USC Digital Folklore Archives / Kinesthetic


This entry can loosely be described as videogame folklore. The interviewer (D) and the informant, C, were playing a game called Super Smash Bros for the Wii, a widely popular fighting game with well documented analysis for every character, stage, and since two players tend to face each other from a list of characters, every potential matchup as well. There are many unwritten rules that players follow to observe proper “etiquette” when playing the game. The game is played with 4 lives “stocks” and set to an 8-minute timer. The first to force their opponent to lose their stocks is declared winner. It is proper tournament etiquette to fistbump before games start.


This interaction occurred after both players had chosen their characters for the next game. The process of “striking stages” happens in order to preferentially pick stages for the next game to happen on.


D: let’s strike stages. I’ll go first, strike Dreamland

C: strike FD

D: strike PS2

C: Alright, so Yoshi’s

*both fistbump*

The interviewer notes the gesture of fistbumping as an unsaid mutual agreement that both players can proceed to the next match. There are no explicit rules stating players must fistbump to play the game, of course, but even in friendly play this simple gesture indicates you have a working level of respect for your opponent. It conveys a “no hard feelings” attitude that works for both parties, winner or loser.

Folk Dance

Nae Nae

In popular culture, dance moves are all the rage. Popular, earworm-esque songs seem to produce dances that go alongside them more frequently than ever before. It is truly a testament to today’s youth and their creativity to make up and, more importantly, make viral these dance phenomena. Not everyone though is entertained with these seemingly childish forms of passing time. My informant, C, told me this when I, DP, asked him what he thought of these “folk dances” in a modern era.

DP: so how do you feel about these dances coming out from hip hop songs nowadays?

C: they’re trash man.

DP: what do you mean?

C: There’s no creativity. For example, take the Nae Nae.

DP: Man, the Nae Nae died out like 3 years ago, what more can you say?

C: Listen to this really quick: You do a hockey goalie stance. When the song says “watch me whip,” you will rotate and extend your right hand in front of you in a way that your hand goes from palmar to dorsal. When you “nae nae” you bring your right hand from the extended position, open hand, and bring it back and forth, allowing the motion of your arm to allow your trunk to move with it.

Jokes aside, this interviewer tends to agree with the informant. The merits of pop culture are definitely present, but when it comes to these repetitive and predictable applications like simple dances, they come across as contrived more than anything else.

*for another popular dance that has stemmed from a song, see Harlem Shake by Baauer*

Folk speech

Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky

Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky



Subject: Childhood Game



Informant: Natalie Thurman



Background Information/Context: Natalie used to play this game called “Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky” when she was younger with her friends.


The following is Natalie’s description of the game to me:




“I used to play this one all the time with my friends. We would all sit around in a circle, close, so that your knees are touching—you would sit criss-cross. And you would put your hands on the knees of the people sitting next to you, palms up. The hand on the knee of the person to your right would be over the hand of that person. The hand on the knee of the person to your left would be under the hand of that person. I feel like that was really confusing—did you understand that? [I say yes.] Ok good. So you have your hands like that—oh my God, this is giving me so many flashbacks—and you start the game. You all start singing the song. It goes like this: [singing]



Down by the banks of the hanky panky

Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky

Singing oops, opps, curly pops

Snap crack-a-doodle and a cur-plop



And while you’re singing it, you bring your left hand, that’s resting on the hand of the person on your left, over their knee—you bring that left hand over to your right side and slap the hand of the person on your right, whose hand is resting on your right hand, which is resting on their left knee, if that makes sense. And you try to go with the rhythm, but towards the end, everyone ends up going as fast as they can so that it doesn’t land on you.



So when the song ends, and you say cur-plop, on ‘plop,’ whosever hand is the last one to be slapped is out, and they’re removed from the circle. Then you just keep going until you get to the last person, and they win the game. It gets really intense though when there’s less and less people. Like, when it gets down to the last two people, it’s so intense, everyone’s energy goes up like times ten. It was really fun.”



When Natalie first started describing the game to me, I immediately knew what she was talking about. I also played this game often with my friends when I was little, but I had completely forgotten about it until she brought it back up. It was particularly interesting to me to hear her actually tell me the lyrics of the song because I remember being a kid and not knowing the exact words that we were supposed to say, so instead, I would just make something up that sort of sounded like what everyone else was saying. I wonder if Natalie did the same thing, or if she told me the lyrics of a version of the song that she and her friends consistently used. It was also humorous for me to watch her try to explain the circle formation, as I could tell how difficult it was to explain in words. I think it’s a game that is much better suited as oral and performance folklore instead of for writing down how the game works. Because of this, the game doesn’t have official instructions, and can change slightly each time someone introduces it to a new set of friends.

Folk Dance

Irish Jig


TM is an accountant who was born in Sunnyside, WA and now is currently living in Bothell, WA. He descends from a heavy Irish and Italian background which have influenced much of his culture growing up. His grandparents were the ones to teach him the most about his culture through their traditions and common sayings.

What were some of the traditions that you remember about your Irish side of the family?

TM: I remember that every family reunion my grandfather would get dressed up to do a special dance. I know many people these days know what the Irish jig is but not as many people can do it anymore. They put on this kind of fiddle music and would tap their feet and make hilarious faces. My grandpa used to do it with some of the other members of the family and put on a show for us. As a kid, I thought it was pretty funny. Was there any special attire they wore or special music they played?

TM: Well my grandfather also used to do the jig on St. Patrick’s Day as well and he would dress up in all green with the kind of clothes a leprechaun would wear. It was super bright and festive. I think I may even have a picture of it. He used to love to put that outfit on and I thought about how funny he must have looked. Um… other than that I can’t think of anything particularly special they wore. As for the music, I can’t recall the name the songs I just know what they would have sounded like. It was pretty much what you would think of when you think of Irish folk music, very upbeat and about the fiddle.

Did you ever learn this dance yourself?

TM: No. It was always an older generation tradition that I guess no one younger really cared to learn and we all moved and got busy with our own lives. Sometimes I like to pretend I can but I don’t think it would be very good…

Analysis: Although the jig is no associated with popular or basic Irish folklore I believe it is still a very important part of culture. The jig is a funny and charismatic dance that is often associated with jokes and laughter. It brings joy to everyone in the room and would often be associated with family get togethers or parties. It is a very social and happy dance. Although not popularly practiced it still lives on in memories and is taught more in Ireland than here in America.

Folk Dance

Line Dancing

SP is a current student at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo where she studies Geography and Anthropology. She is originally from Seattle, WA and grew up in a small town nearby. She grew up in a typical American middle-class family. She attended a public high school in Washington where she grew up with a sister and her mother and father. She has a background of being half-Mexican and half Irish/Italian that has in some ways heavily influenced her beliefs as well as her religious beliefs rooted in Catholicism.

Are there any traditions that are new you have come across that you just started to partake in, possibly at college?

SP: Well at Cal Poly I have recently started to go to line dancing with my friends. It is on Thursday nights in a small bar with an open dance floor. Around 100-200 people will go a night and it gets really hot and crowded but it is one of the most fun things I have done here. It is something you can go to with your friends even if you are a bad dancer.

What is it like? I have never been line-dancing and don’t know what the experience is like.

SP: Well line-dancing is a lot of steps and remembering the pattern. They always play the same songs and each song has a dance. Most of the regulars know all the dances from going so often so if you watch them for a while sometimes you will eventually be able to do it and try it. I am not very good so I can only pick up the slower or easier dances and even then, sometimes I mess up. They aren’t that serious so if you mess up you just laugh it off and keep going but some people are so good and never mess up. I am guessing those people have time to go every week and that’s how they can memorize it and get so good.

Why is this so popular or a tradition at Cal Poly?

SP: I think it is because a lot of people at Cal Poly like country music and dancing and drinking and at Line-Dancing you can do all of those at the same time with you friends. When I go, I like to go with a group of my friends that I can dance with and have fun with but still make a fool of myself. That’s why so many people at Cal Poly go, because it is fun and easy to go with a bunch of your friends.


Line-dancing is popular across the united states but it has died out in places that are not in the south for the most part. IT is making a revival and the small town of San Luis Obispo through college kids because college kids love dancing and most love music that is popular like country. The act of line-dancing is portrayed in many movies and television as people having a ton of fun in pre-choreographed dance that they just happen to be able to learn easily during the night. It doesn’t require as much precision or skill as other kinds of dance which makes it friendly to all people especially young people. It is interesting to see it growing in California, which is not known as a typical southern state.


Secret Handshake

SP is a current student at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo where she studies Geography and Anthropology. She is originally from Seattle, WA and grew up in a small town nearby. She grew up in a typical American middle-class family. She attended a public high school in Washington where she grew up with a sister and her mother and father. She has a background of being half-Mexican and half Irish/Italian that has in some ways heavily influenced her beliefs as well as her religious beliefs rooted in Catholicism.

Is there anything you learned from your family that you still actively do today? Like a greeting or gesture that is something you feel is unique to you?

SP: Well me and my dad’s side of the family have this secret handshake that my dad made up. At first I think it was just a thing between him, me and my sister but now it has turned in to something all of cousins know how to do. It is really simple it is just some fist bumps and hand grabs and isn’t very hard to remember. It sort has become a family tradition with anyone he is close within the family who is younger. It keeps all of u having something in common that we all know as being the younger generation, we are a bit more separated from the older family in a way.

Do you still remember the handshake and use it regularly?

SP: Yeah, I still remember it, I have known it for almost 15 years now so it is like engrained in my brain forever at this point. I think it is only really used at family gatherings and we don’t have as many of those because of the fact that all of us have mostly gone to college and all the older aunts and uncles are actually getting to an older age where they come to less events because they have moved away or are spending time with other family. It is rare we get together but when we do my dad always asks us and our cousins in we remember it and we always do. It is nice that he still reminds us all in a way that he hasn’t forgotten us or that fact that we all share this secret technique together. Whenever I see people with handshakes it reminds me of my dad and our family.


Handshakes are a dying form of gesture or greeting. It is more common among children in younger ages as a way of bonding or sharing secrets between friends in a school yard setting. IT is now more uncommon since the digital age. People create common emoji messages or snapchats they can send back and forth rather than the significance of handshakes and jumping rope just do not exist after the age of eight or so. Handshakes just do not exist for the most part but used to be a huge form of bonding and communication. I remember when I was younger me and my friends created many handshakes we could share just between one person that made you feel like you had a special connection or unique thing no one else could share. It is sad to see them mostly die out but for those that remain it creates an everlasting bond between you and the other person.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Full Moon on the Quad at Stanford

My mom went to graduate school at Stanford. This is her interpretation of the “Full Moon On the Quad” Tradition:

Mom:”The original tradition holds that if you are a freshman girl at Stanford, you are not really a Stanford woman until you’ve been kissed by a senior under the full moon on the quad. For decades the story was often told, but the occurrences of these kisses would happen spontaneously – or not. Individual girls would report their initiation into Stanford womanhood with a mix of scandal and pride.”

Me: But is there an actual event where people meet on the Quad?

Mom:”These days, it has become an organized thing. Throngs of upperclassmen wait on the quad while scores of freshman females arrive to be kissed, and kissed again and again by a steady stream of upper class students– most of them strangers. This happens on the first full moon of the fall quarter.There are monitors to insure that consent is being given, there are express lanes for gay, straight, and bisexual preferences and there are even health center advocates who distribute mouthwash to help kill infectious viruses and bacteria being passed mouth to mouth.”

Me: Did you ever think this was an odd tradition for a prestigious school like Stanford to uphold?

Mom: “Yes. There was a saying when I went to Stanford that Stanford women were all either boobless brains or else brainless boobs. (If they were smart they were ugly and vice versa) What an astonishingly sexist tradition. Yet maybe it is no surprise that this is the elite school that also fostered an environment that taught Brock Turner to see rape as an extension of fun and games.”

Analysis: I agree with my mom in that it surprised me to learn that this tradition still exists at Stanford. I wonder how it will change in this generation- where gender, and being a “Stanford woman” may be harder to define. At one point in time, this tradition represented the idea that women must be verified in order to hold some validity on campus. I think that to be a genuine Stanford woman, a person should simply be enrolled at the school.


For more on the Full Moon on the Quad Tradition:

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Luck Free Throw

Everyone who plays basketball has some sort of free-throw routine. This is my brother’s:

Skye: When I get fouled, I go to the free throw line. The referee hands me the ball.I spin it, let it hit the ground, it comes back to me. I dribble twice. Look at the basket, take a deep breath. Spin it again. Shoot. Make it. And then do it again for the second free throw but I don’t get second free throws.

Me: Does everybody have a free-throw routine?

Skye: Yeah, but everybody’s is different.

Me: When did you discover your free-throw routine?

Skye: Middle school. I’ve changed it up a couple times. It used to be three dribbles instead of two. Ball is life. Ball is wife.

Analysis: Basketball is not a game of luck. However, having  a free throw routine can help to center a lot of players when they’re being yelled at from the opposing team’s crowd. Like in other sports, there are moments where a single athlete’s performance can matter more than the entire team’s. A free throw, when all of the team is watching, is a moment of extreme pressure for the individual. If the player has a routine, he feels centered and ready to score.

Folk Beliefs

Ghost light (Theatre)

Allegra:  I think this might be pretty common folklore, but every theater has a ghost. Sometimes, in particularly old theaters, a ghost can cause disruptions if not appeased.

Me: Have you ever experienced a theater ghost?

Allegra: Yes. Many times. Our high school theatre had a ghost who would take the bra from a quick change pile and move it to the opposite side of backstage. Well, perhaps that wasn’t a ghost. Probably just a bad techie. Anyway, yes the ghost light is kept on in empty theaters (theaters which are not in rehearsal or performance) to appease the ghost, and I suppose for safety reasons as well. People do not want to be fumbling around in a dark theatre when they enter.

Me: What do they look like?

Allegra: Well it’s a lightbulb on top of a metal stand, and there is usually a cage around the light. Whoever leaves the theatre last is supposed to plug it in so that the next person can see.

Analysis: A ghost light goes along with many superstitions in theatre. (Never say Macbeth, a bad final dress rehearsal means a good opening night and vice versa) The ghost light superstition seems ridiculous but it is a serious practice among Thespians. As artists, actors are prone to letting the supernatural have more sway. Perhaps this is because their imaginations are more active than dryer fields of work, or because their work is so subjective and a bad show can be the result of events outside of their control. In either case, a ghost light is one of many theatre superstitions well alive today. 220px-Ghost_Light_on_Stage

Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sma Grordorna – Swedish Midsummer Celebration Song


Elliot Danielsson is a 21 year old man from Gothenburg, Sweden. This is his favorite folk song from his native Swedish culture. He also says that almost everyone in his town “and probably most of Sweden” knows this song and sings it during their Midsummer Celebration.

Folk Song:

Små grodorna, små grordorna

är lustiga att se.


Ej öron, ej öron, ej suansar

hava de.


What the song is about:

Elliot: “It’s…uh…kinda hard to give a straight translation, but it’s basically about…It’s small frogs without tails or ears, which makes their lives very difficult, but they are still full of joy and love dancing around a tree. It basically shows how even though we all may live tough lives, we can still live our lives with happiness and joy.”


Elliot: “It is most often performed at any celebration that whatever Swedish town is putting on the…uh…celebration. Kids, like, love singing it during the celebration, and adults join in too.”

My thoughts:

Elliot also added that this Midsummer Celebration is comparable to America’s Christmas in regards to popularity, and one of the biggest parts (and probably my favorite part) of our Christmas traditions is Christmas music. Therefore, this song that is connected with a major holiday is very interesting to me because I did not know that other cultures’ holidays also often had music that went along with them.