Author Archive
Folk speech
Proverbs

Colombian Proverb: “That Which Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Fat”

Proverb:

original language: “lo que no mata, en gorda.”

direct translation: That which no kills you, fattens

smooth translation: “That which doesn’t kill you, will make you fatter.”

Context:

“So kids can be messy. This is the equivalent of the five second rule when you’d drop food on the floor. Grandma would say, ‘lo que no mata, en gorda.’ She would say that to us anytime we dropped food on the floor.”

Informant Background:

My informant is 58, from Medellin, Colombia. He now resides in San Diego. His first language is Spanish.

My Analysis:

In Colombian culture, there is a strange paradox for women in particular regarding family and eating habits. My grandmas and aunts and mother will cook food and pressure my sisters and I to eat it all, but we can’t eat too much because they don’t want us to get fat. In Spanish, it is also common to nickname children based off their physical appearance. For example, I have always been called “flaca”, but have cousins who are still called “gordita” despite them dropping childhood weight. This funny proverb nods to the relationship between Colombian people (mainly women) and food.

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

College Rugby Post-Game Tradition for Rookies

Folk Tradition:

“So I was on the rugby team and so there’s a lot of stupid little rugby traditions that exist, but there’s like 3 fuckin’ million of them. If you’re new, a rookie, and you score your first try (it’s like a touchdown) in a game or a match, after the game there’s always parties, after the game it’s always customary to invite the other team to get shitfaced with you so at the party, so after the game you have to ‘shoot the boot’. You have to fill the cleat you wore with beer and chug it, and while you do it they sing a song and they go like – yell – ‘shoot the boot’ and if you don’t do it fast enough they sing, ‘why are we waiting we should be masturbating’ you have to chug like you would chug anything.” 

Context:

This is a college rugby team’s post-game tradition. My informant watched people do it and has done it herself. 

Informant Background:

My informant is 21, from Omaha Nebraska. She is on a college rugby team at a university in Los Angeles.

My Analysis:

I think a lot of young community groups do hazing rituals as initiation ceremonies. They can be mild or dangerous in extreme cases. This is a gross, but mild initiation ceremony to the college rugby community. It makes sense that only those who score in the game get to participate because those are the people who will most likely become the leaders of the community in the future. Drinking is also a common factor in college age initiation rituals.

I think the college rugby community is relatively small compared to other college communities like Greek Life, so it makes sense that opposing teams would convene after to celebrate together. This speaks to the fact that they are more concerned about building community than competition.

Folk speech
Humor

French Joke Turned Folk Practice for Middle School French Class

French Folk Joke:

“My 7th grade French class all took french. It was all our first year of french and I went to middle school with a bunch of people I ended up going to high school with so we all took a bunch of classes together. We had learned this joke that became an inside joke. It was the first French joke we ever learned. We would tell it to each other and share the reactions of the people we told the joke to with the rest of the class. So the joke is, ‘Comment s’appelle un chien qui vends des médicaments? Un pharmachienne.’ So it means, ‘What do you call a dog who sells medicine?’ The word chien is dog, so the answer is,  you call it a mixture of pharmacy and dog. The word for pharmacist which I don’t know off the top of my head and then ‘chien’. ”

Context:

A middle school french class in Omaha, Nebraska.

Informant Background:
The informant is 21, from Nebraska originally. She now resides in Southern California.

My Analysis:

This play on words is a good way to get children to remember vocabulary. There are many words in french that sound almost identical to their english pronunciation. Hence, it is easy to remember those. However, the ones that don’t align with english pronunciation like ‘chien’ are so abstract that this little joke will help young students remember the vocabulary term. My informant said she does not remember any french, but she does remember this joke. So, clearly this was an effective learning mechanism.

 

Folk speech
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Post-Rehearsal Chant

Ritual:

“At the end of every rehearsal, no matter how tense it ended, no matter how bad of a note it ended on, we said this chant. It was something like, “I have one last thing to say, goo cacti. Wu-tang, wu-tang, wu-tang crew ain’t nunckuck, who? With tight groups and apple…proceed.” So how this came to be was that apparently our director started it when he was at that high school and people over the years just added on different phrases to it. Cacti was the name of my director’s friend group in high school I think.

Context:
This was the post-rehearsal ritual of a high school theater group in Los Angeles.

Informant Background:

The informant is 23, from Los Angeles.

My Analysis:

High school in general is a place that likes to memorialize people. While sports teams can hang banners in gyms to immortalize sports achievements, high school theater groups must come up with alternate methods to preserve their “greats”. For example, the kids in my high school theater program would save costumes of respected peers as a way to preserve their memories. This chant seems like another way of doing that as well. The actual chant is completely indecipherable of any sort of meaning to me, and the informant I interviewed couldn’t explain any of the segments besides the first one, “cacti”. Therefore, it seems that each group of kids that adds to it gets to add their own private meaning to the chant through their own nonsense word. This is an example of cultural intimacy that would seem weird to outsiders, which only makes members of the group more proud of their tradition.

Legends
Narrative

Bathroom at Private, Jewish High School home to Naughty Folklore

Folk Story:

“I’m pretty sure it’s a legend, but also it might be true…It was before my time. But, I went to a private Jewish high school in LA and there’s a bathroom on campus next to our gym that is fabled to – the girls bathroom specifically – apparently was home to a sex video with the canter’s daughter and two boys. Pretty sure it happened. I’ve not seen the tape, no no no, but a girl got expelled and two boys got expelled and that’s the tea of what happened, but the school would never confirm or deny, but we know.”

Context:

A bathroom at a private, Jewish high school in LA has this folk story attached to it.

Background:

The informant is 19, from LA, and attended this high school. She learned the story from upper class students who learned it from students that were upper classmen when they were lower classmen.

My Analysis:

In high school, there is a large mystery around sex – what it is, who is having it, how to do it. In religious high schools, where most likely abstinence-only education is the norm, there is a heightened sense of mystery around sex, and very likely supernatural-wrath-inducing consequences for having it. Therefore, it follows that their lore would center around such an awe-inducing concept as sex. The link of discussion between pre-marital sex and God in religious schools explains the necessity of the girl involved to be the canter’s daughter. It nods at the students’ linkage between the two and increases the level of wrongdoing by making listeners acutely aware of their religious beliefs. In addition, girls in high school experience menstruation, which many children’s folktales nod at whether through color palettes or symbolism, as being frightening. The mystery of the menstruation process is recognized in this tale through the placing of the narrative in the girls’ bathroom.

Legends
Narrative

High School Pizza Rolls Fire: Folk Legend

Folk Story:

“My school had a little store, it was called the ‘milk n mart’. It was a snack stand, you could order real food there, but they also had snack foods and frozen foods. So one time apparently, before I attended the school, a boy purchased pizza rolls and warmed them up in the microwave but instead of reading the instructions, he just put them in the microwave for 10 minutes which started a fire and everyone had to evacuate. I’d say it’s folklore cause nobody I knew actually saw this, everyone just knew about it.”

Context:

This happened at a private, Jewish high school in LA.

Background:

The informant is 20 and went to this private Jewish high school in LA.

My Analysis:

I think high school is a notorious time and place for people to learn hard lessons in stupid ways. This story epitomizes the high school experience because this legendary student made one stupid mistake that could have been fatal for the entire school. In high school, most of your decisions feel that momentous – who you take to prom, whether or not your parents let you go to that party, etc. The fact that the student in the story was microwaving pizza rolls really hammers down that point because pizza rolls are maybe the saddest lunch to microwave. They are bad, but also quintessentially high school. For example, the totino’s pizza rolls commercials are marketed explicitly to teenage boys.

For example, “Totino’s Pepperoni Pizza Rolls TV Commercial, ‘Awesome Mustache’.” ISpot.tv, 17 Oct. 2014, www.ispot.tv/ad/7yVz/totinos-pepperoni-pizza-rolls-awesome-mustache.,  depicts a late middle school/early high school aged boy lusting after an adult man’s mustache. The commercial promises the boy a mustache, the symbol of manhood in the commercial, if he purchases totino’s pizza rolls. In the folk story my informant shared, the boy’s inability to microwave his pizza rolls could be extrapolated to mean he is unable to be a real man or real adult. He does not belong in the school because he is still a child. While I doubt the children that shared this story were cognizant of this subtext, everyone of this age group grew up with these commercials, so I believe it resided in their subconscious.

Adulthood
Childhood
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Send Off in High School Theater Community: Ritual

Folk Tradition:

This was a senior tradition in theater. After our last performance of our last show, the director would invite all the seniors back into the theater after everyone had left and we would look at the ghost light and he said, ‘Right now is just a time for you to be with all the characters you’ve played here, so this is a time to say goodbye to them. So, we would go on stage and remember through action. We would go through different entrances or funny moments in shows and there was no end time. We would stay until we said goodbye.”

Context:

This would take place after the seniors’ last performance with their high school theater program in their Los Angeles public school.

Background:

The informant is 21, from Calabasas, and an actor.

My Analysis:

This is a folk piece with a lot of levels. First and foremost, the concept of the ‘ghost light’ is a folk belief that a light must always be left on in every theater for the ghosts that haunt the space. Though not every theater has someone who died in it, most theater spaces are regarded as sacred by the community and the residence for supernatural beings/occurrences.  The idea of everyone gathering around to stare into the ghost light is a way of symbolically channeling the spirits. It is interesting that the theater teacher prompted the students to say goodbye to the characters they played because it aligns these fictional characters with the actual spirits regarded by theater communities everywhere (symbolized in the ghost light). It could also be interpreted as summoning previous versions of oneself (the self that did perform these characters). High school is a very transformative time for many people, so summoning and saying goodbye to iterations of yourself over those years could be a very cathartic task for students before they leave for college.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Theater Pre-Show Ritual

Folk Ritual:

Before a show we would go outside of the theater – literally outside of the building. This was in high school. We would stand in a circle and do pass the squeeze. Stand in a circle and squeeze hands one at a time. Then, we would all run in the middle and say “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe as a chant, but it changed based on the show we were in. We would insert the show name in there somewhere. And then the boys and girls would split up, so I don’t really know what the boys did – I think it would get pretty rough. The girls would stand on a little raised curb and hold hands and sing a verse from “Bye Bye Birdie” really loud. Then we would all go back in the circle and you would say ‘got your back’ to people as you walked into the theater and tap them on the back.”

Context:

This was the pre-show ritual for a public high school’s theater program in Calabasas, CA. The informant said it was a “tradition there for as long as I ever knew, and this would have been between 2014 and 2016.”

Informant Background:

The informant is 21, from Calabasas, and an actor!

My Analysis:

The separation by gender in the high school theater ritual seems to be a trope. I believe this is related to the age of the performers and the ‘otherness’ placed upon the opposite sex by society in that age of physical development. The boys moshing is another trope I’ve seen in these contexts, perhaps the males feel a need to exert their stereotypical “manhood” by becoming violent before they perform a socialized as “femme” extra curricular activity, theater. The girls also perform their gender by standing on a higher platform, perhaps symbolizing being above violence, and singing while holding hands. This performance of peaceful sweetness paints the picture of stereotypical femininity.

Choosing to say “got your back” is a safe theatrical well wishing before a show as “good luck” is considered bad luck. “Break a Leg” or “Merde”, the French word for shit used to mean good luck, are violent and gross, making them potentially inappropriate for high school kids. Therefore, the invented “got your back” makes a sweet substitute. Finally, choosing to chant “The Raven”, while dark, also gives what they are about to do an air of sacredness due to its fame and fear it instills.

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