Author Archives: Brittaney Robinson

Folk Speech/Slang

Folk Speech/Slang: “Aw Fritzy Fritzy”

Anne Harrison learned this saying from her grandmother when she was a little girl, probably around 13 years old. Anne’s interpretation goes as follows:

“My grandma had adopted a girl named Jane Adams. She hadn’t physically adopted her, she just spent most of her time at my house cuz her mother had died. And Jane was a little on the fast side. She would never sit still, always shakin’ herself and tryna dance or somethin. And my Grandmother said, “Lil gal why don’t you sit down! Everytime I look at you its Aw Fritzy Fritzy!” Anne said this saying is used when there’s somebody always up showin their self or can’t sit still. In other words trying to show off.”

Anne uses the term “showin’ off” to describe someone who possesses promiscuous characteristics or behavior or for someone who is an attention seeker and acts inappropriately to catch someone’s interest. “Can’t sit still” is describing someone who is always moving around and cannot rest in one place but has to constantly remain busy. The context in which this is used based off of Anne’s interpretation seems to only be used for children, but I could also see this saying used to describe adult behavior as well. For example, if someone comes in dressed inappropriately for work and is trying to flirt with the boss one could say, “She flirts all the time. Aw Fritzy Fritzy”.

I agree with Anne’s interpretation of Aw Fritzy Fritzy, and I have also seen this saying manifested in various versions and contexts. Anne Harrison is my grandmother and she has used this term on many different occasions when describing the acts of her grandchildren or other children she observed. If my brother and I were always fidgeting and meddling with her belongings she would scold us by saying, “Brittaney and Murphy sit down. You’re just movin’ all over the place. Aw Fritzy Fritzy!” I have found this term to accompany statements of discipline.  On other occasions, my family will use this term as a comedic statement. For example, if we see a licentious man/women on television, someone may shout out, “Aw Fritzy Fritzy!”, and the entire room will start to laugh.

This saying’s diverse versions reflect the folkloric characteristics multiplicity and variation that can be found amongst one group of individuals.

Ritual/Tradition – Greek

Blessing of a Home: Before entering a home a person will throw money in the doorway to bless the family.

This type of ritual/tradition is practiced amongst the Greek culture. Nichelle learned this belief from her Greek mother and grandmother who have taught her the traditions and rituals of the Greek culture. This tradition is practiced amongst the Greek families and can be used to bless other homes that are not of Greek origin. If a family is not of Greek origin the tradition may be slightly changed where the person being invited to the house warming will not throw money into the house but will put money in an envelope as a gift to the family. This tradition occurs when family and friends are invited over for a dinner party to celebrate living in a new home. One member or more of the family will take money and throw it in the doorway of the home before stepping inside the home. Nichelle was not sure of what the money symbolized, she was only aware of this practice being a tradition amongst Greek families.

I agree with Nichelle’s interpretation of a Greek house-warming tradition. This certain tradition has taken on many different forms in other cultures as well. For instance, for many African American house warming parties; it is part of tradition to bring an entrée or beverage of some sort in order to celebrate a family’s new home. Money is also another gift that is given in envelopes or cards as a way of congratulating families for stepping into another stage of adulthood. Although money is not thrown instantly at the door, we can see in other cultures that the same tradition is kept, but through different forms and practices. I also could imagine that money could be a symbol of good luck for the family to lead a long and prosperous life in their new home. This practice could also be a way of showing the family that they have friends and family that are there as systems of support whenever they may need financial assistance. For example, the money may go to helping to pay for new furniture and kitchen items for their new home.

Saying – Boston, Massachusetts

Saying: “Broke Her Leg”

Don told me he learned and understood the meaning of this saying when he was a young boy, when he was probably around ten years old. He learned the term in Boston, Massachusetts, but believes this term came from church mothers raised in southern states. He said the saying is used when a young girl becomes pregnant and is looked down upon by the women of the community. The pregnant girl would be “shipped off” away from her community, and the family members of the pregnant girl would tell the townspeople, “She broke her leg,” when they asked where the girl was. “She broke her leg” automatically implies that the unmarried girl became pregnant at a young age and was sent off to live somewhere else. Those who are not a part of the community would automatically assume that she broke her leg, but those who are aware of this term would know that the young girl is pregnant.

Don says that this saying tells a lot about how the acceptance of teen pregnancies has changed over the past 30-40 years. He said it was looked down upon to be a teen mother; society would not accept you, you were often shunned from the church, denied from jobs, and talked about at social events. However, he said nowadays you see Jamie Lynn Spears and films like Juno that are glorifying the practice of teen pregnancy. He stated there were less teen pregnancies when becoming pregnant at an early age was considered a social transgression.

I agree with Don’s interpretation of this saying and understand his logic behind the meaning. I believe that in the 21st century we have come to accept teen pregnancy as a norm. In some ways this can be a positive outlook because we are providing more resources of support to young pregnant teens. However, I do feel that our acceptance of teen pregnancy has given way to an increase in wedlock teen pregnancies because now society has accepted that teen pregnancy is inevitable and cannot completely be eliminated. Although this may be true, the problem lies is in the media and communities accepting teen pregnancy as a social norm. This certain belief may be fine if teen mothers could provide for their children, but in most cases teen mothers lack the responsibility and resources needed to take care of their babies. I can also see how this saying has the potential to become less used because of the shift of thinking that has caused American society to more so accept teenage pregnancy.

Folk Belief – Boston, Massachusetts

Church Belief: Cursing on Sundays is damnation.

Don says that this was a common belief amongst the neighborhood of African American homes in Boston Massachusetts. Don grew up in a Northeastern Baptist home where the laws of the church were strictly followed. The consequences of cursing in church would lead to getting “smacked across the face”, first by the church mothers who heard you curse, and then by your mother after she heard the story through the grapevine from the church mother’s gossip.

I agree with this church belief. Growing up in an African American Pentecostal church, which is of similar background to Northeastern Baptist churches, it was and still is considered unholy to cuss on Sundays, the Lord’s Day. If you were caught cussing in or outside of the church a church mother or sister of the church would not hesitate to smack right in front of your friends and the other church members in order to teach you a lesson. The men of the church would not usually participate in the scolding. After she physically punished you, a scripture would always follow to back up you’re sinful act. The women of the church would often quote Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”. For Baptist churches the Sabbath day falls on Sunday, therefore no sinful acts should be practiced on a holy day. Proverbs 10:31 “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out” would also be used to remind all of the children to keep their language profanity-free.



If you get an elephant as a gift and its trunk is down you can’t accept it.

Jasmine learned this superstition from her mother when she was a little girl, when she was probably 10 years old. She remembers her mother telling her to never accept an elephant with his trunk down when her mother received a porcelain elephant as a gift. Jasmine was unsure of the meaning behind this superstition she sated, “All I know is that you are not supposed to accept elephants with their trunk down cuz its bad luck.” (See also Field Guide to Luck: How to Use and Interpret Charms, Signs, and Superstitions.)

I was able to find the historic meaning behind this superstition in which Jasmine was unsure about. According to the article Lucky Elephant by Catherine Yronwode, this belief originates from the “lucky elephant” which is a charm used for wishing good luck. The belief of an elephant being a symbol of good luck derived from the Hindu religion of India. The origination of this good luck symbol came from the god Ganesha (the god of luck, protection, and religious devotion) who was the elephant-headed son of Siva (the creator and destroyer of the universe) and the goddess Parvati (the mountain goddess). An elephant as a good luck symbol didn’t reach America until the 19th century when many elephant charms were imported to the United States from India. Yronwode’s believes the “trunk up” belief has no apparent origin in Africa, India, or South East Asia where elephants are native, but is widespread in the USA, and many Asian and African amulet and statuary makers now produce trunk-up elephant statues for American buyers. It may have originated in the west-British and Irish belief that a lucky horseshoe must face upward or “the luck will run out.”

The diffusion of Hindu belief has been embraced by other cultures. This reflects the importance of how diffusion of ideas overtime can determine how folklore is perceived in later years and the incredible capability for one piece of folklore to branch off into various forms over time. It’s amazing to see how the belief in Ganesha went from being a religious practice to becoming manifested in a good luck charm that is now sold in stores across America.  This also shows how globalization has had an impact on the diffusion of folklore amongst different ethnic groups.


Yablon, Alys R. Field Guide to Luck: How to Use and Interpret Charms, Signs, and Superstitions. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2008. pp 73-74.

Yronwode, Catherine. “The Lucky Elephant.” The Luck “W” Amulet Archive. 25 Apr. 2008 <>.

Contemporary Legend

Urban Legend- “Charcoal Man”

Setting: This campfire story was told to me one night my roommates and I decided to tell scary stories we had encountered as a means of sharing various folklore stories with one another. Nichelle Megowan and I who were listening to Emily Intersimone’s camp fire ghost story called Charcoal Man.

Emily asking me: What are you doing for your folklore special? Is it ghost stories or what?

Me: No it’s any type of folklore.

Emily: Any type?

Me: Any type

Emily: Can campfire ghost stories count?

Me: Yes it can!

Emily: I think my dad made one up actually. Do you wanna hear it?

Me: Talk talk

Emily: I can’t do the scariness but um…

Me: Do your version it’s all a part of folklore. That’s a part of folklore.

Emily: Ok so um… My Dad would always tell this story from first person point of view and he’s from rural Northern California. So he was in the Boy Scouts so he would say, “well you know I went Boy Scout camping and there’s this area this highway where the highway curves on this mountain with a bunch or Redwoods in Humboldt County and when we’d drive this to my grandparents house we would go on this one curve in Humboldt and he would always be like, “Charcoal Man”. Charcoal Man. Have you ever heard of Charcoal Man.

Nichelle and I: No

Emily: See I think my Dad actually made it up. And umm… or it’s like a weird Humboldt county Boy Scout. So the legend goes…That in Humboldt county there’s this one curve in the road with a hill, and one night some teenagers were driving, you know, driving late. For whatever reason the car veers off the road into like down the heel through the hill through the redwoods and the car catches on fire

Nichelle interrupts and sings: To Grandmother’s house we go… sorry

Emily laughs and says, “Yeah I know we’re all going to go to grandmas and Charcoal Man… And so the car catches on fire and they all die in the car. Or it might have been just one guy but I think there were teenagers involved. Um so….because of this fiery death there was this monster called Charcoal Man who lives you know or like his ghost who lived in like Humboldt County. And um so Boy Scouts would go camping and they would say that you could hear noises in the night and they would open up their tent and there’d be burning footprints leading up to leading up to a tent that had caught on fire. And they’d be like, “Oh my God!” And they’d like douse the fire out there’d be these burning foot prints. My dad totally made this up. But um… so that was the legend basically and my Dad you know would tell these stories about how they just barely escaped from this man made of burning coal.

Me: Who would he tell?

Emily: He would tell our sisters my sisters and I around the campfire. When we’re camping he’d be like, “You know when I camped, you have to be careful of Charcoal Man and he would always tell us at the end of Charcoal Man that that… and it was really scary at the time but he would always tell us “you think that was scary just wait until you hear about Pancake Man”. And we were always like, “Who’s Pancake Man?” And we never heard about Pancake Man.

Me: I think your dad forgot about Pancake Man.

Emily: Or I think, I think there never was a Pancake man. I think he just made it up. And he would just always add that at the end.

This camp fire, urban legend is definitely derived from the Intersimone family that has mostly been passed down to siblings. This legend can be seen as a way of entertaining adolescent children who are naivety plays a crucial role in believing made up ghost stories. This legend perhaps can also confirm a child’s need to rely on parental security, especially in cases where a child is in a new environment, like the forest mentioned in the legend, and they need their mothers or fathers to feel a sense of security. I found this legend to also be another way of making his daughters laugh, allowing Emily’s dad to share a bonding time with his daughters. I found this legend to be quiet comical and unique. I have not heard any other rendition like the “Charcoal Man”. However, I am sure as this story spreads many versions will start take on various forms as it diffuses across different groups.

Food – Japan

Food ways: Ozoni

Matthew: On New Years my family eats this soup called Ozoni. Each vegetable in the soup is supposed to bring you some type of good luck.

Me: Do you know the ingredients in the soup?

Matthew: Mochi, Carrots, Daikon (pickled Japanese radish), Shitake Mushrooms, Karbu (seaweed), and Watercress

Me: Do you know what each vegetable symbolizes?

Matthew: No, I’m not sure. I believe they symbolize different fields of luck like making money, long life, but I’m not sure what each vegetable symbolizes.

Ozoni can also be found in Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional. (See Annotation).

I do agree with Matthew’s interpretation of this Japanese recipe. It was interesting to hear Matthew say that this dish was only eaten on New Years day.  I would imagine that the purpose of this limited time frame for consumption would be for the purpose of celebrating new beginnings in one’s life. To me, this soup is a symbolization of an optimistic outlook for your future, which should be eaten on a holiday that celebrates novelty, luck, and hope.


Schinner, Miyoko Nishimoto. Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co., 1999. pp. 68-71.


Children’s Game: My Father Owns a Grocery Store

Anne learned this game from her older sister when she was about ten years old. The method of this game goes as follows:

Person #1: My father owns a grocery store and in it he sells __. Person #1 will say the first letter of an item that is found in a grocery store

Person #2 will first say “and in it he sells…” and then they would have to guess what the item is that the person #1 is thinking of based off of the first letter Person #1 gave them. Person #1 is allowed to give hints if person #2 asks for a hint. Person #2 gets five tries to guess the correct grocery item. If they guess correctly they will become the designated person to lead the game. If they lose, person #1 gets another turn to lead the game. This game can be played with 2 or more people. Anne says that the more people that participate in the game, the more fun the game becomes.


Person #1: My father owns a grocery store and in it he sells “A”.

Person #2: and in it he sells apples?

Person #1: No

Person #2: and in it he sells apricots?

Person #1: Yes

Person #2: My father owns a grocery store and it he sells…

Anne said this children’s game is usually played in cars during long road trips, when an adult needs to keep a bored child busy, or with fellow friends and family at family get-togethers.

Anne, my grandmother, has passed this game down to her children and her grandchildren. This game holds sentimental value to me because I of the memories that go along with playing this game. The long road trip to the Grand Canyon or the nights spent around laughing while playing this game at the dinner table after a Sunday dinner are some of the few memories that I share when I remember playing this game. This shows that the deeper context of this type of folklore lies beneath the superficial framework of the game; it is more so the memories and anecdotes that accompanies childhood games that make them so important to my culture.

Ghost Story

Folk Belief- Ghosts: Penelope

Penelope is the resident ghost at the University Apartments in apartments 3a and 4a. Warnings of encountering this ghost are passed down from apartment to apartment every year. Murphy’s story goes as stated:

“On the first week of school, I went into the bathroom and I proceeded to put my boxers and clothes on top of the toilet. I got out of the shower and found my clothes on the floor with the bathroom toilet seat up. Take in mind that none of my roommates were here and the bathroom door is locked. So then I went to wash my clothes and I put my clothes into the washer. When my clothes were done I started to put them in the dryer and I noticed there was a lacey blue pair of panties in my laundry. Disturbed, I put them in the trash can. When I got my clothes out the dryer, I folded them and noticed another pair of lacey blue panties in my laundry. So I shut the dryer and left my clothes and ran upstairs. That was Penelope.”

I found Murphy’s interpretation of Penelope to be full of comedic relief from a type of folk belief that is usually deemed as scary. I believe this ghost story can be used as a marker of identification. Students on Xavier’s campus may start to know Murphy as “the person who has encountered a ghost or the person who can tell good ghost stories.”  This ghost story can also be used as a right of passage for new roommates who will move into apartments 3a and 4a. Former residents will determine whether the new residence of 3a and 4a can become a part of the Penelope group, by testing to see if they have come in contact with Penelope.

Folk Metaphor

Folk Metaphor: “If Dog Rabbit”

Eric’s interpretation of this saying is, “if the dog hadn’t stopped to take a shit then he would have caught the rabbit.” This term is mostly used when playing card games. Eric’s grandfather passed this saying down to him, and Eric most often uses it with other family members when they are playing card games, like poker. This term is used anytime you use the word “if” and/or engaging in wishful thinking without taking any action.

The word “if” is emphasized in this saying, symbolizing that one needs to take actions in order to produce results. You cannot expect to achieve goals if you are always making excuses for yourself. I could imagine that this phrase may have been commonly used amongst hunters with hounds and may have been later passed down to sons and daughters. I could also see this phrase used in different contexts besides card games. When one is aspiring to try out for an audition but is hesitant to do so and they say “if only I could try out for the ballet, an encouraging person could push them to audition by telling them “If dog rabbit.”