USC Digital Folklore Archives / Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
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Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Columbus, MS; Pilgrimage Week

Title: Columbus, MS; Pilgrimage Week

Category: Town Celebration/Holiday

Informant: Lieanne Walker

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 60s

Occupation: Blue Collar— Homemaker, stockman, Home Depot Employee, etc.

Residence: Columbus, MS

Date of Collection: 4/21/18


The town of Columbus, Mississippi holds a pilgrimage week every year to commiserate the town’s history. Settled in the deep South, pilgrimage week revolves around the period just before the Civil War and reconstruction (mid. 19th Century). Pilgrimage week is generally held in the Spring, sometimes early April, and lasts approximately five days.

During the week, one of the main events is antebellum tours. Due to the nature of plantation style living during that era, a multitude of homes were built in that period and hold much of the town’s history and significance as a trade hub and economic cross-roads for cotton, molasses, and tobacco. Many of the homes were kept and maintained by families that have inherited the lands.

While not all of the homes have remained, the ones that are often house relics, clothing, and historic narratives. People living in these homes will open up their estates during the week and dress in clothing passed down from their ancestors. This clothing might include: Confederate uniforms, hoop skirts, antebellum dresses, coat and ties, etc. Women will often wear bonnets and carry fans. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to tour these houses and are sometimes invited to rent out rooms for bed and breakfast.

During the week there are festivities that happen such as recipe contests, history reports, and parades.

Presiding over the festival is a Pilgrimage court. The pilgrimage court includes a king, queen, ladies, and gentleman. The Pilgrimage king and queen are chosen for being prominent young member of the community that uphold the town’s traditions. The pilgrimage queen is usually a first year college student studying at the local University where the pilgrimage king is typically a senior in high school. The court is comprised of high school males and females from the upperclassman level. The king and queen of pilgrimage week are responsible for attending specific antebellum tours, hosting events at their respective homes, and participating in the pilgrimage week parade. The two are crowned at the end of the celebration during the pilgrimage ball (the concluding ceremony of the event). The king and queen will usually also have a large banner or sign outside of their homes indicating their role in the celebration.

In the evening, candle-lit tours of some of these homes will be offered as well as cemetery tours. Younger members of the community (high school underclassman and below) will volunteer to research and dress up as some of the prominent past leaders of the past community and stand by their graves to give information and tell stories to passerby. These tours are held after sun down and lead by candlelight.


The Columbus Spring Pilgrimage is an award-winning event that has been widely recognized as one of the best and most authentic home tours in the South. The antebellum mansions of Columbus are impeccably maintained and as resplendent as ever. Many home tours feature recreated activities of the 1800s, complete with period costumes, which add excitement and even more authenticity to this historic event.

Personal Thoughts:

Columbus pilgrimage week is a way for both residents and visitors to celebrate the history of the town’s past while appreciating the aspects of Southern culture that bring fame to the area. Tourism is a main function of this event as well. When I was younger, my mother brought me to pilgrimage week once when visiting relatives in the area. Similar to the way people will make pilgrimages for religious purposes or self exploration, I felt then and still feel now a connection to the area and a bond with their history. While I’m not sure whether or not I’d call myself personally a “Southerner,” my roots bring me back to the area time and time again. Getting to visit and take part in these pilgrimage activities help give new meaning to the life my ancestors once lived and helps me get a better picture of who I am on an individual level as well.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Foundation Lips: A Lipstick Trick

Background information:

I worked at Sephora for around seven months. During my time at this job, I absorbed a great deal of information, learning tips and tricks to flawlessly applying makeup, recommending products to clients, and expanding on my skincare products and fragrance knowledge. What truly stuck out to me during my experience aside from the fantastic coworkers was the vast amount of knowledge that my coworkers had surrounding specific tips to apply makeup in a better way. One of my coworkers, Erika, told me about countless tricks, as she is a phenomenal makeup artist. The trick of applying foundation before applying lipstick was one that had a huge impact on me and was widespread and heavily used amongst my coworkers at the store.

Main Piece:

There are many different “hacks” that people use to help or simplify different actions in their lives. At Sephora, I learned about an integral step to easily apply lipstick and make the most out of a certain lipstick shade. Erika, my coworker, introduced me to this makeup hack, and learned this hack from the other coworkers at the Sephora location in which I worked at. To properly make a bright color pop, she said, one needs to first moisturize the lips, then let that dry. Once the lips have dried, she said that it was crucial to use a relatively pale foundation shade relative to one’s skin color, and apply a decently thick coat onto the lips. Upon applying this coat of foundation onto the lips and letting this amply dry, she said that any lipstick could be applied and the color would pop and be more vibrant than if the shade of lipstick had been applied to one’s lips without the layer of foundation underneath. She swears by this trick, as do many of my past coworkers, each of them claiming that it has completely revolutionized the way in which they apply lip shades to not only themselves, but also to their clients.


Personal thoughts:

When I first heard of this makeup trick upon my first month working at Sephora, I thought that it sounded bizarre. I wondered why foundation would be applied to the lips as I felt that this would simply dry them out and would not have a big effect on the outcome of the lip color. Upon hesitantly trying this trick before applying a bright scarlet red lipstick, however, I realized why this was such a popular trick at my store: it made the color appear much more intense and did not dry out my lips in the slightest. Therefore, whenever I apply bright lipstick shades to myself or others, I now do this foundation trick and teach others about this fantastic trick!

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Q-tip to clean off mascara

Background information:

I worked at Sephora for around seven months. During my time at this job, I absorbed a great deal of information, learning tips and tricks to flawlessly applying makeup, recommending products to clients, and expanding on my skincare products and fragrance knowledge. What truly stuck out to me during my experience aside from the fantastic coworkers was the vast amount of knowledge that my coworkers had surrounding specific tips to apply makeup in a better way. One of my coworkers, Erica, told me about countless tricks, as she is a phenomenal makeup artist. Erica has shaped an entire culture of makeup application tips in the Sephora store that I worked at and has taught the entire team numerous tips to applying various products.


Main Piece:

Once complaining about constantly getting mascara residue on my eyelids after completing an eye look, Erica, my coworker at Sephora, told me an incredibly useful trick to removing the mascara without messing up the eyeshadow under the mascara stains. She told me that sometime when she would apply eyeshadow on herself or other and think that she had completed the look, she would sometimes move forward to apply mascara, which would more often than not ruin the look because of mascara residue. The thing about mascara, she stated, is that it is very easy to transfer onto the eyelids when you move in zig-zag motion upwards through the eyelashes. Therefore, since the eyelashes are so susceptible to transferring mascara onto the eyelids, she tried everything she could to remove the mascara from the eyelids without messing up the artistic masterpiece that she had created with eyeshadow and eyeliner on the eyelids. She said that through years of trial and error of trying different techniques to remove these burdensome and often inevitable mascara stains, she finally arrived at a solution a few years ago, and this was to gently use a q-tip, or cotton swab, to pick up the excess mascara on the eyelids and remove the mascara stains, which ultimately proved to be the most efficient way to remove mascara stains. When she found out this trick, she immediately notified all of my coworkers, who were also struggling with this problem, and this became a revolutionary new trick that was shared with all of the employees at Sephora. Because Sephora is also known for its vast array of teaching opportunities and makeup applications in store, this new trick quickly spread to our client-base and is a very popular method in removing small makeup mishaps.


Personal thoughts:

When my coworker, Erica, introduced me to this trick, I was so relieved to know that there was a solution to a problem that I so regularly faced throughout makeup applications on both myself, as well as others. It is extremely frustrating when you spend more than an hour on a specific eye makeup look, blending eyeshadows together to perfection, and seamlessly weave all of the colors together, only to have it ruined by harsh-looking mascara stains. Although this is definitely a very trivial problem and does not have a large impact on my life, my coworker at Sephora helped me overcome an application mishap that has transformed the way in which I can create makeup looks.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Joke of the Google Self-Driving Car

Background information:

Palo Alto in the Silicon Valley area is located in California and is beautiful in a myriad of different ways. It is close to nature, has beautiful architecture, and is an extremely environmentally conscious, friendly, and accepting location. I grew up in Palo Alto since I moved from Sweden to the United States when I was almost six years old and went to high school just around the time that Google started releasing their self-driving cars to test-drive around in the Palo Alto and Mountain View area, as Google’s headquarters is located right next to Palo Alto in Mountain View. The Google self-driving car projected was later named Waymo, but people always referred to these unique cars as the Google self-driving cars.


Main piece:

Because I was enrolled in high school around the time that Google released their self-driving cars out into the public traffic, I would often see them on my way to school and driving around my neighborhood. They truly began to gain popularity throughout my junior and senior year of high school (2015-2016), however, which was just around the time that everyone my age was receiving their driver’s license. Therefore, as more and more high school students started driving themselves to and from school, and Google started releasing more self-driving cars into the public, students my age would often run into them in the traffic to and from school everyday. The Google self-driving cars are amazing in their technologically advanced feats, but the one striking problem is that they drive very slowly. Therefore, because they are extremely slow cars, people would often get stuck behind them on the rush-hour getting to school and leaving school, so getting stuck behind the Google self-driving cars became a local joke in Palo Alto that people would always use if they were running late or to simply be funny.


Personal thoughts:

I am very grateful to have lived in the Palo Alto community because there are countless technological advancements around us everyday. Some of these advancements come with their host of disadvantages, however, as was seen with the Google self-driving cars. I remember being very frustrated when I was in a rush and ended up behind one of these cars because there were often very few ways to get around them and they often contributed to the traffic overall, so it is nice that there are no Google self-driving cars near USC.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Litchfield Biker Gang


Interviewer: “You’re from Litchfield?”

Informant: “Yes.”

Interviewer: “Is that a small town or a big town?”

Informant: “Small town 8000 but between two cities that I think are 50(000) or 80000, respectively.”

Interviewer: “Are there any stories with Litchfield?”

Informant: “Um…(laughs) so okay so I don’t…so there’s not really…there’s a rope swing which is creepy but…and I’m sure that had I frequented it more, I would have found some more creepy lore there but I never really did go there. Um…but…so there really isn’t a ton of specific lore. I know the town is almost 300 years old so there’s a lot of like local history. Um…there’s like a graveyard. That kind of thing. So it’s a very uh…there are spooky places in it. But what got me laughing was…there is… and this isn’t necessarily lore as it is objectively factually true but I will continue, I will tell my kids about this. Um…there’s this group of children…we called them the LBK: Litchfield Biker Krew with a ‘k’. Because they’re basically a bunch of um… I think I was in high school when we sorta like designated them but they’re about like just this pack of like 8th graders…like not even like super big but like it was a pack of like 8th graders or something who would just bike around, be punks, smoke cigarettes. And like…yeah it was just so funny because they thought they were such badasses but we’re just like ‘heh look at those kids biking like…around and just thinking that they’re badass’. So it’s like…it’s sorta just this think like ‘oh lol that’s Litchfield Biker Crew’ like everyone sorta knew about that and it was sorta like a rich topic to explore in terms of just like…jokes and things.”


So the informant talks about a group of bikers in his hometown, known as the Litchfield Biker Krew. The LBK, as they’re known are a group of 8th grade kids who would ride around on bikes and smoke. They were well known throughout the town. The informant plans to pass this story along to his own family one day, making him an active bearer of this legend.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Lawyer joke

My friend and classmate Pauline told me the following joke, which she learned from her dad, who is a lawyer:

“It was so cold outside today that earlier, I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.”

This joke relies upon the stereotype that lawyers are greedy and corrupt, and the metonymic use of the phrase “having one’s hands in someone’s pockets” to refer to squeezing money out of someone, like a legal client. The humor of the joke may be based in a genuine belief in this stereotype for people resentful of lawyers, but in this case its humor comes from a self-aware and ironic acknowledgement of the stereotype by a lawyer who presumably does not believe in it.

Pauline says that her dad has a number of lawyer jokes in his repertoire, which he tells “any time we’re with, like, any other lawyers, or if someone’s giving him a hard time about being a lawyer.” Such jokes are pieces of occupational folklore, which may serve to bond lawyers over their common identity, or may function as self-deprecating humor performed for the entertainment of non-lawyers. Lawyer jokes are a common staple of mainstream American humor, indicating a distrust of or misanthropic feeling toward lawyers from the general public outside of the profession. Their embrace by lawyers themselves is somewhat surprising, but is representative of the ways folklore may shift meaning depending on context.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Don’t Wear White After Labor Day.

Bella Estrada, a senior studying History at the University of Southern California, who hails from Los Angeles, California, provided four pieces of folklore for this collection.

The interview was run, amidst dinner and drinks, at the University of Southern California located Greenleaf, a popular post-class bar for many students at the prestigious institution.

Folk Performance: Don’t Wear White After Labor Day.

Folk Type: Proverb.

“You’re pretty into fashion, right? Any folklore related to that?” – Stanley Kalu

STORY: So…I’m not sure if this is a nation-wide thing or just specific to California but I was always told growing up to not wear white past labor day. I don’t know what the origins of this social faux-pas/fashion faux pas is but it’s a proverb nonetheless.

Background Information:

The fashion rule came into effect late 1800s and early 1900s. Post Civil War, there was a sudden rise in “new-money” families and the sudden rise in millionaires threated the way of life for the “more respectable, old-money families.” In the 1880’s, the old money women created a bunch of rules designed to exclude the “new-money families.” This folk-practice was one of the many exclusionary rules.

Context Performance: As aforementioned, this was a practice used to exclude “new-money families” from high-society situations. This would include balls, galas, garden parties, and the opera.

The context of Bella’s rehashing of the tale was done after our “Forms of Folklore” class taught by Tok Thompson because the both of us had a folklore collection project due.

Thoughts: This appears to be an inversion of the traditional function of “folklore” as described by Abrahams, in the sense that it is folk that was spread by high-society, which is to say it is top-down, rather than the traditional bottom-up movement.





Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

The Old Man, The Young Man and the Donkey

There is this guy, this man, you know, uhh, with his grandson and their donkey. So he’s going from one village to another village. The grandson is sitting on the donkey and the old man is walking next to it. There’s a bunch of people… they look at him and say, “Look at this young guy. He’s so heartless and so selfish; letting this poor old man walk while he’s sitting on the donkey.” The young kid gets very upset, gets off the donkey and makes the old man sit on the donkey… he walks next to it. So another group of people see them and said “Look at this mean old man, he lets this poor kid walk in the sun and he’s sitting on the donkey.” So the old man gets embarrassed and he gets off the donkey. Then what he does is ask the little kid to sit on the donkey and they end up both sitting on the donkey. Then there’s another group of people who see them and they say, “Look at these horrible people they’re torturing the poor donkey.” So they both get off and pass another group of people who say “Look at these stupid people, they might as well have the donkey ride on there.”

Sometimes you can never win no matter what you’re gonna do some people are gonna say you’re doing bad and some people will say what you’re doing it right. So do your best with what you’ve got and ignore other people.

My Thoughts:

I have always been told “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” This is a variation on that story I suppose, whereas listening to peoples words will only cause problems. Do what you think is best and don’t be distracted by others… the haters… if I may.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

The Cook and the Cowhands

There was a joke that my grandpa used to tell. It’s a little off color but not so bad. But he told the story, and then my mom told the story, and I haven’t really told it but I can tell it to you so you can hear it. It’s a little bit racist but you can take the race out of it and it works just the same. This is a story that my grandfather’s older brother and father told him. So there was a ranch in the West somewhere, probably Colorado or California. There were cowhands, and they were working all day on the ranch, and they had a cook named Wong. They thought they would play some practical jokes on him. When Wong was sleeping, the cowhands they would tie his shoes together with lots of knots. The next day they waited for a reactions, but nothing happened—he just fixed his shoes and didn’t mention it. The next day they put thumbtacks on his seat. They waited to see his reaction, and when he sat down he kind of grimaced, but just swept them away and didn’t really care. The next day they either short-sheeted his bed or soaked his sheets with water—I don’t really remember. They waited for a reaction, and no reaction. So they finally decided to talk to him. “So Wong, you’ve been a really good sport, tying your shoes in knots and putting thumbtacks on your seat, and messing with your sheets, so we won’t do that to you anymore.” In a different voice; “You no more put knots in my shoes?” “No, no more knots in your shoes.” “You no more put tackies on my seat?” “No, no more tacks on your seat.” “You no more soak my sheets in water?” “No, we won’t soak your sheets in water anymore.” “Good, well I no more pee pee in your soup.”

This story is important to the informant because of its history, and it having been passed down for multiple generations. It reminds him of how different the world used to be regarding the treatment of minorities, and their portrayal.

I find it interesting that the racist aspect of this narrative isn’t actually essential to the story– it could be told just about the same, without making stereotypical voices or mentioning the races of the characters.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Prejudiced beliefs about Jewish People

Informant related this while at tea, when interviewer mentioned a Jewish holiday in passing.

First of all, I don’t believe any of this, but these are things my grandparents said to my mother and she said to me.

I did tell you before, didn’t I? How my grandfather used to take my grandmother to the opera, and he had a box because he was a successful early ad magnate or tycoon or what have you, and he would pick out the Jew in the audience by their pointed ears. I never asked for an explination because you know, you don’t need one with something that batty.

My mother grew up in Indiana and they had a cook and a maid and one day, you know, Mom and I were driving up at 19th and California, there’s a little tiny temple school, and my mother says in ths really sweet voice she used sometimes, “when I was growing up, my I was told by the maid that Jews took Christian babies and ate them and drank their blood.”

I think it must have been the German help because my mother never saw her parents and they tended to try to at least keep their prejudices, you know, tasteful. At no point did I ever press my mom for more details about this because, you know I was stunned.  Schtunned.

Informant’s grandparents are of English and German extraction, and their beliefs do reflect historical attitudes held by many Europeans at various points in time, generally emphasizing the otherness of a group of people who lived and looked different and may have, at times, competed for economic resources; by identifying the strangers as ‘bad,’ these groups may have felt more justified in protecting scarce resources for themselves during hard times; and the stories created for this purpose were then passed down through generations.


These beliefs, and other similar ones, are discussed in John Efron’s Jews: A History. Taylor & Francis, 2013.