USC Digital Folklore Archives / Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
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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

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Swedish Stereotypes

Informant was a 20 year old female who was born in Sweden and currently lives in the United States. She came to visit me.

Informant: There’s a lot of stereotypes of Swedish people. Everyone always says that we are blonde, skinny, tall, and have blue eyes, which is not true. It’s really not true. Most Swedish girls do highlights, which is why everyone thinks we are. Many people are blonde-ish but not like blonde blonde. Swedish girls are said to be like this, but this is only really in the big cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg. People just care more about appearances in bigger cities. In smaller cities, people do not look like the Swedish stereotype. They’re not like that. People are not as high class, people do not really care about being skinny or healthy. People think of these stereotypes because people only go to the big cities and they don’t visit the small cities only the bigger ones, so they see these people and generalize.

Collector: Has this stereotype ever affected you in any way?

Informant: I mean, it doesn’t affect me in a bad way, people think that Swedish people are really cool and pretty and Sweden is known. Everyone used to always ask me why aren’t you blonde? Why don’t you have blue eyes? But people always know that I’m Swedish, they can usually tell with my accent. Also there’s stereotypes of Sweden working well too, with the government and life being easy. Teachers are always asking me questions about Sweden. When they need a good country to compare another one to. I mean, it’s true it does work well, but there are a lot of downsides that people don’t really see, like the immigrants have so many rights, a lot of people are really worried about the amount of immigrants and how they affect our country. Sure, they are acceptive of immigrants, but it’s making Sweden less safe and taking away rights from the Swedes, but all that the outsiders see is that it works so well.

Collector: You sound like Donald Trump.

Informant: (Laughs) No, it can’t be compared. Like the size of the United States is too big compared to Sweden. Like we are very acceptive of immigrants, but it just needs to be regulated, like no one wants to kick them out.

I like that my friend told me about Swedish stereotypes because I have often been the target of Brazilian stereotypes. Not only did she talk about the stereotypes involving physical appearance, but she also mentioned how people perceive the country in general. I think what she said about immigrants is really enlightening because of the situation that is going on in the United States right now with the whole issue of immigration. I think that her perspective – not kicking out immigrants but just regulating it more – would be a great perspective for the United States to take on this issue. It’s really interesting how certain aspects of another person’s folklore and culture can be attributed to current problems in society today.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Promiscuous flight attendants

Informant: “People think that we’re [flight attendants] all, um, whores. You know? [laughs] And no, we’re not.”

My informant is a middle aged male flight attendant. He has worked in the airline industry since his early twenties, and has encountered this stereotype his whole time in it. I asked him to describe how specifically he’s encountered this stereotype:

“You go out, meet people, talk to people, and that’s one of their first things they’ll ask.
People say, ‘I bet you have someone in every city.’ And I’m like, ‘Really? Really, you think that? [laughs] Do you see a herpes patch on my lip?’ You know, by the time you work a 14-hour flight internationally, you know, you get 4 hours of sleep…been up all night, do you really think that person is—the first thing that person is going to do is go and find hookups? No…it just doesn’t make sense. No. Now, do they meet people?…Do we have sluts? There are sluts in every industry. But the airline industry probably has, you know, the fewest.”

I asked him about where he thinks that stereotype comes from.

“It’s tied with glamour, it’s tied with the 70’s, of, you know, when they [flight attendants] had to be single. And they were some of the most beautiful women in the world. And it was an era when men…there was a lot of chauvinism, you know, chauvinistic pigs, you know, you could grab a woman.”

I think my informant enjoys talking about and laughing at this stereotype because it contrasts so sharply with reality. As he explains, flight attendants are incredibly hard working and don’t have the time to sleep around in every city. This stereotype is also particularly interesting because it speaks to how long it takes for a popular image of a race, creed, or occupation to fade away. It has been decades since the glamorous days of 1970’s stewardesses, yet people continue to think that flight attendants are promiscuous. It also speaks to how much we expect out of flight attendants and service staff in general. They accommodate our every need to the point where we think they can satisfy our sexual urges as well.

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
general
Humor
Initiations
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Physicists are the salt

Ksenia Chumakova

 

“Только физики – соль, остальные все- ноль”

Phonetic- “Tolko fiziki- sol’, ostalnie vse-nol'”

Transliteration- “Only physicists are the salt. Everyone else is a zero”

Translation: Only physicists are worth anything, and everyone else is nothing.

 

Background: “This is a saying my grandparents, both physicists, would say often in a joking manner. It was something they had picked up in their spheres of work. It was a catchy saying that rhymed, and jokingly put them a cut above all the other professions.”

Analysis: To compare something to salt goes back to cooking: salt is often the only spice that Russians will use in our dishes, and we always put it on the table in case guests want more. It is always seen as a vital addition to any meal, and separates those meals from others without it. Salt used to be rather expensive, too. Russian culture a lot of catchy folk metaphors and proverbs that rhyme in silly ways. This is also a form of distinguishing a career group from others, even if jokingly. Other professions have also used this rhyme, but the physicist version is the most popular and is considered to be the original. This is also a way to encourage children to follow in the path of their role models, in this case- physicists. That the grandparents told it to their children and grandchildren means that they took the identity of being physicists deeply and had hopes that others in their family would pursue it as the only ‘right’ path (if all others are zeros).

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs
Riddle
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

“And the Volga empties into the Caspian Sea”

Alexey Sinyagin

 

Proverb:  “Волга впадает в Каспийское море”

Phonetic: “Volga vpadayet v Kaspiyskoye morye”

“Yeah, and the Volga empties out into the Caspian Sea”

 

Meaning: This proverb is used in a sarcastic way, as a way to signify that you are stating the obvious.

 

Background: This is used between any people in Russia, and references their formal geographic education, which is very strong in Russia and is sometimes mocked because it often lacks practical uses. In addition, Russian formal education often focuses on rote memorization of facts, and knowledge like this would be an example of pointless information that nonetheless everybody knew.

 

Analysis: This mockery of the redundant brings attention to the Russian value of brevity and modesty: at least in respect to not showing off useless facts. Russian humour is often wry and employs irony, so overstated or over-important people will often find themselves mocked. At the same time, the fact that everybody knows a fact like this is a reference to the fact that Russia is such a huge land that learning all of its geography is something many students resent. Comparing such unwanted knowledge, which is also commonly known, is more likely to make the person stating a different obvious fact feel ashamed, and likely feel like a teacher or authority figure. These figures are not usually seen favorably in Russian society on the part of those who they teach or are supposed to control.

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

“Con el nopal en la frente”

Araceli Del Rio

“Con el nopal en la frente”

Translation: “with a cactus on the forehead”

There is a phrase,”con el nopal en la frente,” used when a person who looks very “Mexican” and by Mexican I mean native looking, and they don’t speak Spanish. And people will say, ‘she says she doesn’t speak Spanish, “con la nopal en frente.”’ This is like saying, “she says she doesn’t speak Spanish and she practically has a cactus growing out of her forehead.” Cactus being one of the utmost symbols of Mexican culture. It’s on the flag. It’s tied heavily into stories. Into meals. It’s everywhere in Mexico.”

 

“I think the meaning of this is pretty clear- there is a huge current of judgement and people basically despise people who leave behind their culture, as they try to assimilate. Especially when children and adults stop speaking Spanish. You are heavily judged and shunned. I have heard and used this phrase when I grew up as a Mexican in Los Angeles, referring to other kids and people who wanted to assimilate too much.”

 

Analysis: This is a folk metaphor, pertaining specifically to Mexican immigrants in the US who attempt to assimilate by casting aside their native culture. It is also a way of stereotyping by Mexicans based both on physical characteristics and a common perception of loyalty to the country of origin. While sometimes these stereotypes might judge too harshly- for example, a person might be of Mexican descent generations back but doesn’t identify with the culture anymore, or looks ‘Mexican’ but is actually Middle Eastern, etc., they also are a response to betrayal Mexicans and Mexican-Americans feel when members of their own culture deny that culture.

Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Russian ROTC proverb

Ksenia Chumakova

Russian ROTC proverb

“Мама с папой говорят, что самое ценное, чему научил воинкомат в университете это то, что в любой непонятной ситуации “Первое- уяснить задачу. Затем принять план действий. Далее приступить к выполнению” Они одновременно смеются над источником сей мудрости и передают её своим детям в минуты, когда те сомневаются о чем либо. ”

Translation: “Mom and Dad say that they had a ROTC coach who’s sole wisdom imparted to all in his charge was that in any uncertain circumstance, “The first thing is to determine the objective. The second – to make a plan of action. The third is to put that plan into life.” They make fun of him to this day but they also pass on his advice to their children who know it by heart.”

 

Context: The ROTC in Russia was compulsory for everyone in university in the Soviet Union, and had many formal yet inspiring phrases that were drilled into the minds of the students. Some were bureaucratic and redundant in the extreme, and students would mock their formality. However, that same process would also make them remember it more, and perhaps had a grain of wisdom in it as well. The irony was that most of those students would never see war, and teaching them these aggressive, formulaic strategies was rather absurd.

 

Analysis: This is a proverb because it attempts to teach something valuable, but it is meant to be received with a dose of humor and mockery as well. This too-general, very obvious formalized way to understand any unknown situation is a way that they could repeat the teachings of their commanders without those realizing it was mockery. This points to the Russian people being rather aware of propaganda and feeling a heavy sense of irony in many of the lessons they had to learn in the ROTC.

Folk Beliefs
general
Humor
Legends
Magic
Myths
Narrative
Signs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

El Cipitio

El Cipitio

Origin: El Salvador

Told by: Cesar Henriquez

“El Cipitío was an 8 year old boy that was cursed by a god. His name comes from the language of the Native Americans in El Salvador. The language is called Nahuatl. His name comes from the Nahuatl work ‘cipit’, or ‘cipote’, both of which mean kid.
El Cipitío was cursed to remain in his 8 year old body for eternity. He will never grow old. The curse placed on him also turned his feet to be backwards; the toes point behind him. He wears an excessively oversized pointy hat on his head, and nothing else. He wanders around lightly populated areas and is knows as a mischievous being. He whistles at pretty women, and yet also throws small stones at them. He is always naked, save for his hat, which makes it easy to see his backwards feet, his oversized belly that hangs over his waistline and genitals. He resembles more of a shrunken and fattened old man, despite being an 8 year old boy for life. His elongated and skinny nose on his face resembles a small recorder type flute.”

“These stories were told to me by my dad when I was a kid. The stories themselves are typically used to scare people from going to certain areas, or for parents to scare their kids out of going somewhere that might be otherwise unsafe for them. I remember my family telling me things like this with an air of providing me with knowledge, for the purpose of me knowing what others were talking about when speaking about it in public. ”

Analysis: This is a typical urban legend figure that nonetheless ties deeply into the historical roots of the country. The origin of the name from Nahuatl natives keeps that culture alive despite political power generally being in the hands of those who reject that culture and the natives. He is a trickster figure, and while somewhat malicious does not seem as threatening as other urban legends. His description is rather comical, too, which takes away from his seriousness: knowing exactly what the monster looks like takes away the fear of the unknown element at least visually. As a child, he is definitely more a trickster, but also shows that children might not be trusted (perhaps strange children or pickpockets). He might also be used as an explanation for women hearing whistling, or something like stones falling on them. While he might be a cautionary tale, he also seems to just be an explanation for unfortunate things occurring.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Legends
Magic
Myths
Narrative
Protection
Signs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

La Siguanaba Character

La Siguanaba

Origin: El Salvador

Informant: Cesar Henriquez

“Her name was originally Sihuehuet, which is Nahuatl (Native Americans of El Salvador) means beautiful woman. She used her charms and got help from a witch to get a Nahuatl prince (Yeisun) to marry her. After they were married whenever the prince went to war Sihuehuet would have affairs with other men. From one of these affairs El Cipitio was born. The father of El Cipitio was a god called Lucero de la Mañana. Their affair was apparently an insult to the god of the sun (He was the god of gods). Anyway, Sihuhuet decided that one day she was going to get another witch’s help and poison her husband Yeisun during a big event, and take the throne for herself, to eventually give to Lucero. The potion took an unexpected effect and turned Yeisun into a huge monster that killed all the attendants at the festival, and destroyed everything and ate all the food from the feast. Eventually the guards’ struggles paid off and they killed the two-headed monster.
“When Yeisun’s father found out about all of this he was piiiiiissed. So he begged help from the Sun god to curse Sihuehuet and her illegitimate son. The Sun God, having been greatly insulted by Lucero, took this to heart and turned El Cipitio into what I explained before. As for Sihuehuet, he condemned and cursed her for life as well. She would from then on be called La Sigüanaba (or Sihuanaba in some versions of the story) which is also Nahuatl and means hideous woman.
“The legend goes that she is always seen only by men traveling along at night, or by kids lost at night as well. She is always at water’s edge, either a lake or stream or fountain in the city when no one else is around. She is always seen from the back, usually naked, combing her long beautiful hair. She takes the shape of a beautiful woman, or the man’s girlfriend, or the kid’s mother. They say she’s always out looking for her son, El Cipitio. As the men or kids approach her they are more and more captivated by her beauty, or by the fact that they see their girlfriend/mother sitting there naked combing her hair. They get closer and closer and eventually when they get close enough, she turns to face them. She has the hideous face of a horse. When people look at her they are most likely to die, but if they don’t then she goes to touch the men/kid. When she does the person she touches goes insane and it’s incureable. She’ll then lead them out further away from people and leave them lost, away from cities or anywhere that they can be found. It’s pretty trippy honestly and thinking about her face creeps me out.”

 

Analysis: This is an urban legend conflated with mythology. The gods of Nahuatl, the native religion, are part of the mythology, and are responsible for things like sunrise, the sun, animals, etc. La Siguanaba was a mortal woman but interacted with them, which puts her story close to mythological status. She becomes a reviled figure firstly because of infidelity: this is not only against social norms and is meant to warn people away from breaking it, but might also impose male patriarchy against women cheating on men rather than vice versa. Notably, she was only cursed when she got a son from the affair, which would certainly threaten patrilineal systems. Yet when men see her, they only see their mothers or girlfriends: it is unclear whether this points to an existing conception of fidelity for men. Certainly, it seems to warn them against cheaters. Yet also against their own wives and mothers, implying perhaps that even they cannot be trusted.

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