank meme. “The most perfect anime ever created, in terms of story, direction, characters, plot development has got to be Corey in the House. It’s like the greatest anime ever made.” That’s an example of a dank meme. (Explanation: Corey in the House is not an anime, nor considered the best show ever created, hence the irony and humor.)

Collector: Who creates these dank memes?

Informant: Everyone on the internet can.

Collector: Why do you think people like these dank memes?

Informant: It’s just something super inane, something stupid that you laugh at for the stupidity of it rather than the merit it actually has. It’s just something funny to spend your time on.

I think that the significance of this is that the internet gives everyone a voice to express their opinion and humor on something. It’s reflective of the audience’s reaction to a television show or to make fun something. The internet gives way to express and share the humor in a widespread way. The producers of culture spread culture through the vertical mode of communication, yet the internet is an equalizer and gives people the ability to create their own counter culture and express their dissatisfaction for the culture that’s being sold to them.

For reference, see Corey in the House (TV Show).

Rituals, festivals, holidays

APASA Annual End of the Year Banquet

USC APASA is the University of Southern California’s Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, a student run organization that aims “To celebrate and share Asian Pacific American (APA) heritage and diversity, USC APASA supports its member organizations and sponsors cultural events to foster unity and growth within and beyond the APA Trojan community. We strive to create a more united community, where students support each other culturally, socially and academically by educating each other with their heritage, history and traditions.”

Every year, they have a tradition of hosting a gathering at the end of the year to celebrate their achievements for the school year. The informant is a college student and member of the organization.

Informant’s folklore: Every year, APASA invites the presidents and representatives of the Asian Pacific American organizations to this big dinner. It’s like an end of the year celebration to celebrate everything we’ve done as an organization. We have a really nice three course meal, and everyone dresses up really nicely. You go through superlative awards the executive board votes on like “Best Representatives,” or “Rising Star,” or “Best Culture Show” awards. We do that to recognize that our member orgs are trying and all the work the put into everything they do. It’s really fun to be able to nominate your friends when they do something really good. We also make a video to celebrate everything that we’ve done and encourage their good work.

Why do you like celebrating this event?

I think that it encourages everyone as a community to work together, and foster everything they’ve created. It also rewards those who put the effort into it. And I feel like everyone who puts in the effort should be rewarded for it. And it’s also a nice time to reflect how far we’ve come since the beginning of the year.

Where did you learn it from?

I learned the tradition from the existing members.

I think that the event is not only a way to celebrate and look back on all the great work that APASA has done over the school year, but also a way of bringing together community on the college campus. College students are in a time of developing their identities, and this organization and their celebration helps to shape and form their identities and the communities they identify with.

Game

The “Meta” of Gamer Culture: League of Legends

The folklore: In gamer culture (in League of Legends), there is always something called a “meta.” The meta is referred to by gamers as something that is the most popular or trending style of play at the time.

Informant is a 39 year old Ecuadorian male, who plays the video game, League of Legends. League of Legends is a multi-player real time game where teams battle each other.

Informant’s Folklore: The “meta” means the style of the game that people are playing at that time. For example, the trend at the time. So the meta this week, everyone is playing this one particular character because they saw one of the best players in the world playing this character and kicked ass. So now everyone wants to play that character, so that character becomes the new meta. It also can apply to how you play the game, and the strategies you use.

Informant: Where did you learn this from?

Collector: I just learned it from people talking. I remember someone I met online said “meta” in a group chat on League of Legends, and I was like what does that mean? And they explained it to me.

Informant: What does this mean?

Collector: Well, the players of League will always try to find the most powerful player in the game, and they will try to exploit that character. And League of Legends notices it and nerfs the character by taking away some of his power. So by nerfing him, it makes another character more powerful. And the whole process changes it.

Informant: Why do you think they do it?

Collector: It’s like chasing the white rabbit, because they’re trying to make the game as fair as possible.

I think that the gamer culture, just like any other entertainment culture, developed the idea of the “meta” to reflect what’s popular or trending. It’s a saying that’s known to the League of Legends’ gamer community: you only know what it means if you’re part of that community and if you stay up with the trends.

Childhood
Musical

Rompe La Pinata Song

Lyrics:

Quien rompe la piñata yooooooooo
que la rompa felipe nooooooo
que la rompa isaito nooooooo
que la rompa julito noooooooooooooooo
que la rompa jaimito siiiiiii

mamita mamita yo quiero llorar
si no me dan un oalo pa romper la piñata
mamita mamita vendame los ojos
que yo quiero ser quien rompa la piñata

damela dale a la piñata
rompela rompe la piñata (4 veces)

Informant is a 39 year-old Ecuadorian male. He used to live in Ecuador, and has moved to the United States with his family.

Informant: In Ecuador, as far back as I can remember, they used to play this song for me and for the kids in the family now. They always play this song on the speakers at children’s birthday parties, when they break the pinata or when they do the cake.

Collector: Why do you think they play this song?

Informant: The song is very fun, and happy. It’s very encouraging to the kids, specifically it says to break the pinata. It’s specifically for the pinata, but it doesn’t have to be.

Collector: Where did you learn it from?

Informant: It wasn’t that I learned it, I just remember that it was always played. I would go to family functions, and for kids it was always playing.

Collector: What does this song mean to you?

Informant: I think a lot of it is not just tradition, but it also has a sense of nostalgia, or a rite of passage.

Collector: What ethnicity is the song for?

Informant: It’s mainly for people of Spanish descent, because the song lyrics are in Spanish.

I think that this song is like similar to the traditional “Happy Birthday” song in America. It’s upbeat nature and happy lyrics calls for celebration. The lyrics of the song reflect the activity it’s intended for: breaking the pinata. So, the song is also reflective of the traditions performed at Hispanic birthday parties.

Foodways

Sunday Family Barbecues

The informant is a 39 year old male from Ecuador. His family used to live in Ecuador, where he was born. He moved to live in Southern California with his immediate family and cousins.

Informant’s Tradition: Every Sunday, my family makes barbecues. It’s always carne asada, or some form of carne asada and ribs. Sometimes other families will come over and it turns into a bigger party, but it’s just what my mom does. If my uncle comes over, he’ll bring something else. If I go, I’ll usually get guacamole and salsa. My mom has always been more of a house wife, taking care of the kids. When I was a kid, she always took care of me and the other kids. She takes care of my sister’s kids, so she’s always been like the homemaker.

Collector: Why do you think your mom does this?

Informant: That’s just who she was. She was the oldest sibling–she was the first daughter, so she has six brothers and sisters. And she always helped my mom take care of the other siblings. My mom enjoys it.

Collector: Where did your mom learn this from?

Informant: From my grandma. My grandma used to own a restaurant, so she taught my mom how to cook.

Collector: What does this mean to you?

Informant: To me, I think it’s just a way of keeping the family together, always knowing that there’s this event to bring us together. So they’re always there doing their thing, so they bring the family together.

Weekend barbecues is a very popular American tradition, and it’s interesting to see how cultures blend together when an Ecuadorian family participates in the culture. It shows the “melting pot” nature of the United States–the blend of Sunday barbecues with carne asada, guacamole, and salsa. It also shows there is a universality of the mother’s multiple roles in taking care of her family.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Club Swim Team’s Banana Chant Tradition

Tradition: The Club Swim Team at the University of Southern California always does a chant involving bananas before every swim meet.

The informant is a 20 year old female USC student, who is on the swim team.

Informant: Before every swim meet, we always do this chant with bananas. Everyone on the team holds a banana in their hand, and we all chant:

“Are you ready to go bananas? (Everyone screams)
Peel bananas, peel peel bananas!
Swim bananas, swim swim bananas!
Fight bananas, fight fight bananas!
Win bananas, win win bananas!”

Collector: Why do you guys like to do this chant?

Informant: I think that it it gets everyone excited, and it’s a lot of fun.

Collector: What do you do with the bananas after the chant?

Informant: Most people just eat the bananas after the chant.

Collector: Where did you learn this chant from?

Informant: One of the members on the team taught it to us. He learned it from his swim team before joining our swim team.

I think that the swim team does this chant to get pumped up for their competition. I don’t know why they chose to use a banana, but it reminds me of the idea of ‘going bananas’ (going crazy), in a good way that gets everyone excited. Another reason may be that bananas are a health food and helps relieve muscle cramps for swimming. The words in the chant itself “swim,” “fight,” and “win” are suggestive of what the team wants–to swim, fight, and win the competition.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ane Viejo Celebration in Ecuador

Tradition: For New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, people celebrate Ane Viejo by crafting life size dolls of people with straw. They fill the people with fireworks and light them on New Year’s Eve in remembrance of the old year.

The informant is a 39 year old male from Ecuador.

Informant: There’s this tradition that we do in Ecuador, and it’s called Ane Viejo. And it’s usually done during the New Year. You know how everyone has this thing where everyone toasts to the New Year? But in Ecuador we do this toast to the old year. And you can choose any person that you want, and you make the person out of clothes, and straw, and stuff–so you make a straw person. It could be of anyone that you want, and it usually has some significance to something that’s in the past–whether it’s something bad or something good–it doesn’t really matter. They call it your Ane Viejo, like “your last year.” Once you make this straw person, they put fireworks inside of them. And they light it on fire on New Years’ Eve.

Collector: How big is this person?

Informant: Like normal size, like a real person! They put like clothes and jeans on them. Most people don’t burn the clothes, but they’ll leave them out for a week before New Year. So if you walk around town, you’ll see them on people’s front porches, they’ll be sitting down.

Collector: Who makes these dolls?

Informant: The whole town makes them. They’re usually people made–like your family makes them. What makes them even cooler is that there’s a competition, like who can make the coolest one. They’ll put like sunglasses and a hat on them.

Collector: Why do you think people keep performing this tradition?

Informant: I think they do this as something fun at the end of the year as a end of the year remembrance of your past. It’s like a whole ceremony prior to lighting your fireworks. I don’t know where it started, but I just know that that’s what they do.

Collector: Where did you learn it from?

Informant: When I was a kid, I just saw it on the streets.

Collector: What does it mean to you when you see it?

Informant: For me, when I see it, it reminds me of my childhood, my family, because that’s how I learned it and how I was introduced to it. Because I left my country, and the first time I came back I was like 8, 10 years old, and I experienced it. But everyone lived with it. So when I see it, it reminds me of that time.

I think that cultures such as the United States celebrates the New Year by making toasts to the New Year because we are a future oriented culture. We focus more on welcoming the new opportunities in the coming future. From this tradition, it seems that the culture of Ecuador also reflects on the past in addition to the welcoming the New Year.

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