USC Digital Folklore Archives / Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Bloody Mary

The interview will be depicted by initials. The Interviewer is QB and the interview is AS.

QB: And what stories did you have as a child?
AS: When I was a kid I played Bloody Mary. The way it worked was you went into the bathroom with the lights off. You would say her name and spin around three times, and she was supposed to appear. The other way that you would check to make sure she was there was to turn on the sink and see if blood ran out of the spout.

Analysis: This follows the steps that many Bloody Mary rituals take place. However, it seems to be darker as the student and their friends looked to see if “blood” would run out of the spout. The student of course laughed about the ritual, but said that they attempted it many times just to see if they would ever be “lucky” enough to see Bloody Mary.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Pastuso Jokes

The following are jokes about people from a region of Colombia that is far removed from the capital of Bogota. They are known as Pastuso Jokes. They are usually very long like most Colombian jokes which usually follow long storytelling format so I picked 3 of the shortest to give a fair representation. These were repeated by my grand uncle at an Easter dinner and different ones are told at every gathering.

The Pastuso having just arrived in Bogota wanted to go to the market and was told that he could wait for the bus or walk there, he was given directions that said “go to the other side of the street and make a left at the corner and then walk two kilometers and the market will be on the right side of the street.” He waited for a while and no bus arrived but he saw a man on his front lawn, he went over to the man spoke to him and crossed the street again. Then still uncertain, he asked someone who was now waiting at the bus stop and asked “where is the other side of the street?” The man said “it right over there (pointing to the man on the lawn)” and the Pastuso said “but I was just over there and they told me the same thing.” (Insert laugh here)

A Pastuso went to the Capitol (Bogota), he was told by a someone who was from the capitol to remember that money calls to money – meaning those who have money seem to attract others with money so that a peasant from Pasto would largely be ignored- so not expect too much. But the Pastuso, never having been to the capitol was super excited because he thought of a plan. He went to the bank and exchanged all of his small bills (100 pesos) for the largest bill he could get (20,000 pesos) and then he went outside of the bank to wait for the bank to close. After the bank was closed for the day he shoved the 20,000 peso bill under the door of the bank holding it by the corner, hoping the bill would call out to the other bills in the bank. But a gust of wind came and he lost grip of the bill and it was sucked into the bank. The Pastuso stood up scratching his head and said “I guess all those bill in the bank called out to my bill more loudly.” (Insert laugh here)

A Pastuso went to the store to buy a poncho, and asked the storeowner how do I put on the poncho” The store owner looked at the Pastuso and said “just open up the poncho and put your head through the hole, easy.” So the Pastuso went home and spread out the poncho on the floor and jumped head first into the hole. (Insert laugh here)

Analysis: The last one is my favorite because it is actually the most translatable and therefore the funniest. My grand uncle Arturo loves telling “Pastuso” Jokes They are the American equivalent to dumb blonde jokes or Polish Jokes. Pasto is a city in the southern most regions of Colombia near the boarder of Ecuador nestle in the Andean Mountain range, making the city very isolated. The people who live there are mostly peasants and uneducated blue color workers. Probably because of its isolation more than the average IQ score, they have been the targets of jokes that exemplify extreme acts of stupidity. The distance from the Capitol does make Pastusos appear to be more provincial especially when they come to the big city. These jokes seem funnier in Spanish, especially when drinking vast amounts of alcohol. A lot is lost in translation.

Folk Beliefs
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Stereotype Encounter

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is 20 years old and originally from India. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor.

The informant tells me(AK) about a moment in which he felt like he was racially profiled. This incident took place around 9:00 pm on a weekday night as he was coming back to his apartment complex after studying at the library.

SM: I was walking back to my apartment complex at night, and as me and my friend were entering the gate, this couple came out of the gate and refused to hold the gate open for us. They came out and said they had to close the gate because they were afraid that we actually didn’t live there. So they caused us some mild inconvenience because I had to open the gate myself. It felt like a form of racial profiling because my friend is African American, and I also have a dark complexion.

AK: What do you think caused the couple to act in this way?

SM: They were probably conditioned to respond this way because it was late at night and they felt protective over their children.

AK: How did this incident affect you emotionally, were you angry or upset?

SM: I was a little disappointed because there was no way I could have posed a threat to anyone. I was carrying a backpack, so I was clearly a student. I felt like they were being immature.

AK: Have you ever experienced anything like this before or since?

SM: No, this was the first time.

After hearing this piece, I was really shocked to have heard my informant get racially profiled. My thoughts went directly to the Trump presidency, and I felt anger for how his administration was letting incidents far worse than this one go by without even a statement. But then, I realized that this couple likely held these stereotypes about darker skinned people well before the Trump administration. It is very likely that they grew up surrounded by these stereotypes and were conditioned to feel danger. Either way, it represented a sad reality for me, and it was hard to hear the informant have to go through this.

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

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.

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