Author Archive
Folk speech
general

Arabic Folk Speech to Handle Fear/Bless

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: 

بسم الله

Transliteration: Bismillah

Translation: In the name of Allah (or God)

Piece Background Information:

I’m from Saudi Arabia and in this country the culture is heavily influenced by religion. For example, we are taught from a very young age to say “bismillah” every time something scares or frightens us. Till this day, I automatically say “bismillah” whenever I get startled. It is also generally used whenever you start something to give it a holy blessing.

My sister taught it to me, she would always remind me about that- she’s my older sister. Whenever I get startled or scared of something, like a dog or something when I was little, I would start screaming and jumping and doing crazy things. She would just say “be calm, you shouldn’t be scared of things”. So it kind of just stuck with me and to this day, it’s kind of just a reflex. Sometimes I’m sitting or hanging out with Americans, and I say that, and they’re just like “what the fuck was that?”

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s apartment adjacent to USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

This piece emphasizes the Muslim ideal of strengthening their connection with Allah through exercising self control, thereby cleansing their minds, bodies, and spirits and also lends itself to this informant’s other accounts such as not believing in wearing a physical/tangible object for protection against the evil eye and instead focusing on the mind. It fits in with this informant’s overarching theme of this informant’s shared accounts with me (see:The Evil/Bad Eye and Arab Folk Beliefs on Protection Against It and see:see: Ramadan and the Ritual Celebration of Eid Alfutr).

Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Chinese Proverb/ Chengyu

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: 蜻蜓点水

Transliteration: qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ

Translation: “The dragonfly touches the water lightly” or “superficial contact”

Piece Background Information:

We have a saying in my family that goes like “qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ”.

You know how when dragonflies fly around a pond and when they touch the water, they gently touch it and keep flying along? Well that’s just another way of describing someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. They say he’s just “qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ”. And that just means like they don’t go deep, they don’t go all the way into the water, they just touch it.

My mom would use this to describe my dad, for example when he would say he was going to clean the kitchen and like only clean half the dishes and leave everything else to be done. So I would hear that phrase used a lot.

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Context of Performance: 

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

The comparison of half-way cleaning to a dragonfly who skims the water is quite a romanticized outlook and allows for the conversation of “well… you really only cleaned a little bit” to be more easily had, as there is a funny context added to it. I can definitely relate to needing to somehow calmly and casually bring up to a roommate that they aren’t pulling their share.

Legends
Narrative

Chinese Legend General Zhuge

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.

Piece:

My parents told me about this general from China, who lived however many dynasties ago but he was just known for being very clever. And like one of the smartest, most cunning generals out there. He was fighting out there, with I don’t know exactly who, but he was talking to one of his lieutenants and he said that in order for them to have a successful battle, they were going to need 100,000 arrows. There was no way to get that many, so they were as good as done. But the general said he could figure something out. So he concocted a plan, his name was General Zhuge. So General Zhuge found a day where it was especially foggy. He had a plan to kind of trick the enemies into giving them their arrows. On that day, the enemies were prepared and on edge because at any moment General Zhuge’s troops would storm the beach. Zhuge had boats sent across the river. It was foggy so they couldn’t see anything so the general freaked out on the other side and ordered the enemies to start shooting arrows at these boats. What was clever, what the general did was that he filled these boats with straw people instead of men. So the arrows got stuck in the straw and as the straws got stuck, Zhuge started pulling the boats back. By the end of the day, he had more than 100,000 arrows, and all from the enemies. And I guess the kind of like moral of the story is that you have to be cunning if you want to win a war.

Piece Background Information:

I don’t know if it’s true or not but it was kind of to frame how clever and how cunning this general was back in that dynasty. They told me one day when I was out with my parents and my dad wanted to share Chinese folklore with me. I was in high school, in like sophomore or junior year. He learned that from his parents, and I guess also from the culture because it’s a pretty famous story.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

I enjoyed the informant’s story on the legendary General Zhuge. While this story about collecting the arrows with straw may or may not be true, General Zhuge existed. The Wikipedia on General Zhuge Liang states that this particular event is not documented in the official dynasty history and is purely fiction.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
general
Magic

Folk Belief on Gifting Purses

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Jupiter, but grew up in Chicago. My dad was born in Indiana or Illinois, somewhere in the Mid-West. My mom is from Singapore.

Piece:

One time, I lost my purse at the mall and my mom was really mad at me. I don’t think I’ve ever lost my purse after that. But there were a couple of different scenarios that could have resulted in her telling me this, I don’t quite remember.

My mom told me once… you know what I think maybe I was giving her a purse, or I was giving a purse to someone else, or maybe she was giving a purse to someone and yeah, she made me put a coin in it. She said it’s bad luck to give anyone a purse or a wallet without some sort of money in it.

Piece Background Information:

I definitely think about it when I gift or hand down purses, but I don’t always practice it. I do practice it with my mom though by usually just putting a penny in the purse.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s retail shop in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

This idea that giving a coin or some form of monetary fortune with the gift of a purse falls under contagious magic in a sense, as the object that was once in contact with the gift-giver has the ability to influence the gift-giver and the receiver bad fortune. This folk belief is shared across many different cultures, and can be supported by the fact that my Hawaiian half-sister also shared this with me too, lending itself to Dundes’ definition of folklore that it must show multiplicity and variation. Variations include similar accounts with giving knives or scissors as gifts. I find it particularly interesting that while the informant, who is a retail shop owner and manager, claims that she always has the thought when gifting or handing down a purse that she must put a coin in it, but only truly practices it with her mother, who instilled this belief within her. This could perhaps be reflective of the fact that her occupation and the world we live in today sees clothing and accessory items as disposable.

Folk Beliefs
general
Homeopathic
Magic

Chinese Folk Belief on Leg Shaking

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My mom was born in Hong Kong and lived there up until she was 19 before moving here, and I was born here (in America).

Piece:

My mom would not let me or my brother shake our legs. You know how some people have that nervous tick where they shake their legs? Well she thought that it symbolized shaking money off a tree, so if we did it we wouldn’t be rich in the future. So she would tell us “we were shaking the money off the trees” so now me and my brother don’t shake our legs anymore, although we used to a lot when we were kids. 

Piece Background Information:

She probably got that from her parents as well.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s apartment adjacent to USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

This is clearly an instance of homeopathic magic, where the mimicking of shaking a sort of trunk (legs seen as the foundation for which the body depends) has affects in reality and in this case negative effects of losing money or fortune. I could not find other similar accounts so it is pretty likely that the informant’s mother, and possibly the informant’s mother’s parents (and so on), have shared this with their children in order to stop them from shaking their legs and groom them into proper adults. Leg shakers are the worst.

Folk Beliefs
general
Homeopathic
Magic

Chinese Folk Belief on White Headdress

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My mom was born in Hong Kong and lived there up until she was 19 before moving here, and I was born here (in America).

Piece:

So my mom would not let me wear anything white on my head because she said that it meant like death in Chinese, or in China. So when I would try to wear like a white headband (I used to wear headbands) or put anything like a white hat on my head, she told me not to because it was death basically. 

Piece Background Information: 

Maybe when they bury someone, they put a white sash around their heads or something. It’s probably something her mom told her.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s apartment adjacent to USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Although the informant was not too sure on the origins behind this practice, the informant still holds to it to this day.Although I could not find anything supporting the informant’s belief that a white sash is placed upon the heads of the deceased when being buried, which would have been in a sense homeopathic magic (magic of similarity), there are clear associations between white and death, and it comes to no surprise that the informant’s mother would choose to see a white headdress as symbolizing death. Upon further research, apparently white is typically symbolic of the dead in Chinese funeral rituals – it is common in practice to place a white banner over the door of a household to signify that a death has occurred.

general
Legends
Narrative

The Bad Lady

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m Caucasian with a lot of European descent. Grew up in Florida, and my family was originally from New York.

Piece:

So there’s this woman called the bad lady who lives in swamps in Florida and she’s supposed to be like this Native American spirit who hunts down children who are behaving badly. And what she does… which is like REALLY ridiculous is she kidnaps you from your parents and then puts you in a cage and hangs you above her pit of crocodiles, or alligators cause it’s Florida- her pit of alligators. Then she takes off your shoes and rubs a feather against your feet so that your toes start like twitching out. As the alligators below are like snapping at them. And then if you’re a really bad kid, she’ll continue to do it until one by one the alligators bite your toes off. And then you have to go back to your parents as this toeless child to remind you never to be bad to them.

My parents told me this story but they weren’t the only ones. Other kids in my neighborhood heard about it too, older kids. I think the first time I was threatened to be sent to The Bad Lady, I was like 4… by my parents. But then other kids sometimes would like bully the younger kids and be like “oh well if you try to play with us, we’re going to call The Bad Lady. We’ve been there. We know what she does.” And then they would like pretend to take off their shoes and stuff.

Piece Background Information:

I definitely think that like all the moms in the neighborhood got together and just invented this story. But I feel like it had to have come from somewhere so there might have been some background of either like a woman who did weird things in the forest or just like a legend of like a spirit. My mom insists that she(The Bad Lady) is real to this day.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in Ronald Tutor Campus Center on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Although, as the informant believes, The Bad Lady was most likely conceived of by the mothers within the informant’s town, and thus an urban legend, the fact that all the mothers and the older kids spread and hold up the story lends itself to Dundes’ definition of folklore in that there is multiplicity in stories about The Bad Lady as well as variation, in a sense. This variation is, in my opinion, due to its similarity to the story of La Llorana which is also told to kids, usually by parents or those older than them, to keep them from misbehaving.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Gujarati Protection Against Evil Eye

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

Piece:

So my grandma always did this thing, where she had this belief where if people see success too much, they give you the stink or evil eye, trying to wish you bad luck. So what she would do and say to do is to make a black mark somewhere you cannot see it- so take a little bit of like eyeliner, or mascara, and put it like right behind the ear or something to ward off evil spirits, and people’s bad visions. It’s the same way either way for males and females, but females do it generally.

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within piece that their grandmother taught them this folk belief on protection against the evil or bad eye.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in Ronald Tutor Campus Center on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Upon further research, it is commonly believed in India that the main source (i.e. givers) of the evil eye are women, which is why they generally use this protection against the evil eye.  The black mark is meant to cast or ward off negative energy and evil spirits. I could not find significant meaning as to why it is a black mark, or behind the ear, but I found this protection against the evil eye very interesting.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk speech
general
Holidays
Homeopathic
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Gujarati Proverb Common Around Diwali

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: मिच्छामि दुक्कडम्

Transliteration: micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ

Translation: “May all the evil that has been done be fruitless” or “If I have offended you in way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed, then I seek your forgiveness”.

Piece Background Information:

One specific thing that’s very interesting- whenever we meet someone on our new year’s day, we say micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ”. It basically means, “forgive me for anything I’ve done wrong over the past year and I want to start over on a clean slate with you”. Our new year, I think, comes right after Diwali- this big festival of lights. So it (the new year) is the day after that because the whole thing about Diwali is that it’s the conquering of good over evil, based on an ancient story.

So the ancient story is about this lord, he was called Lord Rama. He was a king who was in exile and his wife Sita was taken away by this evil king named Ravanna. So he crossed what is now called the region, the sea crossing between India, the south tip of India, and the current Sri Lanka to go and get his wife back. And they had like a fourteen day war where they basically, the two sides were fighting, and it ended with Rama putting an arrow through Ravana’s chest to kill him. The festival of lights celebrates his return after exile, back to the capital city.

Basically, we are asking for forgiveness from the other person and we want to start the new year off with a clean slate.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in Ronald Tutor Campus Center on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Through setting off fireworks, lanterns, and the like during Diwali, partakers in this tradition are recalling the celebrations that were believed to have taken place upon Rama and Sita’s return to their kingdom in northern India, after having been exiled and defeating King Ravanna. In this sense, Diwali can be seen as homeopathic magic as it is performed in order to bring about new beginnings/ wipe the slate clean through recalling the similar instance in which the slate was wiped clean for the once exiled Lord Rama. It also follows the Earth cycle as the celebration’s dates are dependent upon the Hindu lunar calendar.

For more information on Diwali, see Sims, Alexandra. “What is Diwali? When is the festival of lights?” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/diwali-what-is-the-festival-of-lights-and-when-is-it-celebrated-a6720796.html>.

Customs
Earth cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ramadan and the Ritual Celebration of Eid Alfutr

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia.

Piece:

Ramadan is like a whole month where everyone just, they fast from like very early in the morning ‘til like early in the evening. So from, from the sunrise to sunset basically. And they fast from like eating – they don’t eat anything, they don’t drink anything. And it’s a very like spiritual month where you just have like a lot of like, you know, religious tv shows and songs and stuff like that.

And then, after the month is over- the first day of the following month- it’s like Christmas in Christianity, So it’s like a big event where everybody is celebrating the end of the month and uh, I think it’s very interesting because every family basically like… wait you’re a vegetarian right? So this is not happiness for you. Every family has to kill a sheep, just like one sheep, and it has a spiritual meaning and it’s like a sacrifice you do to God to show that you’re grateful that the month is over, that you’re alive and doing well, and just thankful for that month.

And your family particularly partake in this?

All families do, and what they do is that they take the, okay it’s like one animal that’s killed. Most people do it at home, you bring the animal alive and kill it. Which is kind of… as kids, you would see that and were just kind of shocked (ha ha). It happens every year. Sometimes you’re allowed to buy the animal and take it to a butcher shop or something like that and they would of the you know, the rest of the work. Then the meat is divided into three portions- one third goes to family itself, another third to neighbors and relatives, and you know other people around the neighborhood, and the third portion goes to poor people, you know people who can’t buy an animal or can’t do that. So… yeah I think that’s the biggest celebration maybe.

When you guys take the meat, how do you package it? And do you have a physical hand in distributing the meat to poor people? 

It’s cut and put into bags, and like freezers and stuff like that. And I remember when I was a kid, my mom would give me like a bunch of bags and she would say “go to that neighbor” or “that house and knock on the door and give them this meat.” And then my dad would take the rest and he would go to like poor neighborhoods and distribute the meat to the poor people there. Nowadays, even butcher shops will do that- they will give the family their portion and do the rest of it- distribute it to the poor people so that you have a more convenient ways of doing it.

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within their piece that they learned and practice Ramadan, as well as the ritual celebration of Eid Alfutr, due to the influence of his culture, parents, family, and school.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s apartment adjacent to USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Ramadan is celebrated in the ninth month of Islamic calendar, which sees each month’s beginning at the sighting of the full moon, thus making it an Earth cycle ritual. By fasting everyday from sunrise to sunset, Muslims and those partaking in this tradition are reminded of the suffering of the less fortunate in the world. This fasting emphasizes the Muslim ideal of strengthening their connection with Allah through exercising self control, thereby cleansing their minds, bodies, and spirits and also lends itself to this informant’s other accounts such as not believing in wearing a physical/tangible object for protection against the evil eye and instead focusing on the mind (see: The Evil/Bad Eye and Arab Folk Beliefs on Protection Against It).

I also found it interesting that the informant noted how the whole process of butchering the sacrifice and splitting up the portions of the meat has become a lot easier- butchers will handle not only the butchering, but the distribution as well. On the one hand, this probably gives more incentive to partake in the tradition each year, as it makes the ritual much simpler, but it is also important to note that it is as a result of modernity.

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