Author Archive
Folk Beliefs

Eating and Swimming Superstition

Piece:

Interviewer: “Where did you learn the superstition about waiting thirty minutes after eating to go in the ocean?”

Informant: “Oh, that? Everybody did. You would be struck dead, I mean you would… you would seize up in a cramp and go to the bottom. I mean, we all lived in fear of that. I bet you your mom had that too. You know, you would go to the beach for the whole day, and the moms would bring lunch or something, and then you had to bloody well sit there for longer than thirty minutes, it just was forever! (laughs)”

Background:

The informant indicated that this was a highly pervasive belief during her childhood that almost every beach goer subscribed to.

Context:

This was recorded during a conversation at the informant’s home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

Although I am familiar with this superstition having grown up near the beach, it seems pretty clear that actual belief in this superstition has decreased dramatically. I have heard it mentioned but have yet to meet a single person that actually takes this advice to heart. Interestingly, the informant proceeded to describe everyone’s fascination with sunbathing at the time directly after this, which might suggest that this belief could serve as an excuse to avoid the water and simply sit in the sun all day.

Musical
Narrative

Frankie and Johnny (Folksong)

Piece:

Informant: “I really love that song, Frankie and Johnny it goes. I will sing it for you (recites the lyrics in a sing song voice): Frankie and Johnny were lovers / Lordy could they love / They swore to be true to each other / Just as true as the stars above / He was her man, but she was doin’ him wrong (laughs)”

Background:

The informant learned this tune from her mother, who sang the song, much to her teacher and class’s shock, at a show and tell during elementary school. The informant notes the similarity between this song and the story of Bonnie and Clyde, and hypothesizes that there is a connection between the two.

Context:

This was recorded during a conversation at the informant’s home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

When the informant sang this song and mentioned that it was inappropriate for an elementary school show and tell, I decided to do further research into other verses or variants on the same verse because the lines she remembered didn’t seem to point at anything particularly inappropriate (I figured “doin’ him wrong” must have a sort of sexual implication). Sure enough, I was able to find much longer versions of the song, which described the story of Frankie shooting Johnny after she found him sleeping with another woman. Interestingly, because the act of sleeping with another is ostensibly what the informant meant by “doin’ him wrong,” the two different versions have the roles of each character reversed. In the version I was able to find, the line is “doing her wrong,” implying that Frankie found Johnny sleeping with another woman, whereas in the informant’s version, the line is “doin’ him wrong,” which would suggest the opposite: that Johnny discovered Frankie sleeping with another man.

Annotation:

For an alternative version of this song, see Lyon College’s Wolf Folklore Collection:

“Frankie and Johnny.” Wolf Folklore Collection, edited by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., Lyon College, web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/andersonfrankie1257.html. Accessed 24 Apr. 2019.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Humor

Knock a Dog Off a Gut Wagon

Piece:

Informant: “Smelled so bad it would knock a dog off a gut wagon.”

Background:

The informant learned this saying from her mother, and explained that it came from old butcher shops that would deliver meat on vehicles called “gut wagons,” where the meat and inedible guts of an animal were separated.

Context:

This was recorded during a conversation at the informant’s home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

I think this is a good example of a saying that has probably declined in use due to its decreased relevance in the modern day. I have never heard of this saying or even a “gut wagon” before, which is largely unsurprising given the rise of the food industries, which has led to the separation of consumers and the processes that bring food from farm to table. Instead of directly interacting with a butcher, most consumers nowadays simply visit a grocery store and purchase prepackaged meat that is already trimmed and cleaned.

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