USC Digital Folklore Archives / Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
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.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Gingers Do Have Souls

Gingers Do Have Souls



Haley Croke. Haley is a first-year student at USC studying in Annenberg. Haley grew up in Denver Colorado and is familiar with certain Colorado legends. She also has an important and unique point of view, since she is a Millennial, which seems to be the most “out-there” and transformative generation we have seen thus far. Because of this, Haley is a perfect informant, as she holds a modern and up-to-date perspective. All interviews were held in a study-room on campus.



“Okay… I’m not sure what constitutes ‘Folklore’ exactly, but this is pretty significant in my life, that I guess you could call a legend, or a rumor. It definitely seems to fit the category, in my opinion, at least. So… obviously I have red hair… Or as everyone says I’m a ‘Ginger.’ Because of the fact that I obviously have red hair… I faced a lot of making-fun-of… or ridicule basically my whole life. It was never that bad, like, guys and other people usually had it way worse. But the worst part is this… like, legend, that ‘Gingers have no souls’…? I have no idea where that came from… It doesn’t really affect me ‘cause I have thick skin but it is honestly pretty annoying. My whole life I get these, like, stupid ‘Where’s your soul?’ jabs. I’ve even been to sports games where people chant that at ginger players. No clue why the fact that I have red hair constitutes a lack of soul… but whatever. Some jokes can be kinda funny in the right light.”



I have experienced these jokes so many times in my life. It seems to be a pretty recent phenomenon. I had always thought that these jokes stemmed from more ancient times like the Salem Witch Trials where people believed those born with red hair had a tie to dark arts. Turns out, it’s actually a lot simpler than that. While I’m sure those ancient superstitions certainly played a role in this phenomenon, the “Where’s your soul?” trend is from the culturally-effective show South Park. “The phrase ‘gingers have no soul’ comes from the South Park episode ‘Ginger Kids’ that first aired on November 9th, 2005. At the beginning of this episode, Eric Cartman gives a class presentation on the subject of red-headed children and “Gingervitis,” a made-up disease.” This actually seemed to cause a rippling effect of ridicule towards red-heads, as the show introduced “Kick a Ginger Day,” where some particularly cool school children actually organized in real life outside the show in order to torture these “Gingers.” The movement also gained notoriety from a red-headed boy posting an angry rant to Youtube exclaiming that “Gingers do have souls!” Because of this, a popular meme was formed.


A full explanation of this phenomenon can be seen here:


Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

New Year’s Day traditions

Informant is a Korean born immigrant who went to primary school in Korea and college in Hawaii lives in Los Angeles

Tradition as told by informant: New Years Day is a big holiday for Koreans, usually lasts 3 days long. It’s a fun day for children because they get to eat, play games, and practice the Sebeh tradition( Sebeh is the best part for the children), bow to the parents and grandparents and wishing them a good fortune for the new year.  And parents/grandparents or elders will bless them back with money.  It’s a  family tradition.

Done every year with the whole family together, and yes it is my favorite part of the holiday when we get free money.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Spicy Food in Indonesia

My informant SH told me this when we were eating spicy Indonesian noodles. He asked me if I could handle the spice, and when I asked “how about you?” he told me he was training himself to handle more spice. When I asked him why, he responded with this:

“In Indonesia, if you are a guy who can’t eat spicy, people assume that you’re gay!”

“Who told you that?”

“I think my parents or grandma told me this. As a kid because I didn’t like spicy food, they told me this to try to get me to eat more spicy food. I asked around afterwards and apparently it’s a real thing. Even when I went back to Indonesia recently and I was eating with my relatives, they legit thought I was gay when I wouldn’t eat the spicy food!”

Since a lot of Indonesian food is spicy, it is probably assumed that most “true Indonesians” can handle spicy food. Based off this assumption, eating spicy food would be the norm, and if you deviated from the norm, then you would likely be associated with other deviations from the norm in Indonesia, such as being homosexual.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Breaking a Water Buffalo’s Horn

GD is from Orange County. She is a first generation Vietnamese American. Her parents are Vietnamese refugees. GD is a student as USC majoring in global health on the pre-medicine track. She wishes to return to Vietnam to serve the rural populations through maternal and child health care.

“When Vietnamese girls turn 16, they’re considered strong enough to break a water buffalo’s horn. No joke.”

“Where did you hear this from?”

“My grandpa told me this on my 16th birthday. I actually have no idea how real it is. I just heard it from my grandpa…he told me it’s symbolic of strength specifically for women.”

“Does this mean that women are supposed to be stronger than men?”

“The idea is that girls at 16 are stronger than boys at 16 because they mature faster and earlier, which is why a girl of 16 can break a water buffalo horn and a boy of 16 cannot.

This traditional Vietnamese belief is very interesting and unlike any I have heard before. I know that in many cultures there is a similar rite of passage that marks the liminal period for boys, often around the age of 13. However, this folk belief appears to stem from a less paternalistic society, where women are viewed as strong (literally) and independent, even surpassing the strength of boys at age 16.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Kikuyu Tribal Stereotype

“The Kikuyu tribe are known for being very good merchants and businessmen. They are known for coming in, and if they take over another tribes land, they will make it very profitable. They consider this a good trait, but other tribes see them as being greedy and that they will take all of your opportunities to make money”.

According to the informant, Kenya has over 42 historical tribes that can be traced back for many years. Because there are so many, there are several stereotypes about each of them that are understood by the general population. For example, the Kikuyu are well known for being greedy but successful businessmen who will stop at nothing to make a profit, even if they have to hurt others along the way. Many Kenyans resent them because of this.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. He explains that his friends taught him the stereotype as a child because even in the large city of Nairobi, the stereotype still exists. It is common knowledge that the Kikuyu own and run a large part of the city. Many who live in Nairobi dislike them because of this. Alastair does find this stereotype silly because of how silly it sounds when it is stretched, but he does acknowledge that there is some truth to it, since the Kikuyus do have a lot of power and money in Nairobi.

This Kikuyu stereotype originated during more rural times before cities like Nairobi were properly developed and built, so it is interesting to see how it has managed to follow the tribe into the modern era. The current use of it to explain why the Kikuyu are in control of so much of Nairobi’s metropolitan area only strengthens it, as it only gives Kenyans more reasons to believe in its validity. It can be dangerous to believe that stereotypes like this are rooted in actual reality, though, so Kenyans should be careful with them if they want to avoid conflicts between their tribes.




Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

La Siguanaba — El Salvadoran Witch



TK: Is there any legends or myths in El Salvador?

MC: Haha there’s so many but they’re scary. (Very quickly) I don’t know but my grandma used to say when you walk alone after midnight this woman comes after you with the long hair and she chases you and you couldn’t talk and you got to your house all freaking out and you get to the house and everyone is looking at you and you couldn’t talk for 24 hours because this woman touched you.

TK: So did you ever see this woman?

MC: NO! because I never was walking in the middle of the night. But they say this happens to all the guys because after the guys drop the girls off on the date they would be walking alone and see this woman and you know she was really pretty and sometimes she would look like the girl.

TK: Could she change the way she looked?

MC: Ya she looked like the girlfriend of the guys so they get confused and you know they start talking to her and then she changed to a really scary looking…

TK: A really scaring looking what?

MC: Like, you know, like an evil witch and they got scared but by that time they were already scared and touched by her and they couldn’t talk. And my grandma says they happened to a few people that she knows and the next day they start telling the story what happened to them when they could talk and not to go on that path and this woman was called La Sigwanata? (laughing) TK: What? How is it spelled?

MC: Let me spell it for you (goes and gets a pen and paper) this story has been going on for years… (spells it on paper “La Siguanaba”).

TK: Has this been going…

MC: (cuts me off) This story has been going on for generations and generations and I told this story to Nicolas (her son) and he was like ‘tell me more tell me more!’ And the story is still going on there like if you go by these trees you get touched by this woman.

TK: And that’s it?

MC: That’s it.

TK: And people know about this?

MC: Everybody (eyes widen).

TK: So this is a story?

MC: I think it’s a legend because at school it was in our books and we had to write about it.


THE INFORMANT: Maria grew up in El Salvador and therefore has different legends than the ones I grew up with in America. Her immediate recollection of this story shows what an effect it had on her growing up, as she can still recount the details and remember people it supposedly happened to that she knows.

ANALYSIS: La Siguanaba is a well-known El Salvadorian legend. Siguanaba means “horrible woman” and it is said she bore the child of a god but was an unfit mother, so the god cursed her to her fate of wandering alone at night and mostly appearing to solitary men walking alone. From behind, she looks like a beautiful long-haired woman but is actually horrifically ugly, like a witch. Some people say they can see her washing clothes in a river and looking for her son.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Before the devil knows you’re dead (Irish saying)

PP: The Irish have so many sayings, proverbs, stories, myths, stuff like that. A lot of them are about death. It’s a very death centered culture, but they don’t look at it as necessarily a bad thing, it’s more about a celebration of the person’s life. That’s why they have parties at wakes instead of all mourning, and they sometimes give the body a cigar or whiskey. So a lot of the sayings they have are about the afterlife. It’s also because they’re mostly Catholic, or at least used to be and that sticks in the culture too.

TK: What’s an example of a saying about death?

PP: It’s something like, “May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” If you think about that one it seems to be referencing the Catholic belief that heaven and hell are both outcomes after you die and that even if you were destined to go to heaven there’s a possibility the devil could grab you anyway. So if you get to heaven safely and then he finds out then it won’t matter.

TK: Did you hear this a lot growing up in Ireland?

PP: I think actually I heard it more in America. We [Ireland] had a big tourism industry, it was called the Celtic Tiger, and people would come over and learn about our folklore, our myths and stuff like that and it became really popular in America for a while. So a lot of the “Irish blessings” along with the stereotypes about Irish people that we have here in America are kind of exaggerated, it was a way for Irish people to sell their way of life to tourists, and part of that was exaggerating their interest in death, or their interest in alcohol, or any of those stereotypes.

TK: But there is some truth to the death ones.

PP: I think so. When I was growing up we were a very religious family. It was sad when someone would die but we also celebrated the good times we had with that person and we knew we were going to see them again in heaven so it was never like a final thing.


THE INFORMANT: The informant is a middle-aged woman who spent most of her adolescence and college career in Ireland and has since emigrated to America. She is very fond of the old Irish traditions and proud of the rich cultural heritage of her home country. She does admit that Ireland can be an overly tight-knit place and is unwelcoming to outsiders, and the main reason she left for America was a sense of feeling restless and slightly unwelcome due to the fact that she was not born in Ireland (even though her whole family is from there, she was born in South Africa).

ANALYSIS: This is a very well-known saying whose origins are not readily apparent. As the informant noted, much of Irish culture has been appropriated or exaggerated for an American audience, who generally associate Ireland with leprechauns, fairies, beer, potatoes…cultural touchstones that do not truly represent the full extent of Ireland’s history or contemporary present. Research suggests that this blessing does indeed have very strong ties to the Catholic religion. Traditionally, it was said that (especially for those who did not get a chance to make a confession before their death) the devil would make a last-minute attempt to have a dying person renounce their belief in God and join him instead in Hell. This blessing was meant to be a way of protecting someone from the devil’s preying on them in this way. The “hour” is usually a “half-hour,” which shows the traditional Irish wit: technically, if such a thing were necessary it could happen in an instant but the “half-hour” is unnecessarily long just to make fully sure that the dead soul makes it up to heaven long before the devil is even aware they could possibly be turned to his side.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Practical Jokes on Halloween

Original Script: “Okay…so like this is annoying. Like SO annoying and it happens every damn Halloween, I SWEAR. And I love Halloween! But, okay, so I like scary movies, I just like the adrenaline rush that they give me. I don’t know. But there are some creepy ass movies that really scare me. Like ones with clowns or creepy girls that crawl—something about the crawling just freaks me out. I usually watch them with my stepdad, Chuck. Anyways, there was this movie called Mama, and it was not that scary. EXCEPT, when she crawled upside down in a long dress with her hair covering her face—similar to a crab walk but creepier. IT REALLY FREAKED ME OUT! So during Halloween, Chuck got this GRAND idea, to play a joke on me. I was in my room minding my own business, it was nighttime. THEN, the power went out, and I’m like ‘oh what the hell’ because whose power randomly goes out. I was pissed. So I open my bedroom door to ask Chuck what was wrong. Because I was trying to binge watch on Netflix on all the ‘scary’ movies they had. Mind you, my room is at the end of the hallway, directly across from the stairs. So I get no response, and it is creepy as hell so I take another step out of my room. And hear something creaking up the stairs. I step again, and there is a freaking look a like Mama crawling up the stairs. I screamed SO loud, and kept screaming. But then Chuck—who was dressed as the lady—starting laughing and fell down the stairs. I was so pissed. Now it is funny. But I was literally so pissed. Like good, you should of fallen down the stairs. AND like how the hell did he crawl like that? Did he practice? AND THAT’S NOT ALL. The Halloween before that, I opened my bedroom door and there was a creepy clown standing thing in my room—like a thing you get from the Halloween store! I should have been prepared. This Halloween, I am going to make sure Chuck get’s his just-deserts. I am starting to plan NOW. In freaking MARCH! I can’t wait.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jenna grew up in Chandler, Arizona with her family. About two years ago, she moved across country with her mother and now lives in Milford, Pennsylvania. Jenna loves stuff about ghosts, and she is always willing to see if the legends are true. She has gone on a many legend quests but have yet to hold them true until this one. She is now a senior in high school and eighteen years old and plans to go to California in the fall. Jenna loves scary movies and is not scared of many things—besides those stated in the above piece of folklore. According to her, she plans on pranking Chuck this year, 2016, around Halloween.

Context of the Performance: Halloween

Thoughts about the piece: I felt that this particular piece of folklore that I collected was rich in the folkloric terms we had learned in our Forms of Folklore class. Foremost, there is the precedent of the practical joke, where there is a victim—Jena—and initiator—Chuck—and a dope—the scaring of another person. There is the obvious separation of groups, the people who think it is funny, like Chuck, those who are on the inside of the joke and those who are the unsuspecting casualties, like Jenna, who are outside of the joke.

However, it is interesting to note the occurrence when this practical joke transpired. In Milford, Pennsylvania, where Jenna lives, contrary to popular belief, it really does not start snowing until the end of November. Thus, there is this transitional period from fall to wintertime. Additionally, while Halloween does mark the end of a season, there is seemingly coherent transition between everyday life as well. For example, the marathon of Halloween movies on ABC Family will start to transition into Christmas time movies, the radio will start singing Christmas carols, and department stores will stop selling their Halloween decoration and start to set out Christmas decorations. (It is probably the perfect time for a practical joke such as this, because one would have to question Chuck’s sanity if he dressed up like a dead woman crab walking up the stairs on a regular basis).

Pop culture happens to play an interesting role in this joke as well. As Jenna had noted, the movie Mama (2013) directed by Andrés Muschietti, personifies woman “creepily.” Especially, in horror films, the ghosts and/or dead creatures are most often portrayed as being female: The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004). Furthermore, there is also the portrayal of clowns being scary, even though they were supposed to be a child’s entertainment at parties. In pop culture, these clowns are often portrayed as being murderous: It (1990), Amusement (2008), and Poltergeist (1982). There are even designated costumes at Halloween stores, or aisles, that say “Ghost Woman” or “Murderous Clown.” Hence, while in the past these might of not been scary costumes, and or events, in today’s society, the realm of scary, even the “horror” genre has completely changed.

Finally, it is important to note that this practical joke has almost become a tradition in Jenna’s household. Chuck has played this joke on her for two Halloweens in a row, and Jenna had stated that she plans on a practical joke this coming Halloween, where Chuck is the unsuspecting victim and Jenna is in the know.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Liars in Italy

Original Script: “La bugie hanno le gambe corte”

Literal Translation: “Liars have short legs”

Meaning: “if you lie, you will be caught soon”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: “My mother use to tell me this when I was a child. I have not heard anything like it in the English language. But in Italy…we do walk a lot…almost everywhere in our small towns…which may have something to do with it, I don’t know. But you hear this when mother’s our scolding their children, or an everyday expression when you think someone is lying”

Silvia recently came to America about three weeks ago as an intern for an Event planning company. She grew up in Parma, Italy—which is a small town in Italy. Her mother use to tell her this phrase all the time (as she noted in the background she provided), and she grew up always remembering that phrase. To this day, she tries her hardest not to lie. She has adjusted greatly to the American culture but there are still some things that she is questionable about.

Context of the Performance: Lying in the Italian Culture

Thoughts about the piece: I thought this was an interesting proverb, considering the comparison Silvia had made to the American culture in the background information she had provided. She had noticed that she does not know why Italian culture uses the term “short legs” except for the fact that they walk everywhere. This does not seem like a ridiculous claim seeing as in Europe, in general, people mostly walk. When I was in Europe, I noticed not only how much I walked but also how much everyone walked compared to that in America. Furthermore, I noticed how small there cars were, which could be correlated to the fact that most people do not use a car—seeing as America consists of big SUVS, and even the “small” cars have a decent amount of room.

Additionally, this made me question if short people, in general, were considered liars. In a follow up interview, Silvia had laughed and said that not usually, just that your legs shrink when you lie. This initiated me to compare to the common tale of Pinocchio, and while his legs do not shrink, his nose grows every time he lies. Thus it is interesting, that in both stories, there is a physical disfigurement of a person when they lie, showing their lie to the world—a marking of sorts. Hence, they are not only branded a liar but their body is branded as well.

Moreover, both stories are used to scare children into not lying, as a societies way of showing social control. So while this proverb has the obvious sentiment of not to lie, there is also the aesthetic of social control that lies within it.