USC Digital Folklore Archives / folk metaphor
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Proverbs

Urban Sayings in Mexico City

The informant is from Mexico City, currently rotating at UT Medical Center.

The interview occurred at a family barbeque on a Sunday.

 He and I discussed what he thinks about when he thinks of his home, which is originally Mexico City. He said that there is nothing quite like the sights and sounds of the urban squares of the densely populated capital. Here, Jesús discusses the marketplaces and street vendors in further detail.

“Hacerte Maje’ is a way of life, which means to cheat on people, and we sum it up by saying “el que no tranza no avanza”, which translates as “he who doesn’t cut corners doesn’t make progress”. Sadly, there is a tacit knowledge that corruption and lying are widespread; the “gandalla” is a person who breaks the rules in order to come out ahead. Traffic police are called Tamarindos, because they used to wear brown uniforms, the same color as the fruit, tamarinds, and México is known to be the capital of corruption. When an infraction is called, cops get paid to cancel the ticket, that payment is called “mordida,” which literally means bite. Public transport is usually run by organized groups that literally control the routes. People call the short, plump vehicles “peseros”. they used to cost one peso too, and they run the schedules and the routes as they please. The metro is also a place where things are sold illegally, and they pay the police “the mordida”, so that they are not stopped or detained as they carry on their business. On the metro you can be a victim of “bolsear”, which means to have your wallet stolen or “tortear,” to have your buttocks grabbed mercilessly; usually by a Patazo or Tigrazo; a despicable individual with no redeeming qualities. Our national holiday is on September 15th, not 5 de Mayo, as is wrongly assumed in the U.S.; although that commemorates the only victory our army had, the Batalla de Puebla. On Sep. 15th we celebrate “El Grito de Dolores”, which happened in Guanajuato.

This description of some of the folk sayings and forms of informal commerce gives some insight into the secondary economies of Mexico, wherein corruption and off the books dealings often do occur, but are so frequent they’ve become a part of the everyday. “El que no tranza no avanza” is an interesting saying that, although sly in tone, seems to imply that one cannot let others cheat, or to be weary of strangers. He gives the clarification that this saying for the most part applies to trivial happenings for the common person, and is used ironically when large-scale corruption is revealed. The fact of so many sayings surrounding corruption in Mexico gives us insight into the socialized aspect of discussing these exploitive practices. The question remains–is this socialization by folk dictums a form of combatting corruption, or have these sayings merely arisen due to frequency?

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

The ‘Godinez’ In Mexican Culture

The informant is from Mexico City, currently rotating at UT Medical Center.

The interview occurred at a family barbeque on a Sunday.

He and I discussed what he thinks about when he thinks of his home, which is originally Mexico City. He said that there is nothing quite like the sights and sounds of the urban squares of the densely populated capital. Jesús was a medical fellow in the city and spent most of his early career in the bustling city center.

“Those who are stuck in office jobs, frequently government employees, are called “godinez”, and they are white collar, lower middle class people who never make progress.”

Is there a connotation?

“Yes, it is not a good thing to be called one, but it comes from a name, so it in not totally a diss. We love to use words that have a double meaning, our humor is a frequent play on words, and that is called ‘albur’.

‘De Pelos’ means fantastic, and if you attend a family meal, usually held on Sundays after church or as the natural offering to watch the two soccer rivals play a ‘clásico'; an important match between the Chivas and América, you might be lucky enough to take an ‘Itacate’ home, leftovers packed for later enjoyment, and you might thank your host by saying ‘Te Rayaste, Guey,’ which means, you really outdid yourself, pal!

Here, the informant delves into some of the vernacular inventions of everyday informal speech. Godinez in particular is quite interesting because it is a not uncommon last name that has been given a bad connotation. The Godinez is a desk mule, a no questions wimpy clerk. The origins of the pejorative are unclear, but some ascribe it to a typified character in the series El Chavo Del Ocho. On one hand, the Godinez exemplifies a hard working individual who is doing his or her best to bring home a respectable salary, even if the job is monotonous. And yet, there is in any case a cultural criticism of those who take such jobs too seriously, as is made clear by this sneer. Albur as a whole are quite similar to our use of puns. Often enough, they involve some form of sexual undertone. Itacate translates to provisions, which is quite a clever use in that, beyond being called simply leftovers, with a future purpose left unclear, Itacate implies a level of endearment. Provisions imply a future use, a looking out for the person whom is gifted the Itacate. It is often the case that the whole day is spent cooking for large neighborhood gatherings, and a huge amount of food is cooked so much is left over. In many Latin American cultures the guest is invited to take home the best left overs, is provisioned for future meals.

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech

Milking the Cat

Informant:

Davis is from Newport Beach, California and enjoys surfing.

Original Script:

Davis: “Dude, stop milking the cat.”

Context:

When someone feels like they are being led on or lied to.

My Thoughts:

Davis said that this is similar to the saying “Stop yanking my chain.” Coming from southern California myself, I thought that I had heard every type of folk speech here, but I apparently have not. This shows that not only is foreign folklore unfamiliar to me, but I guess that even folklore from my culture can be unfamiliar.

folk metaphor
Folk speech

Eggy

Informant:

Davis is from Newport Beach, California and enjoys surfing.

Original Script:

Davis: “The term ‘eggy’ basically means that someone is kind of strange or weird. A lot of people in my area sometimes even call a party ‘eggy.'”

Context:

When referring to something as odd.

My Thoughts:

Growing up in southern California myself, I have heard this term a few times, but it meant something different. I always thought that it meant that something is awesome, similar to the term that is commonly used “sick.” This shows that sometimes one folk term can mean more than one thing.

folk metaphor
general
Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Mullah’s Donkey in a Well

Informant: My friend’s mother told this story as one of her favorite Mullah Nasruddin narratives, saying she cannot remember where she originally heard it but she always thought it smart of Mullah.

Original Script: “A donkey falls into a well. And then everyone in town, they were thinking how they can actually rescue the donkey and no one can think of anything. And Mullah came and said if you put dirt on it. And everyone was accusing him, “why? it’s going to be buried under the dirt!” And it’s the smartest thing because if they were putting in the dirt and filling the hole so he could actually walk up. That was the smartest actually idea that he had at the time.”

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: I liked this piece; it’s a good example of Mullah while being clever. I mostly enjoyed how excited the storyteller was, as it was clear this is her favorite story.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Foodways

“Your mother-in-law loves you” Greek Tradition

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:
Informant: This takes place when you are eating at the dinner table. Say my aunt will call us. In Greek, my mother will say to my aunt, “Your mother-in-law loves you.” When she says this, my aunt will understand that she is at the table eating. That way, she doesn’t have to explain to my aunt that she is eating; she just gets it. This phone conversation has to take place between two Greeks because you speak the phrase in Greek. My aunt, or whoever is on the phone, and my mom can laugh it off, and my aunt will tell her to enjoy her meal and hang up. My mother taught me this when I was about thirteen. That’s around the time I saw her do this for the first time. I just remember that one day, my mom kept saying it.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s just kind of important to know because it’s part of my culture. Also, it’s useful to know because if I called someone and they said that my mother-in-law loves me, I should understand what it means.

Personal Thoughts: I like this piece of folklore a lot because I think it is very unique. It is interesting to me that Greeks have a general understanding of what to do when they hear the phrase, “Your mother-in-law loves you” over the phone. I also find it compelling because it seems that this phrase takes just as long to say as something like, “I’m eating right now. I’ll call you back.” Since the two are just as simple to say, it is interesting that Greeks choose to say something which most people would deem more confusing, rather than just explaining what they are doing.

folk metaphor

A Goat Rope – A Southwestern Metaphor

“That’s a goat rope”

Folk metaphors are comparisons made between two unlike things for effect, in this case a folk metaphor from my father who spends a lot of time on cattle ranches in rural Arizona. He has lived in Arizona all his life, and is an amateur cowboy.

Me: When you say something’s a goat rope what does that mean?

TC: It means that something not right, that it’s a mess or it’s too difficult to be bothered with. Something that you cannot change, but is something annoying to deal with. Something that is difficult and not easy and not quite right.

Me: When would you use it?

TC: When I saw something that wasn’t right or was a mess or a situation that is irritating. For example the parking lot at Costco today was a goat rope, because it was crowded and disorganized and people were driving stupid.

Me: Where did you learn it?

TC: I don’t know where I learned it from. I mean, have you ever tried to rope a goat? It’s hard and they are smelly and irritating. Therefore, a goat rope. Maybe I learned it on the ranch, I don’t know.

Analysis:

Folk similes are usually connected to tabooistic vocabulary, that is words we arrant supposed to talk about, however in this case it is most certainly not. It is almost an occupational or niche simile as it has to do with ranching. The average person has never had to rope a goat (referring to the practice of tying a goat’s legs together either for competition or transportation) and therefore would not understand the difficulty of roping one, and therefore the meaning of the simile would be lost on them. Therefore, it almost becomes an identity simile, those who have worked on ranches would understand its meaning,, but an outsider would not. The simile is applied to non-ranching circumstances like an irritating parking lot or a busy airport, this fact is interesting as it is the person using their ranching identity outside the ranch and most likely to a person who would understand.

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

Arabic Expression

طلعله من الجمل اذنه

Transliteration: Telaalu min al jamal ednu.

Translation: “He got only the camel’s ear.”

When someone works hard to get big share of a deal but the outcome turns out to be very small because many other people shared it with him.

Background information: An expression known in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. This is a common figure of speech in the Arabic language.

Context: The informant told me about this expression in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is a very interesting way to describe this situation, one that appears to be quite common all throughout history to today. I find the use of metaphors in other languages to be fascinating and a colorful way to carry out the language. I don’t think I use nearly the amount of metaphors as other languages (such as Arabic) when I speak English.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Narrative

Juha’s Nail

Juha had a house he liked very much. But, he needed some money so he had to sell it. For him, to keep a connection to his house, he put in the contract that he is selling all of the house, except a nail on one of the walls. After a week, Juha knocked the door, and when the new owners opened, he told him “Excuse me, I am here to check on my nail.” And he kept doing this almost every day and especially during lunch or dinner time, to be able to share the owner’s meals. After a while, the owner was so tired of Juha’s visits, he left the keys with him and departed. The phrase “Juha’s Nail” stayed as a expression for when you use an excuse to keep coming back for something you are attached to.

Background information: This is a piece of folklore read about in school in the Middle East. The informant found the story for the phrase, “Juha’s Nail,” particularly funny. Juha is a recurring character in many Middle Eastern stories.

Context: The informant told me about this story in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: I think it’s so cool and interesting to have a metaphor used in language that started as a story/joke. I have not learned about Arabic metaphors, so it’s fascinating to learn about the origins of one of them.

folk metaphor
Folk speech

Circassian Metaphor

Someone asked a Circassian Elder, “Which is more important, to love, or to be loved?”

He replied, “Which wing is more important for the bird, the left wing or the right wing?”

Background information: This is a Circassian metaphor, or more broadly, folk speech. The informant heard it from her mother.

Context: The informant told me this metaphor in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is a nice little metaphor, comparing love and the wings of a bird. It shows how the importance of both loving and being loved goes hand-in-hand. They must coexist, and one is not necessarily more important than the other – they’re both equally important in this life.

[geolocation]