Category Archives: Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Insider and Outsider

Original Script: 인싸, 아싸

Phonetic (Roman) Script: Inssa and Ahssa

Full translation: Insider and Outsider

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant, and it was translated from its original language Korean.

Informant: There’s this popular slang in Korea, especially for school and office settings, mostly college. It’s “Inssa” and “Ahssa”, they alway go in Paris. Inssa is shortened for insider, and ahssah is shortened for outsider. They describe the type of person you are in a given social setting. Insiders are those who can blend well with the crowd. They’re popular, outgoing, they’d get drinks all the time, talk to professors well, all that. Outsiders are, well, outsiders. They’re the people who don’t have any friends, who are not up to date with pop culture and all the new slangs.

Interviewer: Is this concept any different from the pre-established introvert and extrovert?

Informant: I think inssa and ahssa are more exclusively to these specific social settings, like schools, and more specifically colleges. I think it’s just a newer way of saying the same stuff, but it has slightly different tones. Introvert and extrovert are more like internal, personality trait things. I think you can be an introvert and an inssa, like you don’t have to be an extrovert to have good connections.

Interviewer: Are there any variations of these terms?

Informant: Yes. You can add the word ‘haek’ in front of them. Haek is Korean for nuclear, and Koreans use that word as kind of an additive to really emphasize things. So a ‘haek-inssa’ would be a really extreme insider, someone who knows everyone in their school. A haek-ahssa would be someone who’s like invisible.

Interviewer: How would you describe yourself when you were in college?

Informant: I think I was more of an inssa at first, but towards later years I jus stopped caring so much

Background:

My informant is a Korean male in his mid 20s, working as a barista in Seoul. He graduated from college already, but he describes himself as well versed with current Korean lingo and college culture.

Context:

The conversation took place on the phone. The informant was in house by himself in a comfforbtale setting.

My thoughts:

These new words came across as more jokey than serious, but they still gave me the sense that it was to point out people who weren’t outgoing. I’m not sure if categorizing everyone in these standards would be positive, but I did find the terminology very catchy.

Irish Goodbye

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed form a conversation between the informant and the interviewer

Informant: The Irish goodbye is when you leave a party without letting other people know that you’re leaving. You just get up and leave. You might bump into a few people on your way out, and then you would have to announce you leaving, but the point is to not be going around the room and say goodbye to everyone, especially not the host, the host can’t know that you’re leaving.

Interviewer: Why is this associated with Ireland? Why is it called the “Irish goodbye”?

Informant: I don’t think anyone knows the exact story as to who or what in Ireland started it. But it’s just an Irish thing, I guess, and people just call it that now.

Interviewer: Can you think of any reason as to what about Irish culture that would bring up an abrupt departure?

Informant: The thing with Irish people is that everyone’s so fucking kind when they invite you over to their homes. Like my grandma, for example, always always have different kinds of tea, breads, meal, dessert, and more stuff ready. That’s just kinda true for all grandmas, but all Irish people are like that. To invite someone to my house means that you have to satisfy your guests, and that makes these hosts go a little crazy with the antics. So I think leaving without letting people know is actually a kind thing to do.

Interviewer: How so?

Informant: We’re saving the host from having to be all kind and whatnot, we just get up and leave. You’ll know I’m gone when I’m gone.

Interviewer: So this practice isn’t used to show disapproval?

Informant: No, no bad feelings at all. The exact opposite, really.

Background: My informant is of Irish and Scottish descent, his parents being immigrants from those respective countries. He still has most of his relatives living in Ireland and Scotland, and the cultures he aligns himself with are close to those mainlands rather than the diaspora – Irish American or Scottish American. The grandmother that he mentions is also an immigrant, who moved from Ireland to California in the late 80s.

Context: The conversation took place army informant’s house in Orange County, California. It was a familiar, comfortable setting.

My thoughts: I can’t say that I practice the Irish goodbye often myself, I tend to say goodbye to at least my friends. But hearing my informant talk the reasoning behind an abrupt departure, I do understand how it might actually deviate the host from that duty, and how it might actually be a kind gesture.

“Shoobies”

  • Context: The informant (T) is a 56 yr. old woman originally from Philadelphia, PA. She owns a shore house in South Jersey where she and her extended family spend the summer. She explains to me the term Shoobie and the negative connotation it holds among the inhabitants of Philadelphia and South Jersey. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of a previous encounter she had had in which she used the insult “shoobie” against someone. 
  • Text:

T: “A Shoobie is somebody that would come down from the… Philly… Philadelphia.. to the… the shore… and they would bring their… all their stuff; their lunch, their suntan lotion in a shoe box. And that’s what… they would walk onto the beach with their shoe box for the day and that’s how they got their nickname Shoobie.”

Me: “So whose a Shoobie now? Who says that? Like who do you call a Shoobie?”

T: “A Shoobie now is basically somebody who… still comes down for the day…”

Me: “Comes down where?”

T: “Comes down to the shore for the day… comes down to the beach… or Shoobies are also people who just rent a house for a week.”

Me: “And what’s the shore?”

T: “The shore is the beach… in New Jersey?”

Me: “Like anywhere in New Jersey?

T: “I don’t know if Shoobie goes past, like, Atlantic City, like north of Atlantic City… I don’t know… because I don’t live there.”

Me: “Is it like a good thing to be called a Shoobie?”

T: “Uh-uh. No. You don’t wanna be called a Shoobie.”

Me: “Have you ever called someone a Shoobie?”

T: “Yes.”

Me: “Who’d you call a Shoobie?”

T: “This girl that was on the beach one day who was using really foul language around my parents.”

Me: “Have you ever been called a Shoobie?”

T: “No, I actually haven’t.”

Me: “Are you a Shoobie?”

T: “No. I’m the least amount of a Shoobie!”

  • Analysis: Growing up going to the Jersey Shore, I had always known the term shoobie, and I had always known I never wanted to be one. To be called a shoobie is to say you don’t really belong on the island – you’re not a local. In my town, there is even a restaurant called “Shoobies” in reference to the colloquial term. I think the reason such a term was created was in order to create an in-group and an out-group. It separates those who own houses at the shore and those who rent a house at the shore or just drive down to the beach for the day. It is looked down upon to have outsiders on the beaches, because most of the beach towns are small and everyone in the town knows each other. Different shore towns also have different reputations. For example, you are more likely to find a shoobie in Wildwood or Atlantic City than you are in Stone Harbor or Avalon, so the term is more commonly used as an insult in the towns with less shoobies. As the informant explained, the history of the word comes from day travelers coming to the beach for the day with their lunch in a shoe box, which interrupts the local life. To be considered a shoobie is to be considered lower class, and ultimately unwelcome.

For more about Shoobies, visit…

Ravo, Nick. “FOR EARLY TOURISTS, A TEPID WELCOME AT JERSEY RESORT.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 1987, www.nytimes.com/1987/02/16/nyregion/talk-long-beach-island-for-early-tourists-tepid-welcome-jersey-resort.html.

Salami and Women

Background

Informant: R.P. Italian-Australian Male, 28 years old

Location: Sydney, Australia

Context

Told to me by a 2nd generation Italian male, whose family immigrated to Australia from Italy and Naples a generation earlier. This folklore may be local to the Southern region of Italy. Informant volunteered this information after being prompted.

Main Piece

RP: “I don’t know many superstitions, but I always remember being told that women should not walk into a room if Salami is being served.”

Thoughts

When asked about the meaning being this folklore piece, the informant could not offer a a solid explanation for why this superstition existed. He posited that it could be related to the time of day or where the salami was being served. For much of the early 20th century,  southern Italian women were not allowed to be present in places where men would congregate, for example bars or clubs. This would be considered taboo and the women would be viewed as “working women” should they enter one of these establishments. The belief in the superstition of salami and women may be an extension of this idea and cultural practice.

Interesting to note, this practice of baring women in certain public spaces began to change in Southern Italy with the invention of the television and the viewing of television programs in large public areas due to the fact that most Southern Italian families could not afford a personal television. Instead, the town would purchase a TV for the entire community and would broadcast the programs in bars or town squares where women and children were allowed to frequent for the duration of the show.

Menstrual Blood in the Food

Background

Location: Tarzana, CA

Informant: M.S. – Black, female hairstylist in her late 20’s, born and raised in Los Angeles but has family in New Orleans, LA

Context

Overheard in a hair salon in Tarzana, California. M.S. is a stylist that was working at the salon, speaking to her client. Told in the context of Louisiana witchcraft. The collector has heard this piece of folklore told many times before this encounter.

The Bayous of Louisiana are well known to the locals for being places of witchcraft practice and voodoo. Many local wives-tales revolve around the idea of this witchcraft having real effects. I have summarized the telling in my own words below

 Main Piece

The tale goes that if a woman wishes to “keep” a man, or ensure that she and the man will stay together romantically, she should put her menstrual blood in his food while she is cooking and serve it to him. This will create a mystical and unbreakable bond that influences the man to stay as her partner.

Thoughts

I have personally heard this wives tale told to me from members of my family that still reside in Louisiana. The folklore itself points to both an interest in Louisiana witchcraft and the belief that those methods can be employed by common folk to help them achieve certain goals, specifically when relating to other people and controlling them through supernatural means.  Stories like this circulate and are based in areas of Louisiana that are known for witchcraft, specifically Black, female witchcraft. The informant seemed to tell the story as though she believed there was some merit to the idea of witchcraft, as she expressed that it would be foolish to attempt witchcraft as it could have dangerous effects on the “caster.” It is a common held belief in Louisiana that witchcraft is not to be trusted and should be treated with caution.

American Street Crack Superstition

Main Piece:

“Step on a crack and break your mom’s back”

Context and Analysis:

The informant claims the superstition is common knowledge. When asked when she first heard it she insisted not knowing when she picked it up, she just assumed it was common knowledge, “Everyone knows that when you are walking, you are not supposed to step on a crack it’s just what everyone says.” The informant does not know where the superstition originates from. The informant does not believe this superstition is true and therefore she does not apply it to her daily life. The informant states, “I know it is not true because I have stepped on a lot of cracks and nothing has happened.”

Like most superstitions, this one uses the threat of something valuable to encourage people to follow it. If something valuable is at stakes many times even if people do not believe in the superstition they will follow it to avoid any potential curse. This superstition emphasizes the dangers of stepping on a crack which can lead to breaking your mother’s back.

It is interesting to note the informant’s belief that this superstition is known worldwide. Often when someone does not know the origin of where something comes from or if they heard it at an early enough age, they assume everyone is familiar with the same things they are. Due to the understanding my informant has of the superstition I want to infer she heard it when she was in her early childhood years.

I also think it is important to note my informants reasoning as to what makes this superstition relevant. She states ‘everyone’ knows this. By emphasizing the use of a lot of people following a tradition or employing a saying, this gives any work reliability and validation.

There also seems to be a correlation with how difficult the superstition is to follow and how many people follow it. Many people follow superstitions when it does not inconvenience them. Therefore, when you have a superstition like this where it takes a lot of effort to avoid cracks everywhere one goes, it is less likely people will follow it.  Among children, this superstition can act as a game where a child will aim to avoid the cracks on the pavement and if he fails the punishment is the belief that his or her mom’s back will be broken.

Bill Clinton and the Pope Joke

Context: The informant was in the midst of telling his favorite jokes at a party

Piece: “Okay… so… by chance Bill Clinton and the Pope die on the same day, and due to some clerical screw up, Bill Clinton is sent to Heaven and the Pope is sent to Hell. And the Pope’s like nah this ain’t right. So he goes to the… uh… the administration folk and goes and says look I’m the Pope I shouldn’t be here and they’re like oh… we must’ve made a mistake we’ll get that fixed, it’ll take us a day— we’ll get it fixed. So, the next day.. uh the old Pope is walking up the uh pearly white steps and Bill Clinton is walking down and uh they stop, they shake hands, they say hello and uh Clinton says, ‘So, uh father what are you looking forward to most in heaven?’ and the Pope says, ‘Uh, I don’t know, I guess one thing I’ve always wanted to do is meet the Virgin Mary.’ Clinton says, ‘Ah, missed her by a day.”

Background: The informant, a 20 year old student at Harvard, found this joke on Reddit and believes this is one of his best jokes. He enjoys telling jokes to his friends and family.

Analysis:This joke is compelling and intriguing because it combines two radically different public figures in an absurd scenario. The joke plays on Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, insinuating that he has sex with everyone and would even have sex with the Virgin Mary. This piece reflects how American culture views Bill Clinton as untrustworthy and has sex with all women. By putting religion, and such a holy figure in Christianity as the Virgin Mary, this joke further pokes at how Bill Clinton lacks boundaries and respect. The audience recognizes that Clinton has conducted this behavior before and it is ironic that he would do it again, especially in Heaven, where non-sinners (unlike Clinton) would go.

Serbian Derogatory Roma Joke

“So a Roma woman, a gypsy woman, goes to the gynecologist, and the gynecologist has his gloves on. He notices that his gloves are ripped and notices that his wedding ring has fallen into the gypsy woman’s vagina, So he goes and he looks around and then sticks his head in, and then he sticks his whole body in, and he he is walking around in her vagina. And he sees another man in there who seems to be looking for something. He says to the man, “Hey I lost my ring, have you seen my ring?” And the other man says to him, “No, have you seen my horses?”

Context: This informant, SM, is half-Serbian and was telling my friends and I about a specifically vulgar and racist joke that she has heard other Serbian folks tell her. She explains that the Roma people are all over Europe and some parts of Asia, and are nomadic people. They are known as “gypsy” people, which is a derogatory term as they do not like being called as such. Serbians do not have a positive outlook on the Roma people, as they are seen as beggars and pickpockets. SM explains that sometimes they [gypsies] even use their children to get sympathy and get more money. The stereotype that is used by this joke is that Roma women have a lot of children, hence the size of the woman’s genitals in the story. The joke stuck with SM because of how derogatory and misogynistic it was. SM does not agree with this derogatory speech towards this specific ethnic group, and whenever telling the joke she prefaces by stating her own views towards the joke.

Analysis: Jokes, especially crude ones, are incredibly telling and descriptive of the culture from which the joke emerged. Jokes are a reflection of the things that a particular culture find humorous or witty, or can be a way to allow the persistence of certain stereotypes and essentially make fun of them. For example, the ample number of “blonde” jokes that are basically just jokes about how dumb blonde people–specifically women–are. These jokes allowed the spread of this stereotype across various American communities, leaving many blonde people the burden of having to prove their intelligence–even though none of this is rooted in fact. In this case, the Roma people, and the Roma women are being put down in a racist way, and is a reflection of certain Serbian communities’ views on the ethnic group. The experiences and observations of the Roma People by the Serbian society have influenced the way that they perceive these people. These stereotypes bleed into their jokes as a way to connect with the rest of their community, despite its provocative nature.

Along with this, there is a specific demographic to whom we tell stereotypic jokes. SM would never repeat this joke in front of a Roma person, in fear of offending them or them thinking that she shared the views espoused by the joke. This shows that we alter the way that we share folklore based on the context and the audience.

Chinese Restaurant Clapping Game

“So we had a clapping game that my friends and I used to do that involved this one song that I always thought was a little bit weird:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant, to buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread.

They asked me what my name was, and this is what I said, said, said:

‘My name is….choo choo Charlie, I can do karate, punch ’em in the stomach,

Oops, I’m sorry! Please don’t tell my mommy!

Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Freeze!'”

Context: The informant, ER, is an Asian-American student. She really enjoyed playing games with her friends when she was growing up in California; some of these included clapping games like this, along with making lip-sync dance videos. ER is a very popular girl, and wanted to fit in with the other girls, which includes participating in this game. ER explains that she uncomfortable with singing along with this song. Being an Asian-American, she felt that this song was quite racist and drew from various stereotypes in order create a catchy song to sing along to.

Analysis: This song follows other types of children’s songs that are common and widespread. It has catchy, simple rhythm with equally catchy lyrics. In this case, it involves repetition of certain lyrics that are necessary for clapping games. Towards the end of song, the lyrics become a bit nonsensical, and do not really provide any real connection with the original theme of the song. Even the first line of the song make no real sense since no one would normally go to a Chinese restaurant to purchase a loaf of bread. However, rational lyrics are not the main purpose of children songs, but rather about parodying other songs, or making fun of strict components of society.

However, probably the more telling part of this song is the slight racial insensitiveness of the lyrics. In this case, the lyrics are playing on stereotypes of Chinese people, and also equating them with other Asians, including Japanese people and Indian people. For many children, it is common for them to not be able to differentiate between different groups of East Asians, or can tend to be more racially insensitive. Due to this, it means that when these children come up with these rhymes and games, they will be less inhibited by potentially insensitive lyrics when trying to find rhyming words and catchy lyrics.

For ER, calling out her friends because of a racist song had too many consequences. From the social side, ER did not want to say that she did not want to participate in the game, which would create a rift between herself and her friends due to a mere song. Children’s social structures and relationships tend to be very fragile and complex, and due to this, telling your friends that you do not want to participate in a favorite game would be seen as an insult. Due to this fear, many kids will not tell their friends about something that bothers them personally in order to maintain their friendships and keep their social standing.

Viola Jokes

The informant is a 20-year-old friend from Westport, Connecticut, who plays the violin. He told me about viola jokes, which are silly, baseless jokes that strings players make about violists. He learned these from hearing other people in his orchestra, including his conductor, make these jokes. I asked him for an example of one of these jokes.

——————–

“How do you stop a violin from being stolen? You store it in a viola case.”

——————–

The concept of viola jokes was amusing to me, because they don’t seem to actually be based on anything true about viola players, but they are so widespread that they even have their own Wikipedia page. Based on my own knowledge of string instruments, violas do seem to be the odd ones out, as they use their own clef, the alto clef, which is not used by any other instrument in a classical orchestra. However, there is nothing about violas that actually suggests their inferiority as compared to other instruments, so these jokes seem to be an example of an invented other-ness that knits the rest of the group together in their identity as strings players. Without context, the jokes would seem offensive to viola players, but those who understand the jokes know that it is actually a fake out-group identity that would tie them closer to the group; in other words, knowing that the jokes are not actually making fun of violists allows the violists being made fun of, and others who understand the joke, to participate in string-instrument or orchestral culture.

For more viola jokes, see The Grand Encyclopedia of Viola Jokes by David Johnstone, found online at https://web.archive.org/web/20140824203638/http://www.j-music.es/FileUpload/articulos/gen026-Gran_Encyclopedia_viola_jokes-j-m.pdf.