USC Digital Folklore Archives / folk simile
folk simile

Texas Simile

I decided to ask my friend if she knew any interesting folk similes. She shared with me a few she thought reflected her Texas heritage. She is marked KB, and I am marked CS.

 

KB: “So another simile we always use in Texas is ‘he’s got a ten gallon mouth.’”

CS: “Can you explain to me the meaning of this simile, in your own words?”

KB: “It’s just like, Texas people are really talkative. Like, you talk to them, and they just start…blabbering. Or when people talk really fast. I feel like that’s just such a Texas thing.”

CS: “Have you personally used this simile before?”

KB: “Oh yeah, all of the time.”

CS: “Where did you first hear it?”

KB: “Oh, my dad. Definitely my dad. He always uses Texas phrases.”

 

Context:

Phone conversation in which I recorded KB’s recounts of folk similes as well as a riddle she grew up learning.

Background:

KB is a freshman at the University of Southern California and grew up in Austin, Texas.

 

Analysis:

I did enjoy this simile because although I have never been to Texas, there is definitely a well-known stigma of it and it is clear there are certain sayings you just don’t hear anywhere else. Similar to other Texas simile, this one seems to reflect how deep-rooted Texas’ cultural values are. I never quite thought of folk similes as being so pertinent compared to the other forms of folklore, but clearly in this instance they are. They truly indicate their origins and that origin’s heritage.

folk simile

Texas Wind Simile

I decided to ask my friend if she had any interesting folk similes. She shared with me a few she thought reflected her Texas heritage. She is marked KB, and I am marked CS.

 

KB: “So the simile we always use in Texas is, ‘The winds’ blowing like perfume through a prom.’”

CS: “Can you explain to me the meaning of this simile, in your own words?”

KB: “In other words, Texas weather is really intense. Kind of comes out of nowhere. It’s just a really true statement that reflects Texas well I guess.”

CS: “Have you personally used this simile before?”

KB: “Oh yeah, all of the time.”

 

Context:

Phone conversation in which I recorded KB’s recounts of folk similes as well as a riddle she grew up learning.

Background:

KB is a freshman at the University of Southern California and grew up in Austin, Texas.

 

Analysis:

I did enjoy this simile because, although I have never been to Texas, there is definitely a well-known stigma of it and it is clear there are certain sayings you just don’t hear anywhere else. That is what I find most interesting about Texas: there are so many heritages and cultural values it seems that the folklore in the South would be so strong and prevalent.

Customs
folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Old Grandpa

Over the past few years, I’ve heard snippets of this friend’s crazy grandpa. Many nights, we’d eat together and share stories of our nutty families, as we both share lineage with what many would call ‘eccentrics’. Self purportedly from a family comprised of 50% white trash and 50% religious explorers, he grew up around a variety of funny saying and stories.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“He had a lot of sayings for like the weather. ‘It’s colder than a witch’s tit’. Or, ‘it’s darker than a snake’s asshole.’ There were a lot of asshole things too. ‘Colder than a well-digger’s ass’. ‘I’d rather have acid poured down the crack of my ass than…’ ‘I’m so hungry I could eat the ass out of a dead gorilla’. ‘You talk like you have a paper hat’. ‘You talk like your ass is made of paper’. ‘Wish in one hand, shit in the other. See which one fills up first’. ‘Tough titties said the kitty’. He said that one a lot. ‘As useless as tits on a hoe-handle’. ‘Nervous as a whore in church’. ‘Nervous as a pregnant nun’. If something doesn’t go over well, he’d be like, ‘oh, that went over like a turd in a punch bowl’. He also had a lot of superstitions or tics I guess. He’d always get wine with ice in it – my mom’s family is 100% pure white trash. And so, he would order wine with ice in it, and then he would get it, stir it with his pinky, then suck on his finger, and wipe it on the left side of his shirt. Every single time. He’d like dry it off with the corner of his shirt. So all of his shirts had little things sticking off from him pulling on it to dry off his fingers. He’d stir his wine like it was a mixed drink or something.”

These weird little sayings always crack me up. They range from somewhat clever and somewhat useful to totally nonsensical and just plain silly. I especially love the strange ritual my friend’s grandpa performs every time he drinks a glass of wine. He seemed to do things just for the hell of it. What a way to live.

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
folk simile
Proverbs

Indonesian Proverb

The informant was my cousin (referred to as LG) who spent 4 years being a Fulbright scholar in Indonesia. There she was teaching school girls English and art. She told me one of the Indonesian teachers would always say this proverb to the girls:

 

LG: “Bagai pungguk merindukan bulan. Which translates into Like an owl reaching for the moon.”

 

CI: “What does that really mean?”

 

LG: “It’s definitely kind of sad, It is basically saying, ‘you’re wishing for something impossible.’ I feel like the older Indonesian generations definitely tried to be what they thought was realistic with their students or children, but also it definitely could be seen as putting the children down.”

 

I find this particularly interesting because teachers in America are very encouraging and there is a strong sentiment that “The children are the future. But in Indonesia, especially in the village, my cousin lived, which was very poor, it seems that adults think it is important to not encourage the children too much. This proverb isn’t necessarily putting children down, it is just telling them not to dream too big.

 

folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Riddle

Botellita de jerez Todo lo que digas sera al revez

Folk Metaphor

This saying was told by my grandmother  to me which has helped me throughout my life especially when people were being mean to me in school. In English it just means that everything that you say will be backwards so it will go back to you This meaning really helps you fight off those mean words that people tell you in school. You say this and everything that they say is basically going back to them and it really means that what they’re telling you is them telling themselves that.

Background

The significance of this metaphor to the informant was that no matter what people said , with this saying you can turn all the bad things on to them. it was like a magic Karma spell. It has a lot of meaning because it takes way the pain of being called names or being picked on.  The informant like sit because it rhymes and its unique .

Analysis

This is from Mexico and this saying is very  popularly and  this expression refers to everything you want for someone is going to return, or you’re going to return everything you said; or everything you say will be used against ..With this in mind, it is better not to wish anyone badly, or to say things that can be used against you.

folk simile
Humor

“Mais Perdido que Cego em Tiroteio”

There is this popular simile that I heard multiple times, I don’t know the first time I heard it but I keep repeating because it is so famous in Brazil that goes “estou mais perdido que cego em tiroteio” which means that I am more lost than a blind man in cross fire. It’s pretty self-explanatory; it means that you have no idea of what’s going on in the current situation. It’s a nice expression; a great symmetry and I think it’s funny. Although it could be seen a joke I use it occasionally.

This is definitely one of the most popular similes in Brazil; people use it a lot, including myself. When people are telling a story and someone doesn’t seem to understand they use the simile. It’s supposed to be entertaining, even though it might sound offensive at first, it’s just supposed to be a joke. Today I had some trouble to understand a tough math problem for my macroeconomics class and I used it to myself. People also say it when they are driving and aren’t able to find the destination they are looking for. It comes out spontaneously and it’s a fun way to say that you have no clue of what is going on.

folk simile

“Casa da Mãe Joana”

My folk simile is a very popular one in Brazil, in Portuguese the simile says: “Isso tá que nem casa da mãe Joana.” In English this would translate to “this is like mom Joana’s house.” I heard this folk simile for the first time a couple of years ago in a movie. The name of the movie was actually “Casa da Mãe Joana” and essentially what it means is a really messy house with a bunch of people and when things get really out of hand and there are a lot of things going on, super messy, everything is all over the place, this is a mom Joana’s house. So every time I think about a place where things are out of hand I think of this comparison.

As Alexandre mentioned, this simile is very popular in Brazil. People use it a lot in parties when things get completely out of control and everything is all over the place. My parents use it a lot, I guess it’s an old saying and comparison but that has been present until this day. Apparently Mom Joana’s house was a very messy place in the movie and as a consequence people make this comparison. It’s an amusing way to say that the place is a mess without sounding bad. It’s perhaps a proposition to get things in order and organize the place. People who aren’t familiar with this comparison will have a hard time to understand what it means but it’s so common in Brazil that I believe almost everyone knows.

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.

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