USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk speech
Digital
Folk speech
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

王八蛋 Son of a bitch

A “wángbādàn 忘/王八蛋” is the offspring of a woman lacking virtue. Another meaning of 王八 is 鼈 biē, fresh-water turtle.[4] Turtle heads reemerging from hiding in the turtle’s shell look like the glans emerging from the foreskin, and turtles lay eggs. So a “wang ba” is a woman who has lost her virtue, and a “wang ba dan” is the progeny of such a woman, a turtle product, but, figuratively, also a penis product.

This profanity term has actually been widely used in China for many years, and it is a pretty offensive one to use. I find in both western and eastern culture, it is considered to be very offensive one when the subject is related to close family members.

 

Digital
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

看颜值 Score of Face

“2016年人丑就要多读书,体胖就要多跑步,又丑又胖的童鞋们,读书和跑步这两项运动似乎都不大适合你,狗带吧!2016年讲段子也得看颜值了!”

“In the year of 2016, READ more if you were ugly, RUN more if you were a fat-ass. For those who are both ugly and fat, stop wasting your time, just GO DIE! In the year of 2016, you have to look good even for telling this kind of joke!”

The popular culture in China nowadays has an unusual spotlight on people’s face, and there is a standard look that pleases the majority people. Ironically, that standard is based on the look of western people. Many people there have spent lots of many to do the surgery in order to look more “beautiful,” which are stereotyped into big eyes, high nose, small face… This almost became a “must” standard for the majority to judge on others, they call it “Score of Face.”

I think this is a funny, ridiculous and creepy phenomenon that people want to fit the arbitrary standard of beauty, and eventually they almost all look the same.

 

 

 

Reference:

http://lizhi.shangc.net/a/201601/12159.html

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.
Folk speech
Proverbs

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

Informant AB is a 23-year-old male who is from the East Bay in Northern California. He is a student at the University of Southern California in his third year as a civil engineer major. Here, he discuses a proverb that he learned from his father while growing up:

AB: “My dad would always say, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’”

Where did your dad learn this proverb?

AB: “My dad learned it from his father who also learned it from his father.”

Does this proverb have any significance to you?

AB: “Absolutely. I believe that it is always best to save money when you have it and just because you do have money doesn’t mean you should be spending it. It is smarter to save it for a rainy day.”

How do you use this proverb in your everyday life?

AB: “I try to save as much money as I can and I generally don’t spend more than I take in. I’m always trying to save a little bit no matter what. And when the day comes when I have my own kids, I will pass this on to them to help them understand and learn the value of a dollar and to not spend frivolously because this was the way I was taught by my parents.”

Analysis:

This proverb that the informant shared with me I found to be very relatable in that I was raised in a similar way in regards to valuing money. This proverb was originally stated by one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin in the 1700’s. This proverb provides a positive connotation in that it is important to save money in the moment because it will benefit you in the long run. It teaches you to the importance and value of money and what you have.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Taj ko čeka, taj dočeka”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

“Taj ko čeka, taj dočeka.”

“A person who waits is a person who receives.”

In the Croatian language, the letter “j” is pronounced as a “y” sound and the “č” is pronounced as a “ch” sound like in English.

How do you know about this Croatian proverb?

MV: “Growing up in a Croatian and Italian family, it is a Croatian proverb that my parents used in our everyday lives.”

 How did your parents learn about this proverb?

MV: “Well my father learned this proverb from his parents while he was a very young boy growing up in Split, Croatia. It was a popular phrase used among our family members dating back generations ago. When he got older, he continued to pass this proverb onto his family.”

Does this Croatian proverb have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “It has great meaning to me because it is something that holds true to what I believe in and it is very much relevant to any generation and language today. I feel as though this proverb is relatable to most, if not everyone. This Croatian proverb is very similar to the one that says, ‘Good things come to those who wait,’ in that patience is rewarded to those who take the time to let things come that are truly meant to be. Not forcing the end result or expected outcome, but letting nature take its course in delivering what is really meant to be. You will meet your goal when you let patience and acceptance into your life.”

How can you or others relate to this proverb?

MV: “I think this proverb is fitting for me or anyone. When you think things are not going your way or something is not happening fast enough or not happening in the time frame that you would want it to happen in, it kind of makes you get your perspective and to move forward and to keep doing what you’re doing.”

In what context or situation would this be performed?

MV: “I use this Croatian proverb when I try to give advice to my kids, well, they’re not really kids anymore, but I say this when they are in times of frustration to remind them that everything happens in its own timing and that when you wait, what is meant for you will come along naturally.

Analysis:

This Croatian proverb is a great example of how folklore is spread orally over generations. Growing up in a traditional Croatian and Italian household, my mother learned the Croatian language before she learned Italian or English. As a child of immigrant parents, it was important to her and her family that they did not lose sight of their traditions. Once my mother had my older sister and I, we were taught Croatian before English, that way we were able to uphold our heritage and understand our family roots. Still knowing the language today, I find it comforting when my mom tells me this proverb in times of stress or frustration. It helps me to see past the obstacles that I am faced with in that particular moment. Now as an adult, this proverb especially resonates with me and I have continued to pass this proverb along to my friends.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Idimi dođimi”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

“Idimi dođimi” “Coming and going” 

In the Croatian language, the “đ” in the word “dođimi” has a “j” sound like in English.

 Where or who did you learn this Croatian proverb from?

MV: “I learned it from my parents and heard it from other family members in Split, Croatia growing up. It is a very descriptive, common proverb that is used to describe a person who is not reliable or consistent in their work or character.

Do you like this proverb?

MV: “I do very much and it is very short, sweet, and to the point.”

Does it have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “I just have heard a lot of people in my family say it and it has stuck to me over the years. It’s meant to be used in a light manner; it’s not a serious critique of a person or situation. It is usually said in a light, joking way and it usually involves a little laughing so that’s why I like it and use it because it really isn’t a negative thing. It is just a light way to describe something and everybody who is from Split knows what it means.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “This proverb is generally used to describe a personality type, someone who is not that driven or career oriented. It can also be used loosely to describe someone who does not have a clear goal in sight. It can be said in situations that are frustrating to help relief the tension in a light way.”

Analysis:

In Croatia, there are many different types of proverbs that are used throughout the different regions of the country. However, each region has its own vernacular. “Idimi dođimi” is a classic Split proverb that is used casually to describe a person’s disposition or demeanor. It is meant to be used in a light-hearted and joking manner. Growing up listening to my mom say, “Idimi dođimi” was also a type of way my mother reminded me that there are going to be people ‘coming and going’ out of your life and not everyone is meant to stay. She would say that those who ‘come and go’ are the people who are temporary placed within my life.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Mene musika nosi”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

 “Mene musika nosi”

 “Music carries me”

Can you expand on the meaning of this proverb?

MV: “This is generally used for describing yourself or another person who is fairly upbeat most of the time, not much gets them down. They don’t let the burdens of everyday life get in the way of their happiness. Music also tends to make people happy so this proverb has a positive, happy connotation.”

Where or who did you learn this Croatian proverb from?

MV: “I learned it through growing up in a Croatian and Italian household with parents who immigrated from Europe. It’s part of my cultural heritage. We spoke Croatian in our household fluently as it was the primary language in our family and friends.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “This proverb is mainly used to describe a person disposition. To this day, it is pretty common to use, not so much with the younger generation, but mostly with the middle age generation and the elderly. It is a quintessential proverb from Split, which is on the Dalmatian Coast where the Adriatic Sea is. That region is where a proverb like is originated.”

So this Croatian proverb is mostly regional more so than a generalized proverb that is know throughout Croatia?

MV: “Exactly because there was an influx of different people in different areas of Croatia who don’t know the history of Split and don’t know the old dialect and the old proverbs. It’s a melting pot like many places in Europe and in the world today. A lot of that gets filtered away, so it really is quite a gift to be able to move this forward generationally to my children. Knowing that my daughters know the Croatian language, they will uphold these proverbs and other traditional aspects of our heritage and that they will continue to pass them on to their own children and even their friends as well.”

Do you think Croatians from other parts of the country would be able to relate or understand this proverb in particular since it is a proverb from Split?

MV: “I think they would understand it, but they would look at you like you are from another generation or era because of the Split dialect used in this proverb and also because throughout Croatia, there are different dialects depending on the region, so that can influence the ability to fully understand the meaning behind it. There are people of course that would understand it who are not from Split, but it is not used as readily as it was when I was a child, so that is why I made sure and still make sure that my kids understand it and carry it along with them.”

Does this Croatian proverb have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “I use it quite frequently actually. It was kind of a joke in our family for a while because there was a good family member who would always be happy really no matter the circumstance and we would always say about him, ‘Mene musika nosi.’ It is certainly a positive, optimistic proverb used to describe how you feel or a person’s disposition.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “It could be something like if someone said, ‘Gosh, you are never down. Do you ever get upset?’ and the person would say, ‘Mene musika nosi,’which means that their general path in life is one of happiness as opposed to looking at life as the glass is half empty instead of half full. It is very comparable to that. It is a framework in which they view their life, but it’s not something that they think about, but more so how they live their everyday life.”

Analysis:

Music is a large part of our Croatian culture, which embodies positivity and self-expression. Croatia has maintained a vital musical culture since its independence in 1991 from the former Yugoslavia. “Mene musika nosi” is a classic proverb from the city of Split that my mother always uses. It is used as a reminder to never let the negative aspects of live interfere with the positive. It is a way at looking at life in the most optimistic way. Those who are content about how they live their life commonly use this proverb. It is a reminder to themselves and to others to not take life so seriously. I found it interesting how based on the regions and the different dialects that not everyone in Croatia will fully understand the meaning behind the proverb. Since the people of Split strictly use this proverb, people from other regions may not fully be able to relate to it.

 

Folk speech
Humor
Narrative

“Whatever you do, don’t step on the cracks”

Informant AB is a 23-year-old male who is from the East Bay in Northern California. He is a student at the University of Southern California in his third year as a civil engineer major. Informant AB was taught by his grandfather as a child to not walk on the cracks on the sidewalk to avoid bad luck:

AB: “When I was little, I would visit my grandparents on the weekends with my younger brother and we would sit in the family room all together after dinner. My grandfather would tell us all kinds of stories of when he was a kid growing up. He told us that his father would always tell him to never walk on the cracks on the side walk because it will give you bad luck for 7 years.”

How did your grandfather’s father learn about this type of lore?

AB: “Well, I asked him one day about the meaning behind the story and he said that his father learned it from a buddy of his when he was a kid. He said that his friend heard it from the neighborhood kids. My grandfather said it was mostly to be meant as a joke, but some of kids took it seriously, like my grandfather.”

Does this folklore have any significance to you?

AB: “Ya it’s pretty funny how it actually does mean something to me. Ever since my grandfather told me and my brother this story, I have been very conscious to walk a certain way to avoid the cracks in the ground. I know it’s mostly a joke and not meant to be taken too seriously, but just knowing the idea of the potential bad luck that can come from stepping on the cracks makes me more aware to avoid them. It’s pretty funny how seriously I take it sometimes.”

Have you shared your grandfather’s story with anyone else?

AB: “Ya I’ve told my buddy NC and a few other friends growing up about the story and it’s pretty funny now I have them doing the same thing. We know it’s not meant to be taken too serious, but I think it’s funny how much of an impact it made on all of us. Even at our age today we are still very mindful of the bad luck that can happen if we step on any cracks.”

Have your friends carried on this folklore in any way?

AB: “My brother and my friend NC have definitely shared this story with their friends just to mess with their minds in a joking way. They find it entertaining to make people feel that bad luck can happen if you step on cracks. It has become a running joke between all of us and it has managed to freak other people out.”

Analysis:

The informant’s example of oral folklore shows just how a story can cross boundaries between different groups of people and influence their everyday lives. It began with AB’s grandfather’s father who initially carried on the story, but now AB and his brother have continued to pass the story along to their group of friends. I find it interesting how this story has turned into an inside joke between friends, but how it also had such an impact that it managed to make them aware enough to avoid any chances of being struck with bad luck.

 

Folk speech
Humor

Surf vocabulary

DK is a junior at the University of Southern California, but also a transfer from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

At UCSB, DK had many friends who surfed, and while she didn’t participate she was surrounded by the culture:

“My surfer friends had a lot of really weird vocabulary. They used to call people ‘kooks,’ almost always to make fun of them, and eventually I understood that it described kids who don’t really know surfer etiquette or are new to the sport, so in everyday life it’s just someone who’s a spaz or disrespectful, kind of oblivious.

“‘Frothing’ is another one they’d use a lot, which is just a synonym for excited, like you’d say ‘I’m so excited for dinner, I’m absolutely frothing!’ They use it to describe wave sets a lot.

“One I really liked was ‘grom,’ and when I went surfing with them one time they kept calling me that. It’s kind of similar to ‘kook,’ I think, except not so much someone who’s disrespectful. I think it’s mostly for people who are new to surfing or just a really young and excited surfer.”

My analysis:

Groups that bond over a common activity always seem to have their own culture, and DK gave me some great examples of vocabulary that would only be understood by people who surfed. It’s interesting to see how the words are applied both out in the ocean and in everyday life, and surfers are constantly drawing comparisons between the two worlds. DK also said she’s heard surfers at USC use the same language, but sometimes with slightly varied meanings. I’ve also heard of different surfers using different “lingo,” and there seem to be regional differences even in Southern California, depending on where your local spot is. Hawaiian surfers don’t use the above vocabulary, and Manhattan Beach surfers aren’t going around saying “shaka.”

Customs
Foodways
Proverbs

Lazy Grace

KM is a third-generation Japanese-American from Los Angeles, CA. She now lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and 18-year-old son.

KM was raised in a Christian household, where her family said “grace” before dinner every night:

“I have four siblings and we always ate dinner together with our parents. We’d sit around this big round table and every night, we would take turns saying grace before eating…we were supposed to come up with something original, like something that had to do with the day or different events going on in our lives, but usually my siblings just defaulted to ‘God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” I always tried to have an interesting one, but I think everyone else just wanted to eat.”

I asked KH if she still says grace in her family, or if she and her siblings carried their religious traditions on in their new nuclear families:

“Ultimately I was unsuccessful in getting my kids to go to church. My husband grew up in a Catholic family and now wants nothing to do with the church, and I couldn’t get my kids to show much interest either. I don’t think anyone else in my family still goes to church…except my parents. They’ve been going to the same church since they met.”

My analysis:

Religion is one of those things that can either define a family, or be irreconcilable when two families come together. In KH’s case, religion’s importance started to waver amongst her and her siblings, despite the traditions of their parents. The “grace” prayer in her family shows one generation trying to pass on their beliefs through a ritual, and the next generation participating half-heartedly, or just to please authority. Eventually as they started their own families, her siblings decided the tradition wasn’t particularly important to them, and refrained from instilling it in their own family. More broadly it seems to symbolize the diminishing importance of their religion, and maybe a certain progressive movement amongst families to not force it on their children.

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