Author Archive
folk metaphor
Folk speech

Goin’ Cattin’

This was told to me after I asked about the informant’s shirt. The shirt had some slang that I was unfamiliar with. The informant is from rural Eastern Oregon.

“Um, so basically, my slang is “Cattin’” like “Cat-ting” like cats and felines because we have a lot of cats around the house, they’re all outside, and we and my sister are bored, we’ll be like “hey, wanna go cattin’?” which means we go outside and find all the cats and pet them and have fun with them. And then, that’s cattin’. My sister made me a t-shirt for Christmas one year”

Analysis:

Although a very niche reference, the whole family and the informant’s wide range of friends have taken on this piece of slang and are able to reference it when relating to the informant. This shows how slang can move very easily between groups – now he uses it in college as well which means it has reach an even larger audience than just in rural Oregon – all the way in southern California.

Legends
Narrative

The Headmistress

This story is from a small private, all-girl’s school in Ohio. The informant is now in college.

“Ok so, at my high school it’s very small, so like sixty girls a grade, and in the lower school it’s less than that like 20 girls. so like everyone really knows everybody especially in the upper school even the teachers. And the headmistresses, she started when I was like when i was really young and before I got there, but by the time I got there she had been the headmistress for like ten years and everybody loved her and she was widely known for like, turning the school around like before that it had all these weird scandals, like prep-schooly scandals which she like made it more artists and empowering, and she’s the reason why the school is what it is and stuff, and there’s this like story about her about, her name is Ann, and there’s this story that Ann found a girl in the bathroom doing coke. which is like, it’s not like crazy, but like I didn’t know anybody who did coke at my school and it was like a weird thing so like, apparently she found her doing coke and then brought her to her office and was like I will pay for your read therapy rehab, and i won’t tell your parents but you can’t do coke again, you can’t do it on schoolgrounds and you have to go to all your therapies and if you like don’t do all those things i’ll tell your parents but like I’ll take care of everything else. and like, i don’t know if that’s true, but like i feel like it was girl that was two years older than me and i like had friends in that grade and stuff and yeah, so that was the crazy part. And it was plausible that she was able to do it because she was super rich.”

Analysis:

The idolisation of the Headmistress is clear in this story because of all the good work that she has done. She is seen as a caring and benevolent ruler. Although perhaps not true, the story shows that the girls are able to trust and be cared for by the headmistress, if not more, than their parents. This places the faith and dedication and loyalty to the school and headmistress than perhaps before the girls heard this story.

general
Legends
Narrative

Chop N Holler

This ghost story was told when the informant was retelling the local legends that inspires her writing.

“Ok, so my mom is from this dinky little town called Bulls Gap Tennessee,and it’s real rural, real small and all the roads are like one lane pretty much but kind of shitty and there’s this one particular road that cuts through this forest, and it leads to a waterfall that the locals call “Serenity”. And that particular road is called Chop N Holler. The legend is, is that there was a guy who lived there and there was a family who lived across the way from him and they were really really loud, annoyed him so much, that he took is axe, uncrossed the way, and murdered them all. And obviously he hung for it after, and if you roll down your windows all the way at night and play your music very, very loud, he’ll stand in the middle of the road with his axe, that’s the legend and I remember my mom would take me down that road, and obviously she was fucking with me but she would be like “I’m going to turn the music up” and I would be like “ah, no please!” and I think that it impacted my life in the sense, that idk, my mom got me really interested in ghouls and goblins and stuff like that to this day I still write horror stuff in that weird vein.”

Analysis:

The story was told so simply that it shows that there is an element of supernatural horror within these small towns and local places. Every place has a name that is different from the official name because of the heritage of the people living there. This name is obviously quite macabre, but it is still used as a simple fact of life.

Legends

Tunnel Ghosts

The informant told this story when recounting the local legends of her rural upbringing in Eastern Tennessee. Ghosts are a big part of the local, little traditions that are passed down between family members.

“Okay so there’s another place in Bullsgap that my mom used to take me after we visited my great-grandmother who lived there still, um, and it’s a little, another background that cuts through a bunch of cornfields and there’s a cemetery i think used during the civil war, i don’t know, but it’s old a shit and theres a bunch of unmarked graves there, and once you go past the cemetery there’s a huge drop in the road and it leads to what used to be a train tunnel I think, I don’t know like, if it had a train running through it or what, but it was this concrete thing and the train would pass over it I guess, under it people could walk through. So there’s a legend that because one night, because it drops down really low, like it goes below the water level in the town, when it floods, when it rains, the river floods up and fills the like the road under the tunnel. So there’s a rumour that there’s a family that like, the 50s 60s something like that, and they were driving at night and they had an accident and crashed into the tunnel or something like that, or the tunnel wall, all of them died. and they say if you go into the tunnel at midnight, and turn off all the lights and your entire car and just sit there in the dark in for five minutes when you get out of the tunnel you’ll see handprints from children and the adults, who you know, had an accident there, and the legend is that they’re trying to push your car out, because they think that you’re car is stopped. It’s kinda scary. I don’t know I’ve never done it because my mom was like we can do it, but I was like no, no, no, k, but that one was another [local legend] that i fell in love with the local flavour of where I lived and appreciated it for the quirky little place that it was.”

Analysis:

Although spooky, it seems the ghosts are trying to help push the car out of the tunnel. This tale also serves as a warning to those who drive recklessly during the night and rain, showing the consequences of what could happen if one was to crash.

Legends
Narrative

Haunted Victorian House

This story was told when the informant was explaining the local legends of growing up in Eastern Tennessee.

“So there’s other little town called Jefferson city, it’s pretty small, pretty rural, all farms and shit, it’s kinda like midway between Bullsgap and Morristown which is my hometown, it’s kind of off the map places in east tenessee, but Jefferson City is particularly interesting because there’s this very, very big beautiful victorian house that’s like white and has a sprawling landscape and whatever, and nobody lives it, ever, it’s never ever been bought and I don’t think it’s even for sale anymore but that’s because there was a lady who lived in the house, and she had like fifty pets I think? Like, very many cats and dogs, so she died one day, because she was old, and then no one really, and she didn’t have family or anything, so she just, like, stayed there, dead, and eventually her pets, once they ran out of things to eat they started dying too. So by the time anybody came, they came because they could smell like the rot, overwhelming, so they come, and see this absolute horror scene of rotting bodies and stuff and they clean it out eventually and try to put the house back on the market. And every time it goes on the market and someone moves in, they say they cannot sleep because they hear the dogs and the cats all night rattling and moving around the house all night, and you can smell the rot and the decay still. Which is crazy! But there it is.”

 

Analysis:

The story is interesting because the house is empty now, and the local legends have become so engrained in the culture that it would be strange to occupy the house because you of the suggestion of the cats and dogs running around, you’d probably hear them!

Legends
Narrative

Haunted House

The informant told me of his haunted house in Eastern Oregon.

“So, my house is haunted, um, I guess I’ll describe a specific spooky encounter that happened one night, probably like two years ago, first of all this is just a side note, I talk and scream in my sleep a lot and I think it’s because I’m possessed, and my sisters are always scared whenever we’re all in the house because I scream, but anyways this one time one night I was sleeping and then it’s like 3 o’clock in the morning and my door opens and it’s my dad in his underwear and holding a shotgun and he’s like “Are you okay?” and I was like “yeah what’s going on?” and he’s like “nothing, just making sure you’re safe.” And then the next morning he tells me what was going on, which was he and my mom were in their upstairs room and they heard this knocking on our front door, and they were curious about that, and they heard footsteps right below them, so my dad got a shotgun and he started combing the house looking for something and they heard voices and this supernatural shit, um, and then the next morning, when I woke up, my mom was also there, making sure i was safe and then she pointed out to me this guest room that we have which is down the hall from me, and the doors were wide open, like this door chair was overturned and there were these pillows out with an impression of body like laying there, um, yeah. So that’s what happened. Yeah.”

Do you know why the house is haunted?

There were some renovations once so maybe that disturbed some spirits. I don’t know.”

Analysis:

The real life experience that the informant and his parents had confirm his belief in the supernatural and especially ghosts. What was interesting was that the haunting of the house was accepted as a way of life, and something that the family has not done anything to change.

general

Haunted High School Auditorium

The informant told a group of friends this story when recounting weird traditions and stories about their high school experience. The informant is from a rural town in Eastern Oregon.

“So, our auditorium at my high school is also haunted, and rumour has it that the drama/english teacher that later got fired because he apparently had sex with a student, um, basically he confirmed this, and was the director  of the theatre and stuff, but there was like this kid who was really into theater and everything, and he killed himself and we don’t know why or how, but he killed himself apparently, but the specific seat, J26, is supposed to be particularly haunted and that’s where he always sits, and my teacher would say how they would be putting on plays, and the light box you would see shadows or voices or scuttering about so, Yeah. That’s basically it.”

Analysis:

It is hard to see what the English/Drama teacher would gain by spreading the rumour of the ghost, but it has been widely accepted in the informants school as truthful.

folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Legends

Mascotgate

This was told to a group of friends while talking about funny or weird high school experiences.

“So at my high school, at the end of junior year, you pick a mascot, and the mascot is a mix of a pop culture figure and an animals, so like “Swanye West” or Swan F Kennedy, and i don’t know why those are both swans but those are easy, but um, uh, one time they did a movie, “Fight Cub”; “Moose Lee”, “mean squirrels”, um, and so you then you use them for your senior mascot and you get shirts based on that, and you also your yearbook will be entered on that, so when they did “moose lee” they made it look like an action movie, so like first people submit things and then we all vote on them, and the largest vote was “Genghis Kangaroo” like Genghis Khan and a kangaroo, um, and this had been submitted, and voted for number one, and it works like you vote for one and whatever gets the most votes wins, um, but then, oh yeah, so I was on term council which is like student council for each grade, and people were really mad, like I don’t want this, it can’t be Genghis kangaroo because I hate it but he’s also a mass-murderer, and like a pillager and a rapist, and we don’t want Genghis Khan representing us, and like all of those are obviously fair arguments, but like you could have said this at any point, like Genghis kangaroo could have been taken out at any point and we didn’t have to wait until it won, for then everyone to say why it’s fucked up? and then, we had a bunch of meetings at term council for what to do, what won the democratic vote, and there have always been rumours that it is a “termocracy” meaning that term council did shit without consulting the students and that we didn’t care about them, which was crazy because the meetings were open, so like anyone could come, so then you chose not come, and then we make decisions, and then you get mad about those decisions? so then we had a forum. and the forum on whether to like, like a forum to vote on whether we should re-vote and like take Genghis kangaroo out or go to the other high vote, and then on the high school meme page, there was a shit ton of memes, like conspiracy theory memes that were like, like “we’re going to have a forum to vote on whether to have re-vote a second forum for the first forum to vote on the third forum” and just like wrecking term, and like wrecking all the things that we were doing, because like what else do you want, because if we had just chosen ourselves and didn’t have a forum then they would have said “termocracy” but like when we had the vote on the revote they said this is nonsense and i think what ended up happening is that we had a forum and we just ended up going with the one which was the number two, which was TroutKast, which was a combination between Outcast the band and trout the animal, which was really good and everyone loved and  mascots were trout with the outkast costumes and then the yearbook got to be like a road trip, album tour type thing, like a cross-country tour. So it worked out.”

Analysis:

To me, what is most interesting about this story is the folklore that spread through the students through their “Meme page” as way of communication. The dubbing of the student council as a “termocracy” also shows the different levels of students and their awareness of the world, as if high school is like a much smaller country and the leaders are turning it into a dictatorship.

Folk speech
Game
general
Life cycle
Musical

Jewish Day Camp Traditions and Songs

The informant is from New York City and told me of his summer camp experience.

“Okay so I went to a Jewish Day Camp, so like you’d go, everyday you’d go to a bunch of different bus stops and then you go to the campground and do whatever camp shit you’d do and then come back like, so it was a Jewish camp and we celebrated Shabbat, and we even like one of the activities would be like, so every friday you’d celebrate Shabbat and then alongside the other activities like archery, ceramics, we would sing Jewish songs, so there’s like um, oh man, oh there’s “who knows one” and it’s like, i think it goes up to twelve and there’s like different hebrew or like old testament things like, or like, definitely like “nine” is the months of a -, I don’t remember but it’s like “Who knows one?” “I know one!” “one is the da-da-da-da-da-duh” “who knows two? I know two! Two is the da-da-da-da-da-duh.” And I know like one of them is like, twelve is the tribes of Israel, um, I think nine for whatever reason is the months a woman is pregnant? Um, uh, and just like seven is like the days of the week that god made, and all these other Jewish songs of like um, wait ok, so there’s who knows one, and there’s like, uh, I don’t remember anymore. But like the main part about the songs that’s pretty funny is that like seventy-five, no maybe like two-thirds of the camp were like black and hispanic, and were like not Jewish, because it was like, a somewhat cheap day camp in, like Manhattan, and they had a lot of bus stops in like Harlem, so like we made these black and hispanic kids eat Challah and drink grape juice and like sing these Jewish songs, and they were like kinda into it, none of them were like, “why are we doing this?” all of them were like “okay””

Analysis:

What is most interesting is that the songs were of religious connotation, but that many of those who attended the camp were not of that religion (Jewish). So they were learning all these songs and stories that did not directly affect them at all, opening up Jewish ceremonies to the wider world. It is also interesting to see how these “children’s songs” deal with adult themes such as pregnancy, which as a child did not really comprehend until much later.

Legends
Narrative

Fort Reno, Washington D.C.

This story was told when the informant was asked about any landmarks or traditions surrounding her local area.

“Ok, so by my house there’s this old fort from like the civil war called fort reno, and it’s right by the middle school that i went tour and it’s still sort of  guard weirdly, and i don’t know, there’s probably a real reason for where there’s fences and guards and stuff, ut like uh, but there seems to be no real reason for there to be guards anymore, and i mean there’s not guards, but there will still be like fences and all these kind of weird structures inside, and so what all the kids say is that’s where, and it’s also the highest point in the city, but what all the kids is that there’s an underground bunker there, and that’s where the president would go if we were ever like attacked, and it’s at fort reno, and no one knows what’s in there, and it’s probably like a water treatment plant, but that’s what I believe”.
When did you learn about it?
“Um, probably like middle school, cuz we walked past it all the time on my way home.”
Analysis:
Because the informant lived in the US capital, it is obvious that much of the folklore would surround this aspect of life. It is like the local middle schoolers are attaching importance to certain landmarks to make it more official and important in their lives, to connect to the general population of politicians in D.C. It is also interesting to note the element of disaster that is worked into this tale, signalling that disaster is never far from their minds living in the capital of the US.
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