USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk speech
Folk speech
Riddle

American Proverb.

Subject: Proverb.

Informant:

Brandon grew up in Sacramento California to a practicing Jewish family. He is an only child and works as a financial advisor at a back in New York City.

Original script: This too shall pass.My grandmother on my mothers side always said it, she literally said it for everything.
Happy or sad, she always said this too shall pass, it to me is a reminder to enjoy every moment because nothing lasts forever, sorrow fades as much as the happiness does. To me it’s not negative, it is grounding, and a reminder that change is constant.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: The informant had a tattoo of the proverb on his foot. He got it to remind him to always live in the moment.

Context of the Performance: No context.

Thoughts about the piece: Like most proverbs, this one is used to guide someone in times of hardship. I can also relate it to the American Future Worldview that Dundes wrote about in his article “Thinking Ahead”.

Folk speech
Humor
Myths
Narrative

Bhutan Folktale.

Informant:

Bandar is an American who was traveling in Bhutan when he heard this folktale. He is an abid traveler and student with a masters in International Relations.

 

Original script:

Two friends, monkey and hen live together. Monkey is always sent to work everyday hen stays at home and cooks for the monkey. The hen of course lays egg.

One day the monkey is working hard, right? In the field he works, while the hen gets to stay home, you know? So the monkey says, “ Now I’m going to cook for you, YOU go in the field and work”

Before, he watches the hen how hen does cooking and cleans everything up. What monkey sees is hen laying an egg over the pan. Monkey send hen to the field, she cleans everything up. She starts to cook and like the hen she sits over the oven and squeezes. No egg come out but of course other things come out, the poops come out, and it splashes the oil and burns off all his fur. So then we say its not always good to copy”

 

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Bandar was traveling in Bhutan when the guide he was traveling with told him this folktale and recorded it for me.

 

Context of performance:

Told to my informant on a long car ride up in Bhutan.

 

Thoughts on this piece:

The story like most tales reflects belief system in the Bhutanese culture and provides a moral story on common sense. It is interesting that the narrator switches the sex of the Monkey and Hen. Does this mean that gender roles are not as important in Bhutan?

Folk speech
Proverbs

Indian Proverb

Subject: Indian proverb.

Informant: Aminur Rahman

Book: Woman and Microcredit in Rural Bangladesh.

Original performance: “lajja narir vushan”   WMRB pg74.

Phonetic script: “lajja narir vushan”

Transliteration: “lajja narir vushan”

Full translation: Shame is like clothes for women.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: this saying is popular in rural Bangladesh where women’s honor is tied to modesty.

Context of the Performance: No context.

Thoughts about the piece: This proverb is important because I believe it illustrates in a few words the attitude towards women in places like Bangladesh and a lot of rural areas in the world.

 

Folk speech
general
Narrative

The Law of The Stick

Subject: Indian tale.

Author: Erin P. Moore

Book: Gender, Law and Resistance in India.

Original performance: “A clever Brahman received a buffalo from his patron. The buffalo was fat and looked as if it had a lot of milk. Taking the buffalo the Brahman walked the direction of his village. The road was deserted and dangerous. Halfway there the Brahman saw a man carrying a walking stick [lathi] in his hand. The man tried to make friends with the Brahman and walked with him for a while. After a bit he stopped and said “Brahman, Maharaj, your buffalo if very strong, give it to me. “Why give it to you?’ the Brahman said.” No reason” the man said, swinging his stick in the air. “Quickly, give me the buffalo. If you don’t give me the buffalo immediately, with this I’ll smash your skull to pieces. To the extent possible, I want to save myself from the sin of killing a Brahman. Otherwise, I’ll put an end to you.

The Brahman was startled. He too was strong. But upon looking at the stick in the mans hands he became worried. He thought for a moment then said happily “ brother, if you want to take this buffalo, give me something in exchange. If you take it without paying, wont this is a sin for you? I am a Brahman. If you give me something, it wont be a sin.” “What do I have to give you?” the man said. “If I had something id give you for sure.” “You have a stick,” the Brahman said, smiling to himself. “Give this to me. I am a Brahman- what does the stick mean to me? I am a Brahman and in this way you can save yourself from sin. I understand your dharma. Exchange the stick for the buffalo and you will be saved from sin.”

On hearing this, the man was very pleased. He thought, “this Brahman, what a fool he is! He is exchanging just a stick for this sturdy buffalo.” He immediately gave his stick to the Brahman. “Move aside, move aside! “The Brahman said loudly. “Move away from my buffalo. If you don’t I’ll break your skull.” He swung his stick in the air. “What is this Maharaj?” the man said nervously. “Why wont you give me the buffalo in exchange for me stick?” “You don’t know?” the Brahman scolded him.” The one who owns the stick owns the buffalo, now go away.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: this story is shared by villages in Rajasthani to display their vision of justice that “might makes right.”

Thoughts about the piece: This piece is interesting because it exhibits the view of justice held by the villagers of Rajistani, which is very different to those of the West. While the west believes in trial and equal sharing, the unfair might of the powerful is what drives justice in these villages.

Citation:

Moore, Erin P. Gender, Law, and Resistance in India. Tucson: U of Arizona, 1998.

Print.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Arabic Proverb

Subject: Arabic proverb.

Informant:

 Haifa grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a progressive family. She is a Professor at the King Saud University in Riyadh and conceders herself a religious person, but does not believe in a lot of the superstition behind some of the stories. She grew up, and works, around all different kinds of people that shared with her different traditions and folklore of which she has shared some of her favorite.

Origional Script:

ابن البط عوام.

 

Phonetic (Roman) script: Ibn al bat awam

Transliteration: Ibn al bat awam.

Full translation: The son of a duck is a floater.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Much like the English saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

 

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Magic
Protection

Mashallah

Informant :

Haifa grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a progressive family. She is a Professor at the King Saud University in Riyadh and considers herself a religious person, but does not believe in a lot of the superstition behind some of the stories. She grew up, and works, around all different kinds of people that shared with her different traditions and folklore of which she has shared some of her favorite.

Original script:                                                                                                                 

ما شاء الله

Phonetic (Roman) script: Mahsallah

Transliteration: Mashallah

Full translation: As god wills.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Mashshallah is said to ward off any bad or evil eye from things. When you say something is nice like “you have nice hair” you have to say mashallah after it of you may unintentionally give someone the evil eye. My mother still yells at me if I don’t say mashallah after I say something nice and will even tell strangers to say mashallah if they are complementary or her kids.

Context of the Performance: Said to ward off the evil eye from a person, home or object and used throughout the Arabic speaking world.

Thoughts about the piece: Like a lot of traditional Arabic saying and myths this blends superstition with religion (Islam). While the saying involved the belief that only god can make something happen, it still is used to ward off evil created by humans.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Arabic Proverb 2

Subject: Arabic Proverb

Informant:

Haifa Saud (51): Haifa grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a progressive family. She is a Professor at the King Saud University in Riyadh and conceders herself a religious person, but does not believe in a lot of the superstition behind some of the stories. She grew up, and works, around all different kinds of people that shared with her different traditions and folklore of which she has shared some of her favorite.

Original script:

مثل إللى يبيع سمك بالبحر.

Phonetic (Roman) script: Mithl illy yibee’e samak bil bahar.

Transliteration: Mithl illy yibee’e samak bil bahar.

Full translation: It’s like selling fish in the sea.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Like a lot of Arabic proverbs, this is used by people all over the Middle East to and used to express the uselessness of some act. It is much like the saying “selling sand to an Arab.”

Thoughts about the piece: A lot of Arabic proverbs use humor to get the point across and are used in place of jokes in everyday interactions. This piece, I believe, exhibits the humor in the proverbs that are often centered around comparisons between people and animals.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

English Proverb.

Subject: Proverb

Original script: “ your geese are always swans”.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Liz was told this while she was at work after defending a colleague who had done a bad job.

Thoughts about the piece: The swan is a prominent member of Anglo Saxon folklore and are often associated with love, beauty and nobility.

folk metaphor
folk simile

오비이락 烏飛梨落

My informant is a student who originally came from Korea, but moved with her family to Los Angeles since her middle school.

 

烏飛梨落

오비이락

Bird flies away, Pear drops off.

 

My informant told me Korean also use this kind of  four-word phrases to convey some philosophy as Chinese people do; many of them are written in Chinese characters but pronounced in Korean.

For this specific one, she said, “You didn’t do anything, but something happens coincidentally, then people think you did it.”

It is quite interesting to me that there are many metaphors like this in asian cultures, which I think more or less relates to their hieroglyphic language (especially traditional Chinese) that allows them to randomly connect two things that share similar features together.

 

Digital
folk metaphor
Humor

安利 Amway/Brainwash

This word is also a very popular phrase that has been widely used online for these couple years in China.
The word now means strongly recommending somebody to do something.
Usually the person who uses it personally likes the subject so much and therefore wants to share with others so badly.
The interesting thing is, the word itself actually originates from an American marketing company Amway, the sub company of which has a huge reputation for being overly persuasive when they try to sell their products in China. Then people started making fun of that company and using the word “安利” (Amway) as a verb instead of a noun to describe the behavior of strongly recommending others to try something.
Moreover, as the word has been widely spread on the Internet, it tends to mean more like “brainwash” when people use it for fun.
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