Author Archive
Digital
Folk speech
Humor

Law School SubReddit Terminology

Context:

Isabella Estrada is studying history at the University of Southern California. She is graduating this year and is in the process of applying to/hearing back from law schools. This was clearly on her mind as the first piece of folklore she gave me dealt with law school applications. She was born and raised in Torrance, California.

Transcript:

Isabella: So, there is a subreddit on the website Reddit that’s called law school admissions, and it’s just essentially a forum where people who are applying to law schools get together and complain and discuss admissions and scholarships and the like, and so, with like any other subreddit, there’s like a specific language that we use, and to indicate, or like another form of congratulations that people use when someone says they got into a law school is “go get some ice cream.” So it like, it serves in place of congratulations. And it’s just like a congratulatory phrase.

There’s also, instead of, if you get rejected, instead of saying you got rejected, you say you got “dinged.”

Interpretation:

Reddit is infamous for its specialized language. Even “subreddit” requires an understanding of the website–meaning a category within the website. Internet culture has created its own language in many cases, and these two examples show how visitors to the page use these euphemisms to deal with serious decisions that impact their future. The point of the subreddit is to find support amongst others who are going through the nerve wracking application process, so these silly phrases could help to temporarily lessen the hurt of getting rejected, and likewise celebrate those who are admitted, but not overly so as to hurt the feelings of those being rejected.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech

Stealing a Sneeze

Context:

Madeleine Hall is a Junior at USC, studying Communications. When I was about to sneeze, she said “bless you.” When I asked why she said it before I sneezed, she told me that it would steal my sneeze, that basically I would lose it. Seeing the folkloric potential, I recorded this piece.

Transcript:

Madeleine: Okay, when someone has to sneeze, you say “bless you”, so it takes their sneeze. I have no idea where I learned it.

Interpretation: 

I was excited to have stumbled across folklore without needing to ask for it. Also, I found her subversion of the “bless you” saying interesting. By saying it before the sneeze instead of after, the sneeze is somehow stolen from you. Also, it is worth noting that she cannot remember who she first heard this from. For her, this is a common saying taken for granted. For me, this is a common saying subverted in a new way.

Proverbs

Nigerian Wings Proverb

Context:

Stanley Kalu was raised in Nigeria. Since then, he and his family have lived in various African countries. He currently studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is a friend of mine, and he has often told me stories about growing up in Nigeria. I asked him for folklore, and without even needing to ask for Nigerian folklore, he offered up several pieces, including two proverbs. When I asked why he gave me two proverbs, he said that his mother often said them to him, and that mothers and their proverbs are so infamous that there are meme websites dedicated to them that he visits when he feels homesick. Stanley only speaks English, and told me the folklore in English.

Transcript:

Stanley: Yo, it’s Stanley. Ummmm, so, when you’re misbehaving, you come home past your curfew, your Mom or your Dad will say, “oh, so you have grown wings, eh? We will cut them off.”

Owen: When did you hear this?

Stanley: Every time I went out, throughout my teenage years.

Owen: Where?

Stanley: In Kenya. But my parents are Nigerian. So they, and actually just everywhere we lived. Basically. Yeah.

Owen: So you think it’s a traditional Nigerian proverb?

Stanley: Yes. It is very traditional. Everybody says it.

Interpretation:

Stanley explained to me that Nigerian mothers are full of reproachful proverbs. This one essentially means that if you’re misbehaving, there’s an assumption that you think you’re above the rules, that you literally have wings–ie. too much pride. Even though this is a Nigerian proverb, Stanley’s family took it with them as they moved several times. Stanley only speaks English, and this is how he told me the proverb.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Haunted Dorm at USC

Context:

Isabella Estrada is studying history at the University of Southern California. She is graduating this year and is in the process of applying to/hearing back from law schools. This was clearly on her mind as the first piece of folklore she gave me dealt with law school applications. She was born and raised in Torrance, California.

Transcript:

Isabella: Okay, so freshman year, I lived on campus in Pardee Tower and there was an old ghost story that the seventh floor was haunted because some girl…I think two years prior to when I lived there, she died in her room, and her roommate was gone for the weekend, her roommate didn’t find her body until she came back the following Monday. And she was just dead.

Interpretation:

This piece is interesting because the event was historical–thus not fitting into the categories of legend, myth or tale. What is folklore is the belief that the floor of the building is now haunted. Bella could give no specifics on the haunting–for instance, she could not even say for certain if the deceased student wanders the halls or something to that effect. I have often noticed people mentioning that a building, a room, etc. is haunted but they know no more information beyond that.

 

Folk speech

“Cali”

Context:

Isabella Estrada is studying history at the University of Southern California. She is graduating this year and is in the process of applying to/hearing back from law schools. This was clearly on her mind as the first piece of folklore she gave me dealt with law school applications. She was born and raised in Torrance, California.

Transcript:

Isabella: So, uh, as a native from Southern California, we’re pretty much hip to all the California…uh, terms, terminology, anyway. It was always a joke growing up that you could tell a foreigner based on whether or not they said “Cali” to refer to California because no Californian would ever refer to our state as “Cali.”

Interpretation:

Firstly, Isabella shows pride in being from California. This is something many people do with their state, but it especially makes sense in California, a state with so many non-natives, including myself, for example. She expressed a vague superiority in knowing how to talk about her state, and how to spot out those who don’t belong. Many communities do this. For example, I once referred to a New York restaurant as “The Talkhouse,” only to be laughed at by New Yorkers who told me, “we just call it ‘Talkhouse.'” Simple uses of language can often draw attention to a visitor or immigrant.

general

Morgan’s Steep

Context:

Will Lord is my brother. I visited him at his University recently. He attends the University of the South, also known as Sewanee. Given its regal name, one would assume that the school is rich in tradition and folklore. One would be correct. The school was established in 1857. Given its small student body, many feel compelled to join fraternities and societies which each have their own collection of folklore. The school itself is full of legends. While walking around campus, I recorded him talking about famous locations, legends, etc.

Transcript:

Owen: Is this Morgan’s Steep?

Will: Yeah Morgan’s Steep was named after the Confederate General who rode his horse off the bluff in order to protect and hide the military documents he was carrying from the Union Army that was on his tail, never actually happened though, that was just the legend for a while.

Interpretation: 

Here, the legend of a Confederate soldier riding his horse off a cliff is so famous that the lookout point is named after him. There was even a rock that read “Morgan’s Steep.” Will pointed out that this was a mere legend, which to him meant that it was not true. But as a legend implies in the folklore realm, many might defend its validity.

Legends

Nigerian Snake Legend

Context:

Stanley Kalu was raised in Nigeria. Since then, he and his family have lived in various African countries. He currently studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is a friend of mine, and he has often told me stories about growing up in Nigeria. I asked him for folklore, and without even needing to ask for Nigerian folklore, he offered up several pieces, including two proverbs. When I asked why he gave me two proverbs, he said that his mother often said them to him, and that mothers and their proverbs are so infamous that there are meme websites dedicated to them that he visits when he feels homesick.

Transcript:

Stanley: Some traditional Nigerian folklore.

Owen: What’s your name?

Stanley: Stanley Kalu. So in my younger and more vulnerable years, my mama would tell me a story and it was about another mother who kept her daughter inside the house at all times because she was so scared that her daughter would get hurt going out into the real world. And one day she left the house and a snake came in and ate her daughter. And this is a lesson in you can’t protect your kids from everything. Stanley’s Mom, she’s a G, lots of love, Mom.

Interpretation:

This folk legend of the snake is a similar to many stories that tell of the dangers of the world. Stories like La Llorona encourage children to stay inside because they could get hurt or kidnapped or killed in the world. This story also speaks to the dangers of the world, but takes a different tone when it’s moral is that you cannot protect your kids from everything.

Proverbs

Nigerian Thief Proverb

Context:

Stanley Kalu was raised in Nigeria. Since then, he and his family have lived in various African countries. He currently studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is a friend of mine, and he has often told me stories about growing up in Nigeria. I asked him for folklore, and without even needing to ask for Nigerian folklore, he offered up several pieces, including two proverbs. When I asked why he gave me two proverbs, he said that his mother often said them to him, and that mothers and their proverbs are so infamous that there are meme websites dedicated to them that he visits when he feels homesick. Stanley provided the proverb in English.

Transcript:

Stanley: This is a great Nigerian proverb. “Every day is for the thief. One day is for the owner of the house.”

Owen: Could you explain what this proverb means to you?

Stanley: It means that while you can do all the crimes that you want, every day, one day you will get caught and you will get found out.

Owen: Did someone used to say this to you repeatedly?

Stanley: Nah, my Mom just said it one time.

Interpretation:

This is a great example of a proverb that makes little sense to an outsider. When he told me the proverb, I could barely guess what it meant. It is his following explanation that is necessary for understanding. It was also interesting that I had to ask him for the explanation–he stated the proverb so obviously at first.

Folk Beliefs

Jinn in Zanzibar

Context:

Stanley Kalu was raised in Nigeria. Since then, he and his family have lived in various African countries. He currently studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is a friend of mine, and he has often told me stories about growing up in Nigeria. I asked him for folklore, and without even needing to ask for Nigerian folklore, he offered up several pieces, including two proverbs. When I asked why he gave me two proverbs, he said that his mother often said them to him, and that mothers and their proverbs are so infamous that there are meme websites dedicated to them that he visits when he feels homesick.

Transcript:

Stanley: So, I was going, my name is Stanley Kalu. I was going on a trip to a beach in Zanzibar and a Muslim friend of mine told me to watch out for Jinn. And I was like, “what’s a Jinn?” And she was like, “Yo, Jinns are like these people that look like people but aren’t people, they’re like more genies and they walk backwards and what they’ll do, what they do is they’ll trick you and steal your soul. So when you’re in Zanzibar living it up, sipping Mojitos on the beach, do not, if a person comes up to you walking backwards, run the fuck away.

Interpretation:

In Muslim tradition, Jinn are spirits that can appear in human and animal form to possess humans. Often, Jinn require sacrifices and a commitment to them in order for them to be kind in return. In my previous understanding of Jinn, they possess humans or ask for tasks from humans. Stanley’s explanation of them “stealing souls” could be a simplification of their purpose. It could also show the particular folk beliefs about Jinn in Zanzibar–that perhaps they are used as a scare tactic, something to avoid at all costs.

Legends

La LLorona

Context:

Sophia Lopez is a Senior studying Screenwriting at USC. I was sitting with friends when she approached the table and began speaking to one of my friends that she knew. When I asked her if I could record folklore, she needed no definition–she launched straight into the story of La Llorona.

Transcript:

Sophia: My name’s Sophia. Andddd. Okay, so when I was little, I didn’t ever like to go to bed on time, like I was really kind of like a cool kid, and my Nanny would like, she would get really frustrated with me because I, um, wouldn’t ever be in bed on time, and, uh, my family’s Mexican, so they tell a lot of Mexican folklore, well they did when I was little. And so anyways there’s this woman called La Llorona, you know about her?

Owen: We learned about her in class.

Sophia: Yeah, okay, so basically, when I was little, and a bad kid, they told me a story about this woman La Llorona who her husband. Well, there are two versions. One her husband left her and she killed all her kids by drowning them in the river, and that was one version they said. But the other version is that there’s a terrible mudslide and all of her like eight children died and so at night…you know the La Llorona, like it translates to the Weeping Woman, so at night she wanders the streets looking for kids who are out past their bedtime because she wants to take them as their own and either like out of habit she’ll drown them in the river too, or she’ll take them with her to Hell. So that was my, once they told me that I really wanted to go to sleep on time. She can’t see kids who are already asleep.

Interpretation:

When we spoke about La Llorona in our USC Forms of Folklore class, several versions were given from the class. Fittingly, Sophia had two versions handy. The most common trend I have noticed in this legend is that its purpose is to keep children inside the house at night or to get them to go to bed.

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