USC Digital Folklore Archives / folk simile
folk simile
Folk speech

“Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh”

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Carlos, at Blaze Pizza. Carlos is a Catholic missionary from Colombia. We were joined, as well, by another missionary named Nicole. Carlos shared with me a saying in Spanish.

Carlos: “We have a saying in Spanish that is, ‘Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh,’ which I’ve heard it all the time, which is used to make a reference to, like, when someone’s really lost. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s more lost than the son of Lindbergh.’ And I’ve never known why they said that, but um– So like, the saying is, ‘He is more lost than the son of Lindbergh.’ It’s just saying, like, when someone is really lost they can say, ‘Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh.’ I don’t know why, and I just looked it up, and apparently it’s connected to, like, this child abduction case in New Jersey, where, like, the son of Lindbergh was, like, abducted and was killed… and, like, I don’t know why we say that phrase in Spanish but it’s even in Wikipedia, like in Spanish there’s a saying that has this, I don’t know why.”

Me: “Where did you first hear this?”

Carlos: “My parents! Yeah, like, my family, everyone says that in Colombia. They just say, ‘Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh,’ which is awful!”

Like Carlos, I found the existence of this phrase to be quite odd. Because it’s not as if the saying exerts some kind of a warning, or uses the tale of the New Jersey boy to teach children a lesson, making it a proverb. Instead, it’s just this comparison. This made me wonder if perhaps this saying was actually dark humor, but I’m not entirely sure.

folk simile
Folk speech

Texas phrase

Graham is a 21 year old music major at USC. He is originally from Houston Texas and has lived there his whole live, he specifically lived on a ranch. A big part of Graham’s family activities is hunting. His grandfather and father take him quail, duck and hog hunting frequently. This hunting way of life has made his family speak in terms of hunting as well, for example:

“Don’t leave me hangin’, or else I’ll be sittin’ like a duck”

The phrase “sitting like a duck” he mentioned was a hunting phrase, and a sitting duck is a duck who is vulnerable to being shot and killed. The words “don’t leave me hangin” are words that mean make sure you have my back at all times, and are always there for me. Graham said this was a crucial foundational element of his family, the fact that they would all have each other’s backs. Graham said he heard this phrase a lot growing up, and it has taught him to never leave anyone hanging.

I personally like this phrase, and I find it interesting that because Graham grew up in a hunting family, much of their daily lives, things they say, and  foundational elements relate around hunting.

folk simile

“I’m Sweating like a Sinner in Church”

My informant is my grandmother, who is quite a devout Catholic and has lived in the deserts of Phoenix most of her life. During one of my visits home this year we went to a baseball game together. We were sitting in the sun and I heard her exclaim on of her favorite phrases, “good Lord, I’m sweating like a sinner in church.”.

Me: “What do you mean when you say that?”

DC: “It means that it’s really, really hot out and you’re sweating quite a bit. Like a sinner, sitting in the presence of God would feel nervous and sweat I suppose. It’s not meant to be super serious, just a funny thing to say when you are sweating a lot and you might be embarrassed about it.”

Me: “Do you remember where you heard it first or learned it from?”

DC: “No, I can’t say I do.  I may have picked it up from my mother, but I’m not quite sure. I’ve always just kinda said it . . . I don’t think your grandpa ever said it or any of siblings for that matter . . . so maybe I picked it up from a friend along the way? I don’t know really.”

Analysis:

This phrase most likely means that a person is sweating like one would imagine someone who has sinned would sweat if they were sitting in church and haven’t repented. Like, they are lying to God and are sweating in nervousness because they suppose God knows, but they are there anyway. It comes from my grandmother who is a devout Catholic, so in using this phrase she is performing her Catholic identity to those around her who are also presumably Catholic or Christian and would understand what she meant by a sinner sitting in church. We also live in quite a warm climate, where any time spent outside between the months of March and October results in sweating, so sweat being the object of a simile makes sense in that it is a common experience felt by everyone around them. It is meant to be comic and making light of the situation because the person exclaiming it, is most likely uncomfortable and is calling attention to the situation in a comic way perhaps in order to alleviate their embarrassment of sweating so much in public.

folk simile
Folk speech
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

“Hacer Conejo”-To Rabbit

“Hacer Conejo” – an expression meaning to bail out on the check at a restaurant incorporates folk simile, folk gesture and humor. Holding up two fingers (index and middle fingers in a spread out V) behind your head means you are thinking about doing “conejo” and lets the others in your group to get ready to run without paying the bill. It is also a way to freak out a friend who is still eating and scare them in to thinking you are about to bail out. When I asked my grand Aunt Marlly, who had married my Grandfather’s brother, she said she had never hear of the story and the expression that it sounded rather sordid. I realized that the story was attached to what social economic level you grew up in. My grand aunt came from an upper class family, while my Grandfather and all of his brothers came from a poorer lower class family where being able paying the bill was not always possible. My Grandmother came from an impoverish class that would never even think about eating in a restaurant in the first place, but she was aware of the expression and knew people who had gotten away with it. The trick was to be a very fast runner and not to have eaten too much.

Analysis: This folk simile, to my maternal grandfather, is more of a humorous gag expression, meant to scare or outrage the other diners you were with. Making the gesture is a way to get a point across without tipping your hand. I personal think is kind of funny, especially when I explain it to other people. In the U.S. the folk gesture of the rabbit ears made with the fingers has a different meaning and when I explain what it means in Colombia, I usually get a laugh or extreme fascination.

folk simile
Folk speech

Like dogs in church- “Como perros en misa”

“Como perros en misa”- Like dogs in church. This saying is used when one is having the worst day possible where you feel attacked from all sides with no warning. Back in the day in Colombia, churches used to have their door always open and on hot days, stray dogs would sometimes seek refuge inside a cool tile church only to be physically kick out by a variety of feet, leaving what should have been a sanctuary, bruised and confused. So when you ask someone how was their day and they answer “Como perros en misa” you now know that they have had a surprisingly terrible day. The correct response is “I am so sorry, that sounds horrible” as you would expect to react to a puppy being kicked without reason.

Analysis: There have been times this semester when everyday for a whole week I felt like a “perro en misa” because everything would go wrong and an undesirable event would happen like surprise reading quiz. The American version would be something like “ when it rains, it pours” but that along with “Mercury is in retrograde” seem more impersonal and generalized, while “perros en misa” is more specific and means that you are personally are being brutalized, not the whole world.

folk simile
Folk speech
Proverbs

Aum Namh Shivai

“Aum Namh Shivai”

This is Sanskrit phrase/mantra. Aum means Shiva, another word for God. It means God is infinite, God is love. Aum has several meanings, including love, infinite, life, peace, etc. Aum can also interchange with “Om,” which is the more commonly recognized version of the word, but because it has so many meanings, the phrase, “Aum Namh Shivai” can mean different things as well, including “God is life, God is peace,” etc. My father would keep repeating that as a mantra, especially if he was doing something especially meditative; he told me it’s a phrase we say to be grateful and to also center oneself.

My dad and grandfather say this when they’re meditating, especially during breathing exercises in yoga. So when my dad was teaching me yoga breathing, he was telling me to find a mantra to repeat and focus on.

folk simile
Folk speech
Proverbs

Dhoop Chaun

“Dhoop Chaun.”

Dhoop Chaun is a phrase that literally translates to “sun shade.” My father said, “My grandfather used to say, ‘Dhoop chaun’ and it means ‘sun shade’ and represents light and dark and ups and downs in your life. It’s like sometimes it’s up ands sometimes it’s down, there are challenges, opportunities, there’s joyfulness, sadness, life is a mixed bag. My Nana Gi told me that.”

Nana Gi in Punjabi is your maternal grandfather, so my father’s mother’s father used to tell my dad this phrase when he was very young. He was trying to instill in my dad from a young age that life is not all happiness and sadness, it’s not just black and white. I think it’s a really great phrase that definitely has other translations or meanings in different countries, because I’ve heard variations of this phrase, like “No mud, no lotus.” It represents the same thing, that life is both the sadness and joy, but the good and the bad, and that the two must exist in harmony together.

folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Legends

Mascotgate

This was told to a group of friends while talking about funny or weird high school experiences.

“So at my high school, at the end of junior year, you pick a mascot, and the mascot is a mix of a pop culture figure and an animals, so like “Swanye West” or Swan F Kennedy, and i don’t know why those are both swans but those are easy, but um, uh, one time they did a movie, “Fight Cub”; “Moose Lee”, “mean squirrels”, um, and so you then you use them for your senior mascot and you get shirts based on that, and you also your yearbook will be entered on that, so when they did “moose lee” they made it look like an action movie, so like first people submit things and then we all vote on them, and the largest vote was “Genghis Kangaroo” like Genghis Khan and a kangaroo, um, and this had been submitted, and voted for number one, and it works like you vote for one and whatever gets the most votes wins, um, but then, oh yeah, so I was on term council which is like student council for each grade, and people were really mad, like I don’t want this, it can’t be Genghis kangaroo because I hate it but he’s also a mass-murderer, and like a pillager and a rapist, and we don’t want Genghis Khan representing us, and like all of those are obviously fair arguments, but like you could have said this at any point, like Genghis kangaroo could have been taken out at any point and we didn’t have to wait until it won, for then everyone to say why it’s fucked up? and then, we had a bunch of meetings at term council for what to do, what won the democratic vote, and there have always been rumours that it is a “termocracy” meaning that term council did shit without consulting the students and that we didn’t care about them, which was crazy because the meetings were open, so like anyone could come, so then you chose not come, and then we make decisions, and then you get mad about those decisions? so then we had a forum. and the forum on whether to like, like a forum to vote on whether we should re-vote and like take Genghis kangaroo out or go to the other high vote, and then on the high school meme page, there was a shit ton of memes, like conspiracy theory memes that were like, like “we’re going to have a forum to vote on whether to have re-vote a second forum for the first forum to vote on the third forum” and just like wrecking term, and like wrecking all the things that we were doing, because like what else do you want, because if we had just chosen ourselves and didn’t have a forum then they would have said “termocracy” but like when we had the vote on the revote they said this is nonsense and i think what ended up happening is that we had a forum and we just ended up going with the one which was the number two, which was TroutKast, which was a combination between Outcast the band and trout the animal, which was really good and everyone loved and  mascots were trout with the outkast costumes and then the yearbook got to be like a road trip, album tour type thing, like a cross-country tour. So it worked out.”

Analysis:

To me, what is most interesting about this story is the folklore that spread through the students through their “Meme page” as way of communication. The dubbing of the student council as a “termocracy” also shows the different levels of students and their awareness of the world, as if high school is like a much smaller country and the leaders are turning it into a dictatorship.

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.

 

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
general
Legends
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Hijo de la Chingana- La Malinche

Origin: Mexico

Told by: Araceli Del Rio

“So in Mexican vernacular you have the phrase “hijo de la chingada” and “vete a la chingada” which is the equivalent of saying “son of a bitch” and “go to hell.” But the word chingada is derived from a woman referred to as La Malinche. Who was a Nahuatl woman who became the lover/translator for Hernán Cortez. He led the Spanish the conquer the Aztecs. And she lives in infamy as the ultimate traitor. The woman who told her people to trust the Spanish. And would lead to the slaughter and ruin of the Aztec Empire. So saying hijo the la chingada is worse than “bitch.” It’s like the son of the worst traitor imaginable to your people. Same with “vete a la chingada” which is like, “go to the land of traitors.” People say this to each other when they want to offend them, obviously. It’s a swearword.”

Analysis: This is a form of folk speech that is obviously informal, and designed to inflict the greatest insult possible. That it dates back to ‘traitor’ rather than an animal (in English conceptions of bitch), reflects the values of Mexican culture as valuing loyalty above all. Not only that, but it reflects the scars that the colonization and conquest of Mexico by Cortez and the Spanish left in the cultural consciousness, and how it still affects the people to this day.

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