Author Archive
Folk speech

The Man in The Gray Suit

Interviewer: Do you have any slang or terms from growing up surfing?

CW: Yeah have you ever heard about the man in the gray suit?

Interviewer: No I have not what does that mean?

CW: It’s a term, surfers use at the beach if they see a shark to warn everybody else to get out of the water.

Interviewer: why do people use that term and not just say shark?

CW: People use it because it is a lot more of a calm thing for someone to hear when they are in the water with a shark. It helps to avoid people panicking but if your in an area where people are surfing, which is where it is used, then everyone knows that means shark and it helps them be more calm while getting out of the water. 

Interviewer: Have you ever used this warning or had it used for you?

CW: I’ve never used it but I’ve been on the beach while people yelled it out to surfers. But since I’ve grown up surfing I’ve known to react to the term and have known it for most of my life. 

Interviewer: Is this a term used at specific surf spots you got to or from your knowledge do all surfers know and use this term?

CW: From my knowledge, this is just a term I know is used in Malibu and Santa Monica. I’ve surfed in other places like San Diego and Hawaii but I’ve never heard the term mentioned in those places. 

Interviewer: Is there any other terms you have heard or learned of that do the same function of calmly warning of a shark?

CW: Yeah in Hawaii they use the Hawaiian word Manu. 

Context: My informant is an eighteen-year-old student at USC. He was born in raised in Malibu California. He has surfed nearly his entire life, primarily in Malibu but also in Santa Monica, Hawaii, and San Diego. This folk term was explained in person in the informant’s dorm.

Analysis: This is an interesting piece of folk language used by surfers in Southern California. I have never been a surfer and assumed the appropriate way to warn people of a shark would be by exclaiming that a shark is in the water, but this term seems to be a great way to keep people calm so they can get out of the water in a safer manner. It also is an example of how surfers in Southern California have unique folklore. 

 

Customs

Shomer Negiah

Interviewer: Do you have any Jewish customs that you are familiar with that you could share with me? 

SS: Yes have you ever heard of Shomer Negiah?

Interviewer: No I have not, could you explain it to me?

SS: Yes it is the practice of refraining from touching people of the opposite sex. Shomer negiah translates in Hebrew to observant of touch. 

Interviewer: You cannot touch any one of the other sex, even family? And does this apply in all situations?

SS: It depends how you practice it, mostly everyone who practices it can touch family and can touch others in very casual manners such as shaking hands or bumping into people. But people differ on how seriously they practice it.

Interviewer: Is this a custom that stems directly from religious texts and beliefs or is it of a social origin?

SS: I believe it comes from some verses in the Torah but the meanings were interpreted into these social customs. 

Interviewer: Is this something that is widely practiced in the Jewish community you are familiar with? 

SS: No not really, it is usually only practiced buy very religious individuals, I have some relatives that do it and they are all much more religiously devoted than me and my immediate family. 

Interviewer: Have you seen people physically practice this custom outside of your relatives?

SS: Yes I lived in Israel for a year during high school and it became more apparent to me during my time there that it was more widely practiced than I had thought. 

Interviewer: What are your thoughts on the practice? How does it affect your understanding and opinions of jewish customs?

SS: I think its a pretty interesting one because like a lot of other jewish customs it differs in how seriously people practice it and if they do at all. I also think its pretty interesting because its something that I don’t practice but people and my culture do and its a pretty radical difference in our everyday lives. I couldn’t imagine have to avoid almost all physical contacts with women not in my family. 

Context: I received this explanation of a Jewish folk custom from an 18 year old male Jewish from Los Angeles. He practices Judaism and been raised in a Jewish household his entire life. This interview was done in person at the USC Leavey Library. 

Analysis: I find this custom to fascinating primarily because it is a religious practice and a social custom that has quite a bit of multiplicity and variation. The actual practice seems to be pretty black and white, not touching members of the opposite sex, however the manner and extent of whether or not people of Jewish faith practice it is fascinating. It is also something that affects everyday activities pretty largely for those who practice it yet they are still apart of the same community as those who may not.

Legends

Haunted House in Crockett, Texas

Collector: Do you have any ghost stories you could share with me?

CW: Yes, when I was a young girl growing up in my hometown of Crockett, Texas there was a house located on the edge of our town that everyone believed to be haunted. It was a very old beaten down brown house with all the windows boarded off. It was said that a very old man who we called “Old Man Hinkle”, lived there but no one had seen him in years, so everyone thought he had passed away and his ghost haunted the house. However, when me and friends would go by the house it was always very spooky. We could hear noises coming from the house but never any lights or anyone coming in or out of it. I remember one time some kids from our town claimed to have gone inside one night and saw a ghost in there but who knows if that was true. Another time  I was near the house and could hear what sounded like screaming but I never saw a ghost or went inside the house. 

Collector: What impact did this haunted house have on your childhood?

CW: It was my favorite thing on Halloween. On already such a spooky night for us kids we would always sneak off and go by the house. It always felt like such an adventure and was very fun for me and my friends. 

Collector: Did the whole town believe the house was haunted?

CW: All the parents knew that it was just an abandoned house of course, but for us kids it was widely believed and everyone seemed to know about it. 

Collector: What do you think about the house now?

CW: Well, since I do not believe in ghost I don’t believe it was haunted or anything. But, when I go home to visit my family in Crockett I sometimes go by it and it gives me fond memories especially of my Halloweens growing up. I also wonder whether or not the kids in Crockett still believe it is haunted or know about “ Old Man Hinkle”.

Context: This informant is a sixty five year old woman that was born and raised in Crockett, Texas. She has moved around the world since leaving Crockett to go to college. However, she still frequently visits the town. This performance was collected in person at her home in Palm Desert, California

Analysis: This legend is an interesting one because it sounds a lot like ghost stories and haunted house stories seen in popular culture. It has all the aspects of many movies and television shows, like a small town, scary house, and kids wandering near the “haunted house”. It seems to be a unique part of her communities folklore and a unique part of my informant’s childhood.

 

Folk speech
Foodways

A Canadian Double-Double

Collector: What exactly does double-double mean to Canadians?

HK: In Canada, Tim Horton’s coffee is a big part of our diet, so generally a double-double means a Timmy Ho’s coffee with two creams and two sugars. Even though I guess it can mean any coffee with two cream and two sugars, it usually means Tim Hortons.

Collector: When did you first learn this term and how?

HK: I’ve known it for as long as I could remember. Both of my parents are Canadian and big coffee drinkers so I learned it from them at a pretty young age. 

Collector: Is this a term that is widely used in Canada or a smaller community you are familiar with?

HK: I’m pretty sure everyone in Canada knows what a double-double is. Everywhere I have been has used it and I have traveled through much of Canada. 

Collector: When did you realize this term was unique to Canada and Canadians?

HK: Well it was when I first moved to California when I was fifteen. I had made some new friends and they took me to In-n-Out Burger. I asked them what they were going to order there and when they all responded “a double-double”, I immediately asked, “you guys got Timmy Ho’s here?”. They then looked at me like I was from another planet. And that is the moment I realized that a double-double had a very different meaning to Americans. 

Collector: How did that experience change your understanding of both the term double-double and Canadian and American culture?

HK: It made me realize that although Canadians and Americans are very similar there are still a lot of subtle differences between them. I guess Canadians are more into coffee and Americans are more interested in cheeseburgers.

Context: My informant is an eighteen-year-old freshman student at USC. He was born and raised solely in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada until age fifteen then moved to Palm Desert, California. Even since living in California, my informant has still spent around a month every summer in Canada. His explanation of this folk term to me was done in person at the Sigma Chi fraternity house at USC. 

Analysis: I find it fascinating that the term double-double is so widely used in both America and Canada however, it describes two different large aspects of each countries culinary culture. It shows that for one Tim Hortons coffee is a much larger part of Canada’s culinary culture and cheeseburgers are a much larger part of America’s. It also exemplifies how even though Canada and America seem to be very similar there is a lot of difference between the two cultures. 

 

general
Legends

Lake Kelowna and The Ogopogo

Collector: Can you tell me about the Ogopogo?

HK: Well, at the like I visit in the summer, Lake Kelowna, there is a legend that a sea serpent just like the Lochness monster lives in the lake there. 

Collector: What is the Ogopogo like?

HK: It’s supposedly like huge green sea serpent that lives at the bottom of the lake. It’s pretty much just like the Loch

Ness Monster but the Canadian version. 

Collector: Is this a common legend there?

HK: Yeah everyone that goes to Kelowna or lives there knows all about the Ogopogo.

Collector: Do you believe that this Ogopogo actually is real and lives in the lake? Do the people of Kelowna believe in the Ogopogo? 

 HK: I don’t believe it anymore but as a young child I was very scared of it and wouldn’t ever want to go into the water. Yeah, a lot of people do believe in it people have claimed to see it and it is a pretty large fixture in the community. There are even signs referencing it and statues of the Ogopogo. 

Collector: When were you first introduced to this legend and how was it presented to you?

HK: The first time I heard of the Ogopogo was one summer when I first visited the lake with my parents and grandparents when I was seven years old. My grandfather was telling me and my sister stories by the fire one night. He told us how he had been coming to the Lake Kelowna since he was a kid and the legend had always been around. He said that the serpent would come out of the water every few years and lived at the bottom of the lake feeding on the deep swimmers and fish. After hearing that story for him I began to see and hear references of the Ogopogo all over town. I really wish he didn’t tell us because, me and my sister were scared of the lake for years after, even though we would have heard about it somewhere else eventually. 

Collector: How has your understanding and belief in the legend changed over time?

HK: I just don’t really believe it in anymore. I did as a kid and a lot of kids there do, but as I’ve gotten older and never have actually seen it I kinda just stopped worrying about it or believing it. Also, since its kinda a playful part of the community like the statues and signs around town, it just seems more like a spooky story to have fun with rather than anything real. 

Context: My informant is an eighteen-year-old freshman student at USC. He was born and raised solely in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada until age fifteen then moved to Palm Desert, California. Even since living in California, my informant has still spent around a month every summer at Lake Kelowna. His performance of explaining this legend to me was done at the Sigma Chi fraternity house at USC. 

Analysis: I thought this legend of the Ogopogo to be a very fascinating one. It strikes me as peculiar and interesting that even though it is very similar to the legend of the Lochness Monster, that I had never heard of it even though Lake Kelowna is much closer to America and where I have spent my life. I also find it fascinating that the legend seems to be such a cultural characteristic of Lake Kelowna. Not only is it just something everyone seems to be aware of there,0 but they market it and have statues of it.

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