Author Archive
Proverbs

Friends Proverb

MG: Cual is tu favorito dicho?

Which is  your favorite proverb?

CG: “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres. Como si te juntas con personas inteligentes seras inteligente y si te juntas con personas malosas tambien vas a ser cosas malas.”

Tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are. Like if you are around people who are intelligent you are going to be intelligent too and if you hang out with people who do bad things you are also going to do bad things.

English proverb: “A man is known for his friends”

Context: I asked CG for her favorite proverb and this was the first one that came to her mind.

Background: CG is my mom and she was born in Mexico. She came here when she was 17 years old and she still remembers these proverbs that old wise people would tell her. She believes it especially because the people who you are around can strongly influence who you are. She has told this one to me before and when she told me the proverb many stories of her using this one on me came to mind.

Thoughts: This is a well-known proverb and I was not too surprised to find that there is an official English version of this proverb. Growing up my mom would tell me this whenever she would advise me to choose my friends wisely. She has always explained to me that even if I did not do bad things with my friends, people would automatically make assumptions on who I was by the people I would hang out with. This is a common Mexican proverb used in families within the context of gangs. There is a large amount of young people in the Latin American culture who are involved in gangs and this proverb is used to discourage them from being friends with gang members.

 

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Teeth falling out in dreams

Context: We were sitting in a car eating fast food when the conversation turned into a discussion of dreams. The informant mentions superstitions she has heard growing up.

“I’ve had dreams where my teeth fall out. Like my tooth was loose so I touched with my hand it just came off no blood nothing. I just wanted to start crying I was like noo how am I gonna eat or how am I gonna smile. Like all these things flash through my head. But its really bad, you’re supposed to tell someone like the next day literally when you wake up you need to tell anyone that’s closest to you because it is bad if you keep it to yourself”

Background: The informant had heard this growing up from her family and she believes it. Whenever she has had a dream where her teeth are falling she tells whoever she can. She also shared that her aunt had a dream that her teeth fell out and that’s when her mom got sick. Since it happened to someone else she takes it seriously. She grew up in a Mexican American household.

Analysis: I, myself have had quite a few dreams about my teeth falling out and whenever it happens I usually tell my mom. I often wake up in a panic because the dream makes me very uncomfortable. My mom gets a little worried that something bad is going to happen. However, I had not heard that it was important to tell someone else or that is when something bad could happen. I believe it comes from this idea that if you keep bad things to yourself it may happen. Among Latino households, there is that common theme that teeth falling out represents sickness or death. Death in dreams could also be represented by dirty toilet or tub water. Death is a common fear therefore there are many possible signs that can hint at when death or sickness is close.

Folk Beliefs
Signs
Tales /märchen

Fish dream

Context: I remembered my friend mentioning some superstition in regards to a fish so I asked her about it again and she explained and this conversation was recorded.

MG: What does the fish in your dreams superstition mean?

KR: “Okay… so it means someone close to you, or it could be actually you, is pregnant. Usually it’s someone close to you that you know. So say I dream it, it could mean my sister or my roommate is pregnant. Its kinda scary. Who knows if it is a coincidence or an actual thing but my mom and grandma have predicted all 4 of my sisters’ pregnancies with this fish dream thing!”

Background: Informant is from Memphis and grew up in a very superstitious family and she had recently been told that her mom had a dream of a fish so she is curious if anyone in her family is pregnant. She explained to me that this is an old wives tale that gets passed down but usually moms dream a fish and then find out their daughter is pregnant. However, this fish dream only applies to women because men do not have this dream.

Analysis: I thought the connection between fish and pregnancy was very interesting. I did try to research on the connection between pregnancy and fish but could only find concerns for eating fish while pregnant. An important connection I made was the fact that both her previous experiences involved her mom, grandmother. In many other cultures moms and especially grandmothers are seen as wise. They have that sixth sense and are able to pick up on signs. Additionally, this superstition discusses pregnancy which is a very scandalous topic and if a woman is young or unmarried she may be afraid to tell her mom or others. Dreams can reveal suspicions or even fears but sometimes they can also just be dreams without a meaning.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Healing Charm

sana sana colita de rana si no sanas hoy sanaras mañana por la mañana”

Translation: “heal heal, little frog’s butt, if you don’t heal today you will heal tomorrow”

Context: Informant and I were talking about childhood memories and she shared this healing charm her mom would do on her.

Background: Informant is a student at the UCI. She lives in a Mexican American household. She recalls this charm that her mom would do whenever she would hurt herself by falling while playing. She would run to her mom crying and her mom would say it and rub her “boo boo” in a circular motion. She doesn’t think it took the pain away but it made me feel better. When asked if she would do this with her kids, she nodded enthusiastically.

Analysis: This charm was performed on little kids as a way to acknowledge their pain but also help make them feel better. When a child goes crying to his/her mom, she can give him/her the attention that is needed and they can go back to playing. When translated it does not have the same rhyme and effect attached. It does not really make any sense, but in Spanish it does not sound so bad.

Childhood
Game

The Circle Game

“I think it was called the circle game. So you put your fingers like this (forms a circle with the index and thumb finger and if the other person sees you get to hit them. We would always play this in school and we thought it was funny like oh you lost because I made you look”

Context: Informant did the circle game to me and I looked and we both started laughing. So later I asked her to explain the game to me.

Background: Informant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She recalls playing this game in middle school. They would play this in class and whenever possible. She learned it from some of her other friends who did it to her. When she looked and everyone laughed she started trying to also trick her friends into looking.

Analysis: When I was in middle school we played the same game but I do not recall getting to punch anyone if I tricked them into looking. If someone looked the person got bragging rights. Online there are also more rules attached to this circle game. For example, it must be below your waist in order for it to be considered a fair win. Also, the person who is looking can break the circle if they remain eye contact and break the circle by putting their finger in between their circle. The variety of rules that are not always shared among all groups of people that know the game show how some rules pass on while others don’t however the gist of the game does still remain the same.

Childhood
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pencil, Car Keys, or Money?

KK: “Um… when we’re babies, they usually dress us in Korean traditional dresses and place a pencil, car keys and money. And that is supposed to determine what I’m supposed to do with my life”

(pause)

KK: “So they place a pencil, a dollar and car keys in front of us and our family sees what we pick up first.. And apparently, depending on what we pick up, it determines our future and what we will be interested in doing in the future. ”

MG: Do you believe in it?

KK: “haha la neta, no. I think most korean traditions are BS (hahaha) but, they’re traditions.  Actually, my mom chose to opt me out of that tradition. The only one who actually partook in this tradition was my sister. she picked up a pencil!  but nah, i don’t think so, it isn’t a representation of what you’d want in the future you know? you’re a baby. how are you supposed to know what you want to do with your future? babies just pick up shit when they think its pretty or shiny”

Context: I asked the informant if she partook in any Korean traditions.

Background: Informant is half Korean, half Mexican. She finds it easier to represent and participate in the Mexican culture so it may affect her decision t0 not believe in this tradition.

Analysis: There are many traditions that are done for people to determine their fate or to even make a guess about what one’s future looks like. The unknown scares people and they try to do everything to find out what might happen next. Also, babies are often tested to see what objects they find most intriguing. Her sister is currently doing accounting work so maybe the pencil was accurate. However, it is true that one may interpret each item differently. If the baby chooses car keys but is a doctor they would probably assume it was accurate because now he has a nice car. Although not everyone may believe in the accuracy of traditions many still partake simply because they are traditions meant to be passed on to the next generation.

 

Gestation, birth, and infancy
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Egg-pregnancy ritual

MG: “Did you partake in any pregnancy rituals?”

LR: “yeah i did the egg thing… my mom did it on me when I was pregnant like she cracks the egg. She rubs it all around and then she cracks it in a vaso [cup] and if there is telaranas [webs] in it than someone is wishing bad upon you”

Context: I was asking the informant about her pregnancy.

Background: LR is a master student at the University of Southern California. She grew up in a Mexican American household and has grown up hearing superstitious things. She has chosen to partake in this ritual because she wanted what is best for her daughter and also as a safety measure. She did not want to regret not listening to cultural superstitions.

Analysis: Eggs are very symbolic and they are often used to ward off the evil spirits, see Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs” THe Journal of American Folklore, vol.80, no. 315, 1967, pp. 3-32. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/538415 for more examples of how eggs are used. It makes sense that an egg ritual would be used while pregnant because during pregnancy because the mother and the child are very vulnerable to illnesses and evil spirits. Pregnancy is also regarded as very sacred since you are bringing in a new life into this world so it is important to take care of your baby.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic
Signs

Splitting poles

“So one day my aunt and I and were walking to this little fashion jewelry store where they sell really cheap jewelry by the way and as we were walking we came across this pole and I was about to go the opposite way so we started to split the pole. She got so upset she was like don’t you dare split that pole with me. so from that day forward, I learned it was like bad luck to split the pole with someone. and the person that’s younger gets bad luck. ”

Why bad luck and why the younger person?

“well its cause the two of us have a connection and when a pole comes between us you are letting it cut that connection so the younger person who is less wise than the older one gets the bad luck since they have had less time on this earth and just lost the connection to an older and wiser person. So they don’t get bad luck, they have to reestablish that connection and you do that by saying hi”

Context: The informant is a twenty-one-year-old student at USC she is from Tennessee. Once before she had mentioned that it was bad luck to split the pole so I asked her more about it.

Background: She heard this from her aunt and since then she has been afraid to split poles with anyone she is walking with, especially if they are older than her. She is an active participant of this superstition, always careful when she walks and has even had to say hi to strangers because she does not want that bad luck.

Analysis: Like many superstitions, it is better to participate just to stay on the safe side. Ever since she explained this superstition to me I am careful not to split any poles with her or anyone I am walking with. However, I do not go out of my way to remove the “bad luck.” I have also heard a different version where if you split the pole with someone you must neutralize the situation by saying “bread and butter.” I asked the informant if she had heard about this one and she said she had not. This shows that maybe it is a geographical difference since she grew up in the South.

Childhood
Game

Choo Choo Cholly

“I went to a Chinese restaurant

to buy a loaf of bread bread bread,

they asked me what my name was

and this what I said said said,

My name is choo choo cholly

I love karate

punch you in the stomach

oops I’m sorry,

I’m callin mama ha ha ha

on the double,

my name is boys are messy

girls are sassy

in the bathtub

drinking the pepsi

myyy name is cheap roast beef eeeh”

Context & background: LJ and I were recalling rhymes and games we used to do during school. This poem is played while playing a hand game with clapping and reciting from both participants. LJ learned this from her cousin when she was in middle school while they were on a road trip. She had recently asked her cousin if she remembered the poem and her cousin did. She likes this poem because it reminds her of the road trip and of her cousin teaching it to her.

Analysis: This a song game that children use to play and pass time. The poem is upbeat however if one takes a look at just the words, they do not fully make sense. It shows that the poem was mostly created to rhyme and follow a specific beat. It also contains many stereotypes such as “boys are messy” and “girls are sassy.” Children are taught at a young age how girls and boys are supposed to act. I was amazed that my friend and her cousin remembered this poem song since it is quite long.

 

Childhood
Folk speech
Game

Bubblegum Bubblegum

MR: “Oh…Did you ever play Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?”

MG: Wait can you explain how it went?

MR: “When you are going to play a game and you need to choose a person, everyone has to put their shoe in the middle (puts foot in middle) then you say …”Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” oh and then whoever it lands on has to pick a number and then it continues until that number is reached. Whoever it lands on gets out until the last person is left.”

Context: We were talking about childhood games and this rhyme came up.

Background: Informant is twenty four years old and from the Los Angeles area. RR remembers playing this in school for tag or hide and seek and also with her cousins. She believes she learned this from the other students in her class. Then, she taught this to her little brothers.

Analysis: Children often teach other children folklore. I thought it was quite interesting that regardless of the fact that RR is two/three years older than me, I also learned this rhyme from other children in my school. It shows that folklore can live on for many years and now lives in our memories. This song/rhyme is a common example of children bringing order and structure to their play. This rhyme allows children to choose a leader in a fair way. Because the person it lands on the first time gets to chose a number it leads it up to fate, in a sense, to choose the person who will be “it.” It prevents kids from fighting over being chosen or not being chosen.

Other versions of this include using one’s fist to count rather than one’s shoes. For this version please see: https://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=2776

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