Author Archive
Folk speech

Four

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).

HH: We don’t like the number four. Four means um, in Cantonese, like translates to “die.” So, um… Fourteen is like um, “You will die.”

ZM: Oh noo

HH: Yeah, it’s really bad. So, we don’t like that number.

 

Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.

 

Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.

 

Analysis: I have heard that four is similar to the word for death in Chinese, but I had not heard about fourteen. It makes me wonder about all other numbers that include “four.” I previously thought it was just the “four” by itself that was negative, but now I am not sure.

 

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

ZM: Any legends? Is there like a New Mexican legend that you…?

KM: Oh! Yes. Indeed. So, there’s this legend. I can’t pronounce it for the life of me.

ZM: Could you spell it?

KM: Yes. So, it’s “la,” like la and then space, “ll.” Actually…it’s on my phone. (laughs) lemme… Okay, so it’s “la,” space, “llorona,” like La Lallorona or something like that. They roll their r’s or something that I can’t do. So, basically there’s this um, legend that this woman, um, took her kids (chuckles) This is scary. So, uh she took her kids like from her house and like drowned them in the river. Yeah. So, and that like… her kids and were like screaming the whole night and like… OH NO NO no. I think it’s… Her kids were screaming so much that she like took them to the river and drowned them. So, the legend is when you… like um… The winds in New Mexico, in the spring, are like really bad, like they’re like fifty miles an hour. Like crazy. And so the legend is, when you hear the like really fast wind. Like the scream from the wind, it’s the scream of her kids. And um, stay away from rivers. So, like the whole thing is like if you’re near an arroyo, which is what we call a ditch…

ZM: (obviously lost)

KM: You know those ditches that like…

ZM: On the side of roads?

KM: Not really. They’re kind of like… um… They’re like where rain water goes, but they’re like pretty deep.

ZM: But they’re not on the side of roads?

KM: Sometimes they are, but not necessarily.

ZM: Are you talking about like natural ones?

KM: Yeah. Like natural ones.

ZM: I’m sorry. Florida doesn’t have much… variation in… (laughs)

KM: So, I have one behind my house and it’s basically like… it’s lower in elevation so all the water goes there and then it goes under the road. So, I guess it’s kind of near the road. And it like drains to like a river.

ZM: whaaaa. hunh

KM: So, it’s kind of like a stream, but it’s only when rain…

ZM: I feel like this is a language barrier. It’s like a land barrier. Like, I’m not exposed to these land forms.

KM: But anyway, so when you go to like an arroyo and you hear the wind scream. It’s like La Lallorona is coming for you and you have to like go in your house or she’s gonna kill you.

ZM: Is that just kids or is that everyone?

KM: It’s mostly just kids. Like, parents tell their kids these stories so they won’t be near the arroyo at night.

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Analysis: I thought it was interesting that this version still contained the classic “Stay away from rivers” message, but also more specifically to stay away from arroyos at night. This is a geographic marker because arroyos are only found in arid and semi-arid climates.

 

Folk speech

¡Que Viva La Marihuana!

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

KM: There’s this thing, like it’s related to Zozobra… (laughs) That’s all I can think of right now. It’s like um… So, what we do is like… Basically, there’s like this call and response type of thing that we do. So, it’s in Spanish, but it’s like “Que viva la fiestas,” Or like, “Long live the fiestas.” And we respond like, “Que viva.” But, we’ve kind of co-opted it to mean anything. So like, one time we were just like smoking weed (laughs) and my friend was like, “¡Que viva la marihuana! ¡Que viva!” Long live the weed. (laughs) So, I mean we do that a lot. Like… I mean, but not with weed (laughs) Sorry. We could do like um… What would we… So, we would be like, um… I don’t know, “Que viva…” I hate to say this, but like the baseball team in Albuquerque is the Isotopes. So like, “Que viva la Isotopes.”

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture. Zozobra is a New Mexican festival composed of multiple fiestas.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Analysis: Although the phrase is in Spanish, the usage suggests a lack of knowledge of the Spanish language because the article is continuously left in the singular form even when the nouns are plural.

 

 

 

Festival
Foodways

Sopapillas

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

ZM: So, for Zozobra, is there food?

KM: Yes. There’s a lot of food.

ZM: Are there any like special dishes that are like…You bring these out FOR Zozobra?

KM: Well, there’s not… There’s like… You can get them at restaurants too, but it’s like specifically at Zozobra, you can get… Do you know what sopapillas are?

ZM: I’ve heard of them, but like… You would have to describe it again. Like I don’t…

KM: It’s like…It’s kind of like a puff pastry type thing that you fry and it’s like a really like pillowy, like…treat. And you put like honey on it.

ZM: But, there’s nothing inside?

KM: There’s nothing inside. It’s just like fluffy inside and then you pull it apart and like put honey in it. So, it’s kinda just like a fried tortilla… But, like better.

ZM: Oh wait, so, but you said it’s fluffy?

KM: But it’s… So, yeah so if it’s like… When it’s not cooked it’s like a tortilla, but then when you fry it, it like puffs up.

ZM: Like a biscuit or something?

KM: Yeah, kinda… I’ll show you a picture. (laughs)

ZM: Is it corn or wheat or…?

KM: I have no idea. That’s a good…great question. A lot of people… Like, I’ve never had a churro…

ZM: Really?

KM: Which is crazy. But, like sopapillas are kind of like our churros.

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture. Zozobra is a New Mexican festival composed of multiple fiestas.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Analysis: From the description given by KM, sopapillas seem kind of like beignets, but also kind of like biscuits. Either way, they sound delicious.

 

Customs
Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Zozobra: The Original Burning Man

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

KM: Most of my like cultural traditions I would say actually come from like, New Mexico. And not like…(Irish traditions) So it’s an interesting mix of like Native American and like Spanish culture. So like, um…We do this… I’ll give you some of the backstory. Basically, some pueblos back in the like 1600s or whatever, rebelled from the Spaniards. And like, they were like an independent country for like two years or something. And then the Spaniards took them back over, but they were like “We’ll give you this fiesta that you can hold every year in September” to like celebrate the pueblo revolt. And so what we do is we… (laughs) This is weird. So just… give me a second. We um… have about a one hundred foot puppet that we fill with our like grievances, like something bad that happened to us in the past year. And then we put it on like…We like hang it up and it’s like a marionette so it like moves and shit and we burn it. (laughs) Yeah.

ZM: Wait so, what is the puppet of? Like what does the puppet look like? Is it a peeerson?

KM: Yeah. But it’s not like a… It’s like a…uhhh… I just have to show it to you. So we call it Zozobra, which means “burning man.” So it’s like…

ZM: Is this like the music festival?

KM: (laughs) No. It’s like… We… It’s a specifically like Santa Fe thing. So, he kinda looks like… (shows picture) So, it’s like kind of a man. But, not really. And he’s like a hundred feet tall and we burn him.

ZM: Is he supposed to be scary looking?

KM: Yes! Because it’s like old man gloom. Like all of the bad things that happened to you in the past year is like… personified in this puppet. And then we burn it to say like goodbye to all of that. Like we’re starting a new…

ZM: And this happens when?

KM: This happens usually the… Usually it’s the first Thursday of September, but it’s recently been moved because too many people were drunk, on a Thursday. So, it’s recently been moved to the last Friday of August. And we also…

ZM: So, that’s just like a week earlier.

KM: Yeah. So, its… I mean, it’s just because they wanted to do it on a Friday because all these kids would like get drunk and high on a Thursday night then like go to school the next day. So, um, now we do it on a Friday, but like it’s part of this whole week where we have like festivals and like parades and all that stuff.

ZM: Oh so the whole week is dedicated to…?

KM: Yeah! The whole week is dedicated… It’s called like… just “fiestas,” like in general and like on Saturday there’s a pep parade and then Friday is Zazobra and it’s just like… And then there’s a whole council. (laughs) Sorry. So, it’s call the Fiesta Council. And so it’s like all the original members…

ZM: Is that for the town?

KM: Yeah. It’s like, all the original um members like Don Diego de Vargas. Like all these famous people, who like first… Well, I know it’s not famous to you, but like famous in New Mexico for like, the first people ever in New Mexico to like colonize. So, it’s like Don Diego de Vargas, and like you like try out for this like… So it’s like the Princess of Fiestas and the Prince of Fiestas. And so you’re on this council and what you do is you come into the schools and we…They do a little like fiesta for us, and we can like go down in the gym and like dance with all of the like, city, like the council members.

ZM: Wait, so… Let me get this straight. Are they people that go to like represent the original members?

KM: Yes. So basically, they are like… the people, but like… So, you like try out to be these members…

ZM: So, could you try out to be…

KM: Yeah. I could.

ZM: Okay. You don’t have to actually be like…

KM: You should. Like, I mean, most people are, but…

ZM: Like Native American or?

KM: Well, or mainly Spanish. Because most of the people who came over to like colonize are the Spanish. And so, it’s mostly Spanish.

ZM: Oh! The colonizers.

KM: Yeah. (laughs) Even though we’re celebrating the pueblo revolt. It doesn’t make… But, a lot of people are Native American too. And there’s like different spots on the council for… So, it’s like the main council, and then like the Native American princesses and like… There’s like, a group of twenty. Something crazy like that. And then like, they come around and they’re like “Hi, we’re this year’s fiesta council. Like, come to Zozobra. It’ll be fun.”

ZM: So is that kinda like uhh… Like um, like a Miss New Mexico kind of thing?

KM: Yeah kind of.

ZM: But, like a cultural one.

KM: Yeah. So, it’s a big deal too. And then in every school they like would call out names and be like, “Oh the QUEEN of fiestas for Saint Michaels High School,” which is my high school…and they would just like name a person. And I always wanted to be that person in like elementary school, but then I realized you just have to be friends with like the people in the council. Cause they’re just like “Oh your daughter’s name is Sarah? Okay she’ll be the princess of Saint Michaels.” And I was like, “Bitch…I deserve it.” (laughs) Like come on…

ZM: But, what do you do as  the princess of…

KM: Oh you don’t do anything. You just wear a crown for that day… in the school.

ZM: Oh. But do you get to go to the… do you get to go to the…festival.

KM: Yeah you get to go to like a certain like VIP place for Zozobra. And it’s really interesting cause we play like a bunch of New Mexican songs and there’s like mariachi bands and like it’s really fun.

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM originally about her Irish culture.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is of Irish descent.

 

Analysis: The most interesting thing about KM’s description of Zozobra was that even though the festival was made to celebrate the pueblo revolt against the Spanish colonizers, the colonizers are also celebrated in the form of the Fiesta Council. Again, the colonizers were put into positions of power over the others as members of the Fiesta Council nominate a Prince and Princess of Fiestas. It seems counterintuitive.

 

 

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Protection

Cemetery Etiquette

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).

HH: When we go to the cemetery to visit our dead relatives. You, you can… well I feel like this is American too. You can never step on the tombstone of another person. And I did that once and my dad…

ZM: Uh oh.

HH: No, no I didn’t stepped on her tombstone, my hat flew on her tombstone and my dad threw away my hat and he made me apologize to the dead person.

ZM: Just your hat?

HH: Yeah. And he literally threw it away. Like, you touched dead, you touched someone’s… like a dead person’s tombstone.

ZM: But like, if it was like your relative that you’re visiting and you like touched it like in an endearing way…Is it still bad to touch the tombstone?

HH: I don’t think so… No, like if it’s an endearing way then not. Like it was just like me, like it was a stranger like…It was me sort of like disrespecting the dead and I literally had to… He literally had to um make me apologize to her like… He was saying like, “She’s just a little kiiiid. Don’t haunt us.” Like that kind of thing. Like, when you go to cemetery you don’t want the dead to follow you back.

 

Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.

 

Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.

 

Analysis: I thought this practice was kind of extreme. I understand not wanting to disrespect the dead by stepping on their graves, but just a hat hitting the tombstone doesn’t seem like enough to cause harm in my opinion.

 

 

 

 

Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

August 15th

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).

ZM: Are there any other large Chinese holidays that you don’t really see celebrated…?

HH: Um we also celebrate, um August 15th. That’s Lunar New Year Calendar. Um Lunar Year Calendar. Um it’s to celebrate… I…um it’s the, the Mooncake Festival. That’s the English name.

ZM: Mooncake?

HH: Yeah. We eat mooncakes during that time to signify the round shape of the moon, that’s when it’s supposed to be the roundest, that month. And um… There’s a story behind it, you have to um google it. It’s about um these ancient, this ancient couple. I learned it in my Chinese class when…in high school, but I forget. It’s a love story. And we just watch the moon and eat mooncakes um and we um we go to relative’s house to exchange um boxes of mooncakes. Yeah.

ZM: And the mooncakes are like the store mooncakes, right? Or are they like, a different…?

HH: Store mooncakes yeah. Rarely people uh make it themselves. Um yeah they come in squares and then there’s like eggs…um egg yolks inside. They’re pretty good. You should try them.

ZM: But not like…They’re not like the Hostess like moon pies…Are they different? What are the moon… Like can you… What are the mooncakes? Are they the like chocolate covered like…

HH: NOoOo they’re not chocolate. They’re not that. (laughs) They’re a lot more traditional you’re gonna have to search it up. Um it comes in squares and there’s egg yolks inside and then like…I don’t know how to describe it…

ZM: Is it sweet?

HH: Umm… Yeah. It depends on what flavor it is. It comes in different flavors.

ZM: Okay, what are the different flavors?

HH: Like, red beans, and some other nuts. (laughs) I don’t… A lot of these things are meant to be said in Chinese.

 

Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.

 

Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.

 

Analysis: This holiday in particular was difficult for HH to explain because it is often discussed in Chinese and the translation is not always clear. I think my confusion with the American Moon Pies also confused me. If I had never heard of a Moon Pie there would have been less confusion about the Chinese mooncakes.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Chinese New Year

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).

ZM: What do you do for Chinese New Year?

HH: Umm… In terms of when I’m here in college or when I’m back home?

ZM: When you’re at home.

HH: When I’m home um my parents would clean the house, like um frantically because we need to be clean for the new year and we also can’t wash our hair on the first day of New Year’s too because if you wash your hair, you’re washing your luck. Yeah. Very interesting. Um, it’s nothing really special, it’s just being with your family, um… The whole day you um… Do you know what Yum ta is?

ZM: No.

HH: Like going out for morning tea, like with dim sum…

ZM: I’ve never heard of that. I don’t, I don’t know.

HH: Okay um so uh we do yum ta, which is like going to um a local, um a nearby restaurant around our house and inviting all of our relatives and…

ZM: Is that New Year’s day?

HH: New Year’s day yeah. Um, and all of our relatives will come and we exchange um red envelopes with money inside and um its umm… If you’re married you give, you give a red envelope to the kids so…As long as I’m not married I can still receive them.

ZM: But you don’t give any?

HH: I don’t give any until I’m married. Yeah it’s a perk. (laughs) Uhhh yeah and then um on the day, or like… Chinese New Year goes for like a few days like up to fifteen days. It depends on how long you want to celebrate it. Umm, like the first few days um either relatives and friends come to your house or you can go to their house and you bring gifts like oranges or like crackers or whatever to uh to bring to their house and you get to exchange gifts, and you guys talk and drink tea and all of that.

ZM: Do the oranges have any significance? Like why oranges or…?

HH: Umm… I feel like they do, but I don’t know (laughs) Uh that’s pretty much what we do. And um we eat chicken. It’s for a reason, but I don’t know why also. But, chicken is like a good kind of meat like… Um you always want um, like for dinner you always, for like the first few days, my brother’s in-laws and us we all eat together as a big family. Like a sign of um, a union. Um, so we have like up to ten dishes for like not even ten people. Like, um it’s very lavish dinner with like chicken, umm duck, fish, all kind of veggies, noodles, noodles really important as a sign of longetivity in life. So, yeah.

 

Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.

Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.

 

Analysis: I thought it was interesting that you only begin giving red envelopes when you are married. Even if you are an adult and you are not married, you do not have to give the envelopes, you only receive them. But, if they’re married and they don’t have kids to give envelopes to they exchange red envelopes between husband and wife. While marriage and adulthood would’ve previously been equivalent, in today’s society they can be very separate, and this changes the tradition a little bit.

 

Foodways
Holidays

Goulash

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (EC) and I (ZM).

EC: Stuff that we would do is we would eat goulash on holidays. Which is like a German stew.

ZM: What’s in it?

EC: Umm… It’s just basically a stew I guess. Like vegetables and some form of meat. I feel like…it was probably just like beef or something normal like that, but like it has a German name so…

ZM: Who makes the goulash?

EC: My aunt does. So… yeah.

ZM: She’s the one that was in the military?

EC: Umm my uncle by marriage was in the military and then she is my like blood aunt. My dad’s sister.

 

Context: This is from a conversation I started with EC about her German traditions.

 

Background: EC is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. She is of German descent. She was born and raised in Sacramento. Most of her German traditions were not passed down, rather influenced by aunt’s family who lived on a military base in Germany.

 

Analysis:I thought it was interesting that even though EC is “significantly German heritage-wise,” the only German traditions practiced by her family are not due to their lineage rather a modern-day influence.

 

 

 

Folk speech

Hella, Grody, Jank

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (EC) and I (ZM).

ZM: Is there any like, NorCal slang?

EC: Ooo slang. Like, “grody,” and umm “hella.” I know a lot of these have like spread because of the Internet, but they’re like OG NorCal I would say. Yeah, “grody” and “hella” or like… “jank” or “janky.” That’s one. Those are my best three I would say.

ZM: Okay. And how would you use…all three?

EC: Umm. Okay “hella” is like basically what it sounds like. And it started in Davis. Which is like fifteen minutes from my house. Umm…and… they’re really obsessed with it. They tried to get a like formal unit of measurement. Like a prefix as like the hella. So it was like ten to the like 36 or something. So it would be like, “I have a hellagram of” like something. But, like that didn’t pan out I don’t think. Um, “grody” is like gross I suppose. Um… just kind of like… nasty. “Janky” is like… not necessarily like suspicious, but like… something like about…like if you had like a really old car that like looked like it was about to fall apart, like that would be a janky ass car. (laughs)

 

Context: This is from a conversation I started with EC originally about her German traditions.

 

Background: EC is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. She is of German descent. She was born and raised in Sacramento.

 

Analysis: I am from Florida and I had heard of all of these slang terms before coming to California. I did not know that they supposedly came from NorCal nor that there was an attempt to create an official unit of the “hella.” EC seems to firmly believe that these words all originated in Northern California. It’s plausible, but also very difficult to tell.

 

 

[geolocation]