Author Archive
Customs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
general
Humor

“Yardsale!” – A Skier’s Term

Context:  I visited the informant’s dorm room at USC at about three o’clock, having already asked him if he was willing to participate in the collection project. He was willing, so we sat down to chat in his bedroom, alone. We began chatting, and I recorded two pieces from him. We sat in silence for a moment as I thought of more questions to ask him, and I remembered that he was an avid skier. I had been skiing since I was a toddler, and knew some folk terms from the practice. I asked him if he knew what a ‘yardsale’ was, and if he could describe it to me. Immediately, he recognized what I meant, and I began recording before he responded.

Transcription:

WD: What’s a yard sale in skiing?

JB: It’s like, when you’re skiing, and you eat shit, and you just lose every piece of gear.

WD: Yeah… but what happens then?

JB: So like, your skis will pop off, you definitely lose your poles, like, goggles, helmet, the whole fuckin’ deal.

WD: And then you’ve gotta figure out how to put all of it back on while on the side of a mountain?

JB: Yeah, your skis are the hard part, since they’ll  sometimes literally slide all the way down the hill, and then you gotta hike to go get it. Or, sometimes, like, fresh powder gets stuck in the bindings of your skis and you’ve gotta kick it out.

WD: And you look like a dumbass in front of other skiers, right?

JB: Exactly, sometimes people will yell “YARDSALE!” at you while they pass. You look like a fuckin’ idiot, for sure.

Informant:  The informant is an 18 year old, German-American student at the University of Southern California. He was born in Aptos, California, a small beach town located to the west of Santa Cruz. He is an avid skier, and has heard the term while skiing with friends in Mammoth, Tahoe and in Bear Valley. He has experienced this type of fall before, and knows how difficult it can be to reset your equipment in the middle of a ski run.

Analysis: This piece of folk language could also be considered as a joke. Experienced skiers tend to exalt themselves, especially when they see inexperienced skiers fall. The term “yardsale” refers to the image of all the skiing equipment scattered across the slope, like items set out for a yardsale. In practice, the phrase can be used as an insult, especially towards strangers on the slope. For example, if an inexperienced skier attempts to ride a hill outside of their skill range and loses their equipment, another more qualified skier may shout the phrase while passing. The inexperienced skier is then left in the middle of the hill, dodging other skiers while searching for their lost poles and skis. Yet, it could also be used as a form of relief in a frightening situation among friends. For example, if a pair of skiers are riding together through difficult terrain and one of them wipes out, their friend may shout the phrase to assuage any fears of injury their friend may have. Especially in a scary fall, the phrase can be used as a form of comedic relief to normalize the drastic nature of the tumble.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Pushing Mongo: A Skateboarding Stereotype

Context:  I visited the informant’s dorm room at USC at about three o’clock, having already asked him if he was willing to participate in the collection project. He was willing, so we sat down to chat in his bedroom, alone. We began chatting, and I recorded three pieces from him. For the final piece, I knew I wanted to talk about skateboarding, a passion both of us enjoy. I remembered that, at the beginning of the semester, I had accused the informant of “pushing mongo,” which has a certain stigma in the skateboarding community. I asked him if he could explain the concept to me, as well as the attitudes surrounding the practice. Somewhat reluctantly, as if it were a shameful secret, the informant began explaining, and I began recording.

Transcription:

JB: Mongo is just when, like while you skate, you push with your front foot instead of your back foot.

WD: And you push mongo, right?

JB: Yeah, but there’s a whole fuckin stigma around it.

WD: What do you mean?

JB: Well, its because… uh…  well I guess it just looks really goofy, and you have to, pretty much, move your feet around literally every time you want to push or pump or do something… So, I guess it’s just sort of impractical, but if you learn how to skate that way, you can’t really do it any other way. So you’re just stuck with it.

WD: But people will call you out for it, right?

JB: Yeah, I mean, you did when we first started skateboarding together. People will call you out for it because, like, no really good skateboarders push mongo.

WD: Yeah, even when, like, pro skaters push mongo while riding switch stance, they’ll still get roasted on Instagram for it. That never really made sense to me, since it’s so difficult to skate switch.

JB: Yeah, I guess it’s just the rules among skaters. Like, you shouldn’t push mongo, but I can’t help it, since it’s how I learned to skate.

Informant: The informant is an 18 year old, German-American student at the University of Southern California. He was born in Aptos, California, a small beach town located to the west of Santa Cruz. The informant attended public school in Aptos and has been skateboarding for six years. He is one of the few skateboarders I know that “pushes mongo,” and he has been doing it since he learned how to skateboard. The informant has mixed emotions about the practice, since, on the one hand, it’s comfortable for him, but on the other, he’s looked down upon by most skateboarders.

Analysis: Skateboarding can be extremely exclusive. Skateboarding has a rich diversity of styles and techniques, but some are valued more than others. But, the first thing a skateboarder will notice about another skater is how they push. Pushing is an immediate indication of a skateboarder’s skill, as it relies solely on the skateboarder’s comfortability on the board. Posture and foot position are clear indicators of the way an individual learned how to skateboard, and their proficiency in the activity. Pushing “mongo” is distinct from any other pushing style, since it is immediately recognizable based on the back foot’s placement. Skateboarders have a heavy emphasis on the “style” of skateboarding, or how effortless the maneuvers look when performed. Since pushing “mongo” is inherently more difficult, as well as takes longer to set up for than pushing regularly, those who push with their front foot rather than their back foot are typically ostracized by other skateboarders. Even among professional skateboarders, pushing “mongo” is a heated topic of discussion. While some professionals are able to push with their back foot, regardless of which foot is oriented in the front, others are forced to keep the same foot planted on the board while pushing “switch stance” (or facing the opposite way on the board than what feels comfortable). Those professional skateboarders who cannot push regularly while riding “switch stance” are typically made fun of, in particular by other professionals. While, the phrase “pushing mongo” can be grounds for exclusion among some skaters, it can also be a source of humor among professionals, simply because the practice looks slightly strange. For more information about “pushing mongo,” watch this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gfcepLX-qw

Customs
general
Humor

Rolling Coal: A Truck-Driver’s Prank

Context: I asked the informant if he would like to collaborate to work on our collection projects, and invited him to my dorm room at USC. We began chatting about various forms of folklore that would fit into our collections, and he informed me that high schoolers at his former high school school had a tradition of pranking people in their trucks. Essentially, he told me, there was a practice called ‘rolling coal,’ involving the exhaust of the car and a cloud of black smoke. Intrigued, I asked him if he could elaborate, and began to record.

Transcription:

WD: What’s like, that thing you were telling me about people’s exhausts in Memphis? What’s that called?

EG: Oh, rolling coal? I mean, I don’t really remember the mechanics of it or anything but…

WD: Oh, don’t worry, just tell me what you remember about it!

EG: Okay, so, I went to  high school in Memphis, Tennessee, so it’s a southern town with a lot of southerners. So, down there, what a lot of southerners take great pride in is having a big truck. I mean, people will spend… thousands and thousands of dollars…

WD: To jack that shit up, huh?

EG: Yeah, exactly, to jack their truck up, lift kits, and all this other stuff, new lights… a hook thingy…

WD: You know, bullshit.

EG: Yeah, bat-mobile type stuff. Um…. And so, there’s a group of kids at my high school who all did that. And, there’s also this other thing they do, mostly douchebags with trucks do, called rolling coal. What they do is modify the exhaust pipe on their truck, so that when they rev the engine hard enough, just black soot and smoke will come out. You can’t see through it, even, since it’s so thick.

WD: Kind of gross, but okay… then what?

EG: So, people at my high school used to drive around town, they would roll up to somebody on the sidewalk and ask them, “Do you like to smoke?” And even before the person can reply, all they do is floor it, and it’ll blast the person on the sidewalk with this disgusting, black smoke, and they just get totally obliterated.

WD: It’s kind of a flex though, because then the person will look in the distance at the souped up truck as it drives away.

EG: Yeah. It’s both a prank and a way to show off your truck, I guess.

Informant: The informant is a 19 year old student at the University of Southern California. He is from Memphis, Tennessee, and is Jewish-American.  He had both seen and heard of the prank, since a group of kids at his high school (he referred to them as the “Truck Kids”) found it funny. While the informant, too, thought it was somewhat funny, he also recognized the environmental impact that the prank may be having.

Analysis: While, on one hand, “rolling coal” is a prank, it’s also reflective of southern attitudes towards trucks and truck drivers. Truck drivers typically take great pride in their cars, especially in the South. Drivers will affix numerous accessories and upgrades to their vehicles in order to customize it to their liking, as well as show off their purchases to other truck drivers. Therefore, these sorts of modifications are normalized in the truck-driving community and, in turn, truck drivers will generally see their vehicles as superior to pedestrians and smaller cars. However, the practice of “rolling coal” takes this self-prophesied superiority to a higher degree. The point of the specific alteration is to spray an unsuspecting victim with the exhaust fumes from the truck’s engine. Most popularly, the practice is used on pedestrians, who are located lower than the driver’s seat on most souped-up trucks, further embedding the notion of superiority into truck-driving culture. While the prank may be funny for the driver and their passengers, it typically is not funny for the other person or people involved. 

general
Humor
Narrative

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Manny Klein: A Dirty Astronaut Joke

Context: I had heard the informant tell this joke at a party in Glendale late into the evening. We were sitting on cushioned chairs outdoors, drinking beers and chatting with roughly four other USC students. About a week later, since we’re both working on folklore collection projects, I invited the informant over to my dorm room at USC after classes. I had remembered the joke, and asked him if he remembered it. He replied quickly, stating that his Jewish grandfather had told him a plethora of jokes throughout his life, and I’d need to be more specific. “The Neil Armstrong one,” I replied, and immediately, he recognized the joke I was referencing. I began to record, and the informant began to tell the joke.

Transcription:

WD: So, tell me that joke that your Grandpa told you.

EG: Yeah, so, my grandfather is a huge Neil Armstrong fan, so he once told me this story. One time, my grandfather, he went to uh… a space convention, and there were a lot of astronauts and astrophysicists there speaking. So, he went to go see Neil Armstrong speak, since he’s such a huge fan. After hearing him speak, he went up to Neil and shook his hand and said, “Mr. Armstrong, I’m just the biggest fan of yours in the world, like, you mean so much to me and inspired me when I was younger. So, I want to ask you, where did you come up with the words ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?’” And, Neil responds, he looks at him kind of confused, “That’s not what I said. I said, ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for Manny Klein.’” And my grandpa said, “Who the hell is Manny Klein? That makes no sense, what are you talking about?” And he said, “I’ll tell you. When I was growing up in New York City in the tenements, you know, it would get hot at night, so we had to open up our windows. Across from my bedroom in the other building, there lived this old Jewish couple, named… Patty and Manny Klein. And… every night, when the window would be open, I could hear them arguing. And every night, Manny would say to Patty, ‘Patty! Would you please give me another blowjob?’ And Patty would respond, ‘When a man walks on the moon!’”

WD: That’s pretty good, man, I like that one.

EG: I fucked up, but that’s alright. I said another at the end on accident, I meant ‘a.’ But, the punchline is intact.

Informant: The informant is a 19 year old student at the University of Southern California. He is from Memphis, Tennessee, and is Jewish-American. The informant recently heard the joke from his Jewish grandfather when he had visited Los Angeles. The informant had never heard the joke before, and was happy to tell it.

Analysis: This joke was created after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and said the famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It plays on the wording of the joke, altering the recognizable phrase into the punchline of the joke. For many, the United States’ moon landing was wholly impactful, and gave way to completely new ways of thinking about the universe. The phrase was heard worldwide, but it was especially impactful to the American populous. Since knowledge of the event was so widespread, this particular joke plays on the communal understanding of what happened during the moon landing. Not only that, but the joke also brings light into the seriousness of the US moon landing. Since the event was, quite literally, a race between Russian and US efforts to reach the moon, the idea that we misinterpreted the national victory is antithetical to what Americans believe.  

This joke is a different version of one created in late 1995, after some believed Neil Armstrong stated, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky” during the moon landing. For that version of the joke, see David Bruce, January 3, 2000, “Wise Up! Risque Anecdotes” for The Athens News, pg. 33.

Foodways
Material

Del o Jigar: Iranian Comfort Food

Context: I asked the informant if he wished to participate in the folklore project fifteen minutes after he had smoked a bowl of marijuana from a bong. He was extremely enthusiastic about participating in the collection project, but wasn’t sure exactly what I meant by “folklore.” I explained to him that it could be a traditional food that his parents make him, or something Iranian that he enjoys eating. His eyes lit up, and he slowly said, “Del o jigar.” I began recording, and asked him to explain what he meant by the term.

Transcription:

WD: What kind of foods do your parents make you? Like, what’s a comfort food that your mom makes?

DO: Actually, my mom hates this, but del-o-jigar. It’ basically cow liver, that’s jigar, and del is, like, ummm,  the heart or intestines of the cow. It’s something. They both taste really, really good.

WD: So, where would you get it? Would your mom make it?

DO: Well for me, its like, you know, that guy with a kind of dirty restaurant. You’re in Tehran, and you’re looking around, like, damn, I’m hungry. So you walk in, you smell the smells of the meat, it smells gamey, like kind of a funky meat. Just like some really cool stuff. Then, they take it off the skewer, a little lime juice, a little greens,  and a piece of bread… then grrrrrrr.

WD: Damn. So is that like, the equivalent of like a New York Slice, in a way?

DO: No, it’s like, street comfort food. It’s more like… it’s more like street tacos. In a weird kind of way. They even sell it here, I have a place I like.

Informant: The informant is a 19 year old, male Iranian-American USC student. He was raised in Los Gatos, California, and attended a private all-boys catholic school in San Jose, California. He has visited Tehran, Iran several times to visit extended family members, and has had this dish many times. He said that it’s better to purchase the food in Iran, but he occasionally buys it in the United States, as well. He informed me that it always reminds him of his heritage to indulge in the food, and when he’s feeling homesick, he’ll grab a bite to eat.

Analysis: Upon researching further, I found that del o jigar is the heart and the liver of the cow, roasted on a skewer and wrapped in taftoon, or flatbread. It is sold as street food in larger Iranian cities, such as Tehran. Historically, in Iran, cattle have been the basis for economic growth and expansion, holding deep significance in the traditional cuisine of the nation. Del o jigar is an extremely popular food to purchase while wandering the city of Tehran. The food is quick to make, relatively inexpensive, and can be made anywhere, making the food a near equivalent to a Los Angeles street taco.

Folk Beliefs
Foodways
general
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Matzah Pizza: Jewish Folk Cuisine

Context: I invited the informant to my dorm room at USC to work on the project collaboratively. He sat down next to me, and we began having a conversation about the passover holiday. He told me that Passover snacks were somewhat strange, but ultimately delicious. I inquired further, since I was unaware of the specific snacks that accompanied the holiday. I began recording, and asked the informant to tell me about his favorite Passover snack.

Transcription:

EG: Oh man, it would have to be matzah pizza.

WD: Matzah pizza? What’s that?

EG: So, Passover is the celebration or annual remembrance of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. In the biblical story, one aspect of it is, when they were preparing to leave and escape from the Egyptians, they started baking bread. But, they had to leave, like rush to leave, so there was no time for the bread to rise in the oven. So, it’s all this flat stuff…

WD: Yeah, like, the unleavened bread, right?

EG: Yeah exactly. Anyways, so now we eat this thing called matzah, it’s like, unleavened bread or kind of like a cracker.

WD: But what’s matzah pizza? I’ve never heard of that before.

EG: So, the diet restricts you… or, people who strictly adhere to the diet of passover don’t eat anything that has any, like, bread related products or anything, except for the matzah, since it’s so symbolic. So, it’s hard to think of any good snacks to eat, but one thing that’s easy is to take a piece of matzah, put some tomato sauce on it, put some cheese on it,  maybe a little garlic…

WD: Oh, I see where this is going…

EG: Yeah, maybe some basil even… you put that baby in the oven and it’s a great snack.

WD: So it’s almost, like, a comfort food, huh?

EG: It is a comfort food. And it’s turned into one of those things where… where I really like matzah pizza now, and I’ll look forward to it. You know, Passover’s not, like, usually the most fun holiday, so it gives me something to look forward to.

WD: Oh, so you know that whenever Passover comes around, the matzah pizza’s comin’ too?

EG: Yeah, exactly. It’s not really something I eat normally, just around the Passover season.

Informant:The informant is a 19 year old student at the University of Southern California. He is from Memphis, Tennessee, and is Jewish-American. The informant attended high school at Memphis University School in Tennessee, a unisex private catholic school. The informant’s parents and family have been making the snack since as long as he can remember, and he’s grown a strange affinity for the particular food.

Analysis: This food is highly symbolic for the Jewish peoples, but it also integrates Italian culture into the dish. Since, around the Passover season, strict practitioners of the Jewish faith are prevented from eating raised bread, they have created alternatives to their favorite foods. Matzah pizza is no exception, as it adds new flavors to the traditional matzah cracker. Contemporarily, the dish has become a staple of the religious holiday, and Jewish peoples look forward to making and eating the dish. Although it doesn’t necessarily match the flavor quality of pizza, it has a distinct flavor that Jewish children learn to love at a young age. Not only does it provide a direct tie to the religious faith of the Jewish peoples, but it has also evolved into a type of comfort food during the Passover season. 

For another recipe for matzah pizza and other Passover snacks, see Randi Sherman, April 10, 2009, “Matzah Love Year-Round” in The New York Jewish Week, pg. 3.

Customs
Folk speech
general
Kinesthetic

Moles: The Marijuana-Smoker’s Addiction

Context: I asked the informant if he wished to participate in the folklore project fifteen minutes after he had smoked a bowl of marijuana from a bong. He was extremely enthusiastic about participating in the collection project, but wasn’t sure exactly what I meant by “folklore.” I explained to him that it could be a slang term for something he’s done or seen others do, and he quickly recognized the opportunity to talk about the term “mole” for smokers. I began recording, and asked him to explain what he meant by the term.

Transcription:

WD: So, tell me about moles?

DO: A mole, otherwise known as a moke, a mook, a chop, a T-bowl, a hairy Pete…

WD: 50/50?

DO: Yeah, it’s when you like, put 90% tobacco and a little bit of weed on top into a bowl of a bong, and you light the whole thing on fire, and you snap the whole thing.

WD: Yeah.

DO: And so, what happens to you is you basically [cough], become an incapacitated person for a good 25-30 seconds…. And you can’t stand, or do anything like drool or, like,  just look like an idiot. And they’re extremely addictive, since that whole effect is from the nicotine. And it makes you feel the nicotine in your head, like extremely in your head.

WD: Yeah.

DO: And they’re extremely addictive, like, there’s kids that do them all day. And it’s super bad for you. Like, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Informant: The informant is a 19 year old, male Iranian-American USC student. He was raised in Los Gatos, California, and attended a private all-boys catholic school in San Jose, California. The informant has heard many variations of the term “mole,” especially since he moved from Los Gatos, California to Los Angeles. Though the informant has experienced the effects of the practice, he told me that he wouldn’t recommend anyone doing it, simply because of the addictive qualities of a “mole.”

Analysis: The practice of taking “moles” can become a competition amongst smokers, especially in a party setting. By “snapping” the bowl (or, burning the contents of the bowl piece into ash before sucking it through the bong), smokers are forced to take the entirety of the contents into their lungs in a single pull. This leads to competitions to see who can pack more tobacco or marijuana into the bowl before taking the “mole.” This practice is meant to be lighthearted amongst smokers, but can be extremely dangerous as well. Taking “moles” can lead to vomiting and seizures due to the immense intake of nicotine, since one can smoke more tobacco through a bong in a single pull than with a cigarette in a single pull. In turn, this leads to nicotine addiction, one of the hardest substances to stop taking. Although taking “moles” can be a fun, lighthearted activity amongst friendly weed-smokers, it can also lead to a frightening dependency on the substances at hand.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Never Eat Bananas Before Bed: Folk Medicine

Context: I met with the student in his dorm room at around noon. A few students were milling around the room, waiting until their afternoon classes began. I started to chat with the group, all of which are freshman at USC, and I realized it would be the perfect context to record. I began by asking the informant about “Punch Buggy,” a popular childhood game to play in the car. Next, I asked the informant if his parents had ever shared some strange medical advice with him during his childhood. He replied with, “Never eat bananas before bed.” Somewhat confused, I asked him to elaborate and recorded his response.

Transcription:

WD: What did your parents used to tell you about eating bananas before bed?

SN: They told me to never eat bananas before bed ‘cuz you’ll wake up with a cough. Now, because of that, I won’t eat bananas before I go to sleep.

WD: Hunh, interesting. Where are your parents from again?

SN: My dad is from Burma and my mom is from Madagascar.

WD: So they won’t eat them before going to bed either, I bet?

SN: Yeah, they never do, so now I don’t either I guess.

Informant: The informant is a 19 year old male student at the University of Southern California. He was raised in Santa Monica, California, and his father is Burmese and his mother is Madagascan. The informant attended Santa Monica High School before arriving to USC. His parents informed him of the folk medicine, and he chooses to not eat bananas before going to sleep as a result.

Analysis: This piece of folk medicine could be derived from either of the informant’s parents, but is most likely tied to his mother. The Madagascan people were some of the first to ever cultivate bananas, however, they are contemporarily considered inedible, due to their high amount of seeds. It is possible that, since the bananas were so tough to eat, that swallowing the seeds before sleeping could cause a sore throat, in turn leading to a cough in the morning. However, this has no scientific evidence. While, it’s true that congestion can be worsened by bananas for some people, the body is also more prone to infection at night. Since the body takes roughly 2-3 hours to digest a banana, one’s immune system is weakened further by eating a banana before sleeping. Yet, at the same time, bananas are quite useful in protecting and strengthening one’s immune system. Possibly, the cough had been developing slowly, and sleeping worsened the preexisting affliction. It seems that, although  there is no guarantee of whether or not this particular piece of folk medicine is accurate, bananas could be a cause for a morning cough.

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