Author Archive
Folk speech
Proverbs

Shrimp Proverb

Main Piece: Proverb

“El camaron que se duerma se la lleva la corriente”

Translation:

A sleeping shrimp will be swept by the current.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

He was constantly told that as a kid because he would procrastinate on his assignments

  • Where did they learn this piece?

From his Cuban relatives

  • What does it mean to them?

It means to be constantly aware of what you have control over/required to do. If there’s any change, you don’t want to be controlled by its consequences.

Context:

It’s based on the observation of shrimp, when sleeping being taken away from their original location. This can thus be inferred that one must always be on top of whatever they are tasked with, because if not suddenly you lose control and arrive somewhere different and unknown.

Personal Thoughts:

I find this proverb to be very interesting, because a shrimp is normally an insignificant animal that no one really thinks about, but in this case the shrimp is meant to represent a person, and people generally consider themselves to be important.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Proverbs

Proverb: Love is like a Tomato

Main Piece: Proverb

Original:

Прошла любовь, завяли помидоры.

Phonetic:

Proshla lyubov’, zavyali pomidory.

Literal translation:

Love has passed, tomatoes have withered.

Actual translation:

The love was a crush and it passed quickly.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her friends.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union.

  • What does it mean to them?

If she hears it, it means she had a silly crush and has quickly moved on.

Context:

This proverb is told to young people, usually young girls but can be boys, when they have a crush and quickly move on either from liking the person to hating them, or to another person.

Personal Thoughts:

I find this proverb to be very amusing, comparing a person’s feelings to a tomato that has withered, especially since tomatoes are not a food that is commonly associated with anything romantic. Usually when young people hear this proverb, they are insulted at first, because it seems to diminish the value of their feelings, but they find it funnier as they get older and realize those feelings were not nearly as important or significant as they seemed.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Russian Folk Tale about a Chicken with Golden Eggs

Main Piece: Russian Folk Tale

Original:

Однажды жили-били дед и бабушка, и у них была курица по имени Ряба. Курочка Ряба однажды снесла золотое яйцо. Бабушка попыталась сломать его кастрюлькой, но потерпела неудачу. Дедушка пытался сломать его молотком, но не смог. Затем пробежала мышь, ударила яйцо хвостом, и яйцо упало на пол и разбилось. Бабушка и дедушка плакали и плакали, а затем сказала Курочка Pяба. «Не волнуйся, я снесу столько золотых яиц, сколько захотите». И жили они долго и счастливо.

 

Phonetic:

Odnazhdy zhili-bili ded i babushka, i u nikh byla kuritsa po imeni Ryaba. Kurochka Ryaba odnazhdy snesla zolotoye yaytso. Babushka popytalas’ slomat’ yego kastryul’koy, no poterpela neudachu. Dedushka pytalsya slomat’ yego molotkom, no ne smog. Zatem probezhala mysh’, udarila yaytso khvostom, i yaytso upalo na pol i razbilos’. Babushka i dedushka plakali i plakali, a zatem skazala Kurochka Pyaba. «Ne volnuysya, ya snesu stol’ko zolotykh yaits, skol’ko zakhotite». I zhili oni dolgo i schastlivo.

Translation:

Once there lived a grandfather and grandmother, and they had a chicken named Ryaba. Ryaba the Chicken once laid a golden egg. Grandmother tried to break it with a saucepan, but failed. Grandfather tried to break it with a hammer, but could not. Then the mouse ran, hit the egg with its tail, and the egg fell to the floor and broke. Grandmother and grandfather cried and cried, and then Ryaba the Chicken said: “Do not worry, I’ll lay as many golden eggs as you want.” And they lived happily ever after.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s a simple children’s tale that doesn’t make much sense but is fun to tell because it is short.

 

Context:

This is usually performed for children in order to distract them or get them to go to sleep.

 

Personal Thoughts:

This is a very simple and common Russian folktale. It is also makes no logical sense that the grandparents would cry if the egg was broken since they were trying to break it in the first place. It seems that after a lot of retellings of this folk tale some of the information got lost.

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Luau Themed Party

Main Piece: Luau Themed Party

My aunt would host a luau themed party once a year. It was a Hawaiian themed event that we used to see the family. The entire house would be decorated in Hawaiian things like flowers and torches. Oh, and Hawaiian bread rolls: they have a sweeter taste than regular bread. Another dish is purple mashed potatoes. She, my aunt, gets them at the “special market” near her house. We really enjoy going to these events and seeing all the family members and eating all the good food. We aren’t Hawaiian and don’t really have any connection to Hawaii, but the theme is really fun.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This is a traditional festival that her family has every year.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

At the luau party every year.

  • What does it mean to them?

It is a chance for her to enjoy time with her family at a fun and non-religious setting.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At her aunt’s house

  • When?

During the summer.

  • Why?

To get all the family members together.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I think it is very interesting that even though they have no connection to Hawaii, they still have a luau themed party each year. Since her entire family is Jewish, and usually only get together for religious celebrations, it must be nice to have a party that is unrelated to a religious holiday.

Humor

Dirty Dentist Joke

Main Piece: [Dirty] Joke

Original:

Женщина идет к дантисту в местной клинике. Когда она идет по коридору, она ошибочно входит в кабинет гинеколога, понимает, что это не то место, и идет к следующей двери. Она садится на стул дантиста. Входит доктор, сильно пахнущий водкой. Он подходит к ней и говорит: «Ок, открывай!» Она открывает рот. Он говорит: «Ок, немного шире!» она открывает рот шире. Он восклицает: «Эй, у тебя там зубы!»

Phonetic:

Zhenshchina idet k dantistu v mestnoy klinike. Kogda ona idet po koridoru, ona oshibochno vkhodit v kabinet ginekologa, ponimayet, chto eto ne to mesto, i idet k sleduyushchey dveri. Ona saditsya na stul dantista. Vkhodit doktor, sil’no pakhnushchiy vodkoy. On podkhodit k ney i govorit: «Ok, otkryvay!» Ona otkryvayet rot. On govorit: «Ok, nemnogo shire!» ona otkryvayet rot shire. On vosklitsayet: «Ey, u tebya tam zuby!»

Translation:

A woman goes to the dentist at the local clinic. As she’s walking through the hall, she mistakenly walks into the gynecologist’s office, realizes it is the wrong place, and goes to the next door. She sits down in the dentist’s chair. A doctor walks in, smelling strongly of vodka. He comes up to her and says “Ok, open wide!” She opens her mouth. He says, “Ok, a little wider!” she opens her mouth wider. He exclaims, “Hey, you have teeth down there!”

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

He likes to tell jokes and learns them wherever he can.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

He learned this joke at a party.

  • What does it mean to them?

He thinks this is a hilarious joke.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At a party or other social gathering.

  • When?

Whenever it is appropriate to tell a joke.

  • Why?

In order to amuse people and make some people uncomfortable

 

Personal Thoughts:

I’ve heard this joke since I was a small child, but I only understood that a drunk gynecologist accidentally ended up in the dentist’s office and why that is amusing when I grew a lot older. These kinds of jokes are very common at Russian parties and gatherings. The most popular jokes are as always, the most inappropriate.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Protection

Garlic around the Neck keeps Sickness Away

Main Piece: Folk Medicine

My grandma, she was born in 1935… was always told by her aunt, in order to not catch a cold or a flu, you had to put a necklace of raw garlic around your neck. Like what you would do to ward off a vampire. She put the raw clove of garlic around her neck when she went to school and she never got sick.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was told to her to teach her how to ward off illness.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

It was told to her by her grandmother.

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an interesting trick to ward off illness.

 

Context:

  • Where?

n/a

  • When?

When you are afraid you will get sick

  • Why?

To avoid getting sick.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I think that this folk medicine works because garlic does not smell very good, and so people would avoid contact with a person who is wearing garlic, therefore preventing them from getting sick.

Humor

Smart Pills Prank

Main Piece: Prank/Joke

So I used to hear this a lot when I was about 6-7 years old from my dad. Who heard it from his grandfather. When my dad was younger he would always try to pull pranks on his friends, as he friends would to him, so one day he went up to his grandfather and asked if he had any ideas. My great grandfather said: Robbie, have you ever heard of smart pills? My dad replied, no. So my great grandfather went on to explain that my dad should pick up some rabbit pellets (rabbit poop) and put them in a pill bottle. Then, go up to your friends and say, Hey! wanna smart pill? it’ll make you super smart and hand them the pill bottle. Now I don’t think my dad actually gave anyone a rabbit pellet, but the meaning stands.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was told to her as an amusing anecdote

  • Where did they learn this piece?

It was told to her by her father.

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an amusing prank that was played by her father.

 

Context:

Described in main piece.

 

Personal Thoughts:

This seems like a common game in the U.S., where there is a strong tradition of pranking people to eat things that they would never normally eat.

Musical

Russian Children’s Song about a Sheep

Main Piece: Russian Song/Rhyme

Протекала речка, / через речку мост, / на мосту овечка, / у овечки хвост.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.
Пересохла речка, / развалился мост, / умерла овечка, / отвалился хвост.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.
Мне не жалко речки, / мне не жаль моста, / мне не жаль овечки, / а мне жаль хвоста.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.

Не было-б речки, / не было-б моста. / Не было-б овечки, / не было-б хвоста.

Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.

Phonetic:

Protekala rechka, / cherez rechku most, / na mostu ovechka, / u ovechki khvost.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Peresokhla rechka, / razvalilsya most, / umerla ovechka, / otvalilsya khvost.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Mne ne zhalko rechki, / mne ne zhal’ mosta, / mne ne zhal’ ovechki, / a mne zhal’ khvosta.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Ne bylo-b rechki, / ne bylo-b mosta. / Ne bylo-b ovechki, / ne bylo-b khvosta.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.

Translation:

A river ran / a bridge across the river. / On the bridge a sheep, / the sheep had a tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

The river ran dry, / the bridge fell apart. / The sheep died, / the tail fell off.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

I do not feel sorry for the river, / I do not feel sorry for the bridge, / I do not feel sorry for the sheep, / but I’m sorry for the tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

If here was no river, / there would be no bridge. / If there was no sheep, / there would be no tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This is a song/rhyme that he learned in kindergarden.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union.

  • What does it mean to them?

Its just a funny song/rhyme that can be accompanied by a guitar. While it is associated with children, it is also often associated with being drunk and wanting to sing.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At enjoyable gatherings.

  • When?

For children, whenever. For adults, usually when under the influence of alcohol.

  • Why?

For enjoyment.

 

Personal Thoughts:

My father and uncles and grandfathers taught me this song. If was always very fun to sing until the couplet when the sheep dies, which used to make me sad. It is a very strange and ironic song.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Ghost in Blues Hall

Main Piece: Ghost Legend

My aunt on my mother’s side lives in a small town in Mississippi that’s called bay St. Louis. And she and her husband after Catrina moved out of the house because of bad juju and stuff: they were the only house to survive on the street so they wanted to leave. They didn’t leave the town but they moved to a blues hall up the road, and this specific blues hall is special because during the prohibition all of the town mostly black population gathered in the blues hall had live music dancing and alcohol, and notoriously when you are doing thing that are illegal, bad things are going to happen. Because of their illegal escapades, there were deaths in the hall. My aunt and uncle knew this when they moved in, but they renovated half of it to be a home, and then left the other half and created a business throwing events. About a year or so after living in the blues hall, my aunt calls my mom and says “you wont believe this the craziest thing just happened” she explained to my mom that she heard illegible voices, mumbles, incoherent, coming from somewhere in her house. She walks into the party room and watches her 12 foot table get dragged across the room. But there was no one else in the room. Now she claims that she hears voices an’ that things will get misplaced, and she is very adamant about this. She thinks this is supernatural. Nothing harmful has happened.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was told to her by her maternal aunt.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Learned this 5 years ago at a gathering.

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s a story that made her believe in ghosts.

 

Context:

In main piece above

 

Personal Thoughts:

Inexplicable events are often assumed to be the work of ghosts. Even if an event is not witnessed by the person themselves, if they hear it from a trusted relative, they are likely to believe it and therefore believe in the supernatural entity described in the story.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jewish Festival/Ritual: Non-Traditional Passover/Seder

Main Piece: Jewish Festival/Ritual

“My family hosts Passover dinner every year, but our celebration of the holiday is nontraditional in that we perform only a 10 minute seder. When we begin the seder, we always start with a reading of the Haggadah, which recounts the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt and helps us to remember the suffering the Jews experienced as slaves and their happiness and celebration upon being freed. The leader of the seder, my mother, starts of the reading of the Haggadah and then each person around the table reads the paragraph following the previous. The Hebrew prayers we recite together, and upon reciting the prayer for wine, we drink our cup of wine or grape juice. To remember our ancestors tears, we take bitter greens, which are parsley, and dip them in salt water. To remember our ancestors’ hard labor and the bricks Pharaoh forced them to build, we break the matzah and create small matzah sandwiches by adding charoset, a chunky mixture of apples, matzah, and nuts, and horseradish. Before we finish reading the Haggadah, we stop to eat dinner which always starts with matzah ball soup and then we move onto the main courses. In my family, we make some of the same dishes every year, including my aunt’s arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette and pine nuts, beef brisket, and kugel, a sweet-tasting baked noodle casserole. After everyone finishes eating, we finish reading the Haggadah and then prepare dessert. It is during this time too that one of the men in the household, usually my dad, would hide the afikomen, a wrapped-up piece of broken matzah that is to be hidden and searched for by the children of the house those younger than 13 years old, but we don’t do this anymore since there are no more children in our family. Our Passover ends with dessert. Because we are forbidden on Passover to eat foods containing grains like wheat, oat, barley, spelt, etc., we have flourless desserts, including spongecake, fresh fruit, macaroons, chocolate, and flourless cookies.”

Background Information:

-Why does informant know this piece?

The informant is Jewish, and the Seder festival has been celebrated in her family for generations.

- Where did they learn this piece?

She learned about these traditions because she participates in this festival every year

- What does it mean to them?

This event is a way for her distant family to meet up each year.

Context:

- Where? The Seder happens at the dinner table in the informant’s home.

- When? The Seder tradition happens on Passover, which often falls near Christian Easter.

- Why? The Seder serves as a reminder of the Jewish people being freed from Egyptian slavery.

Personal Thoughts:

This year, my friend invited me to attend the Seder at her house. It was a very warm and pleasant experience. According to her, the Seder that happens at her house is very relaxed compared to a traditional Seder which can last up to four hours or more depending on how religious the family celebrating it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I think this tradition of bringing the family together and eating a ritualized meal is very important for the preservation of Jewish culture.

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