USC Digital Folklore Archives / October, 2010
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Legends

Urban Legend

A woman stopped at a pay-at-the-pump gas station to get gas. Once she filled her gas tank and after paying at the pump and starting to leave, the voice of the attendant inside came over the speaker. He told her that something happened with her card and that she needed to come inside to pay. The lady was confused because the transaction showed complete and approved. She relayed that to him and was getting ready to leave but the attendant, once again, urged her to come in to pay or there’d be trouble. She proceeded to go inside and started arguing with the attendant about his threat. He told her to calm down and listen carefully: He said that while she was pumping gas, a guy slipped into the back seat of her car on the other side and the attendant had already called the police. She became frightened and looked out in time to see her car door open and the guy slip out. The report is that the new gang initiation thing is to bring back a woman and/or her car.. One way they are doing this is crawling under women’s cars while they’re pumping gas or at grocery stores in the nighttime The other way is slipping into unattended cars and kidnapping the women.

Please pass this on to other women, young and old alike. Be extra careful going to and from your car at night. If at all possible, don’t go alone!  This is real!!

The message:

1. ALWAYS lock your car doors, even if you’re gone for just a second!

2. Check underneath your car when approaching it for reentry, and check in the back before getting in.

3. Always be aware of your surroundings and of other individuals in your general vicinity, particularly at night!

Send this to everyone so your friends can take precaution.

AND GUYS…YOU TELL ANY WOMEN YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS Thanks,

Barbara Baker, Secretary Directorate of Training U.S. Army Military Police School.

THIS IS VERY SERIOUS … PLEASE DO NOT DELETE IT! PLEASE PASS IT ON!!

Makini sent this to me in an email.  She says that she did not really believe the email but felt that she should send it to her female friends just in case it were true.  This email follows the same format as several other emails that claim to enlighten readers about new gang initiation activities.  A close relative of this email claims that a new gang initiation is to drive around after dark with their headlights off and then kill anyone who gives them a courtesy flash.  Law enforcement officers who are asked about this often stress that gang initiations very rarely intentionally involve strangers.  More often the members are required to retaliate against opposing gangs, or they are “jumped in” by becoming victims of violence at the hands of their own gang.

Folk Beliefs
general

Superstition

“If your palm is itching, then you are going to receive money.”

Sierra does not remember exactly who she heard this superstition from.  She suspects that it might have been a friend.  She grew up in Wadesborough, NC.  When Sierra learned the superstition, her friend claimed that either palm itching means that the person will be receiving money.

Other versions of the superstition specify which palm must be itching for one to come into money.  In some cultures an itching right palm denotes that one will be receiving money, while an itching left palm indicates that one will be spending money on something soon.  In other cultures, the left hand must be itching for one to receive money, while the right hand itching indicates that one will be spending or losing money.

Another girl in the dorm who overheard the conversation stated that because the left palm is the passive, or receptive hand, the itching of the left hand indicates that new energy will be passing through it and money is going to be received.  The right hand is the active hand and as a result it would be used to give money.  Some versions of this superstition go as far as to state that scratching the palm will reverse one’s luck; therefore, one should not scratch the hand that indicates that money will be received, but he/she should continue to scratch the palm that indicates that money will be spent.  Other ways that one would use to counteract itching palms is to touch or rub a piece of wood to transfer his/her luck.

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Legends

Legend

Sleeping Ute Mountain resembles a sleeping Indian with his headdress on. He was a great warrior god who helped fight against white invaders, and during the battle his feet formed the mountains and valleys. He was wounded and fell asleep to help his wounds. He is still sleeping, but the blood from his wound became water and rain clouds come from his pockets. The changing of his blankets bring the seasons: dark green, yellow and red, and white.

Jackee heard the Sleepy Ute myth on a Navajo reservation in Utah which she visited as part of an alternative spring break trip.  The legend states that a great Ute warrior was wounded during battle while fighting the white invaders of the land.  He lay down to rest to help heal his wounds, and when he awakes he will continue his fight against them and take back the land that belongs to the Ute tribe.  A more complete version of the  legend can be found on various sites hosting Native American folklore.  This version can be found on a Ute website:

In the very old days, the Sleeping Ute Mountain was a Great Warrior God. He came to help fight against the Evil Ones who were causing much trouble. A tremendous battle between the Great Warrior God and the Evil Ones followed. As they stepped hard upon the earth and braced themselves to fight, their feet pushed the land into mountains and valleys. This is how the country of this region came to be as it is today. The Great Warrior God was hurt, so he lay down to rest and fell into a deep sleep. The blood from his wound turned into living water for all creatures to drink. When the fog or clouds settle over the Sleeping Warrior God, it is a sign that he is changing his blankets for the four seasons. When the Indians see the light green blanket over their “God”, they know it is spring. The dark green blanket is summer, the yellow and red one is fall, and the white one is winter.  The Indians believe that when the clouds gather on the highest peak, the Warrior God is pleased with his people and is letting rain clouds slip from his pockets. They also believe that the Great Warrior God will rise again to help them in the fight against their enemies.

Jackee says that the people she met at the reservation were mainly teenagers and that many of them believed the legend.  They told her that a time would come when the Ute awakens and they will reclaim the land that was stolen from them.  The sleeping Ute is still very much revered among the elder Ute as well as the younger generations.

Annotation:

Smith, L. Michael. “UTE.” 1998. 23 Apr. 2008<www.utemountainute.com/legends.htm>.

The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 14, No. 55 (Oct. – Dec., 1901), pp. 252-28

general
Musical

Lullaby – Yoruba

Ronke nko O

O wa nle O

O sun jaburata si yara O

Ta lo ba wi

Ta lo na O

How is Ronke doing?

She is at home.

She is deeply asleep in the bedroom.

Who reprimanded her?

Who Spanked her?

This is a Yoruba lullaby that is sung to a crying child.  Abiola heard the song as a young child.  She is the oldest of six children, and she often heard the lullaby sung to her younger siblings.  She also has four children who she sang the song to when they were young.

The song asks about the condition of the crying child.  In this example the child’s name is Ronke.  The first line asks what is wrong with the child.  A more representative English translation is : What about Ronke? The next two lines state what the child should be doing.  The singer states that the child is at home in a deep sleep, which is the ultimate goal of the lullaby.  As there is typically no known reason for the child to be crying, the singer asks if anyone chastised the child or spanked her to make her cry.

The song has proven to be very effective.  Abiola not only remembers hearing it sung by many women as a child, and singing it to her own children as well as her youngest sister, but the song is still sung in her family, even by those who do not speak any other words of Yoruba.

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Tales /märchen

Märchen – Yoruba

Ijapa Ati Aja

Ijapa ati Aja lo si oko oloko lati lo ji isu.  Aja mu isu ni won ba.  Ijapa se ojukokoro, o di apere ti okun.  Ko wa le gbe. O wa bere si korin si aja bayi:

Aja duro ra mi leru, Ferekufe

Bi O ba duro ra mi leru, Ferekufe

Ma Kigbe oloku a gbo, Ferekufe

A gbe wa de A gba wa ni isu, Ferekufe

The Tortoise and the Dog

The tortoise and the dog went to a farm to steal some yams.  The dog took a few yams while the tortoise took a basket full.  The dog left, but the tortoise could not carry his load.  He began to singing out loud for help thusly:

Dog, wait! Help me carry my load, Ferekufe

If you don’t wait to help me, Ferekufe

I will shout and the farmer will hear me, Ferekufe

He will capture us and take our yams, Ferekufe

Abiola learned this story when she was around eight years old.  When she went from Lagos city to visit her grandmother in the village.  At night in her grandmother’s compound, elders would sit the children down in a communal area and tell stories to them.  The stories were usually told in a call and return format.  This particular story has a refrain which is repeated throughout which the listeners can repeat.  The line “Ferekufe” holds no actual meaning other than to add a rhythm to the telling.

This story features the most popular character in Nigerian tales.  Ijapa is the tortoise.  He is the conniver in most Nigerian trickster tales.  The tortoise is always shown as conniving, greedy, and deceitful.  In this particular tale, the tortoise and his friend the dog decide to steal yams from a neighboring farmer.  The dog takes only as many yams as he can carry away, but the greedy tortoise takes a basket so full of yams that he can barely drag the basket behind him.  The word used to describe the tortoise’s greed “ojukokoro” literally translates to ant eyes.  It is an expression that denotes that ants often carry loads many times their size.  It is similar to the English saying that someone’s eyes are bigger than his or her stomach.

Abiola states that the story teaches on not to be greedy because even as the tortoise threatens his friend the dog that he will scream if the dog does not help him, one should be able to recognize that even if the tortoise attempts to call attention to the dog, he will only get himself caught first.  She says that one should take away from the story

that he/she cannot blackmail others to solve problems that one has created for him/herself.

Another version of this story can be found in a book compiled with Nigerian tales.

Annotation: Owomoyela, Oyekan. Yoruba Trikster Tales. University of Nebraska P, 1997. 83-86.

general
Tales /märchen

Märchen – Yoruba

Aja, Alabaun, Ati Yanribo

Aja, Alabaun, ati Yanribo jo nse ore po.  Gbogbo won pa nu po lati pa iya won.  Alabaun ati Yanribo pa iya won sugbon. Aja gbe ti lo pamo si orun.  Igba ti o ba fe lo wo iya e, Aja a ma korin bayi:

Iya, Iya takun wa le O

Alu join join ki join

Gbogbo eranko pa yeye e je O

Alu join join ki join

Aja gbe ti o dorun O

Alu join join ki join

Ni ijo kan, awon eranko ka mo ibi to ti nkorin si Iya e.  Ni won ba ni awon ma lo pa Iya e ni.

Dog, Tortoise, and his Wife

The dog, the tortoise, and his wife were all friends. They all decided to kill their mothers.  The other animals went along with the plan and killed their mothers, but the dog went and hid his mother in heaven.  Whenever he wanted to visit his mother, he would sing like this:

Mother, Mother bring down the rope

Alu join join ki join

All the animals killed their mothers

Alu join join ki join

The dog carried his to heaven

Alu join join ki join

One day, the other animals caught the dog while he was singing to his mother.  They decided that they would have to kill his mother.

Abiola heard this story when she was around eight years old.  She used to visit her grandmother in the village and the elders would tell stories to the children at night.  This story follows in the call and reply format.  The story contains the refrain “Alu join join ki join” which is intended for listeners to reply back to the teller as she tells the tale.  This tale features the most popular character in Nigerian tales, the tortoise, but this tale refers to him as “Alabaun” instead of as Ijapa.  The tortoise has several names that change in spelling, pronunciation, or word from region to region.  This story also features the tortoise’s wife Yanribo.  Once again, the tortoise is causing mischief.  In this story he and his wife decide that all of the animals in the village should kill their mothers.  His friend the dog is with them when they make this decision, he agrees with the animals but

ultimately refuses to kill his mother.  Instead, he takes her directly to heaven to hide her from the other animals.  The tortoise and his wife eventually find out that the dog lied to them when he sings to his mother to let down a rope from heaven so that he can visit her.  When they discover this, they kill his mother.  Abiola says that the lesson that children learn from this is that honesty is always better than deceit.  They also learn to stand up for their beliefs.  The dog should have told the others that it was a bad idea to kill their mothers instead of pretending to agree with them.  In the end he is found out and his mother is killed, which he might have prevented had he been brave enough to be the dissenting voice.

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Humor

Jokes

Q: What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?

A: Nothing, You already told her twice.

Q: What does a woman with a broken arm, a black eye, and two cracked ribs do?

A: The dishes if she knows what’s good for her.

The man whom I collected this piece from asked that I not attach his name to the jokes.  He is a social worker for Los Angeles county.  He says that he heard the jokes from coworkers as they finished paperwork in his office.  The men were discussing a domestic abuse case that resulted in the removal of a young child from his home.  Although he says that he laughed at the jokes when they were told, he claims that they would probably have gotten him in trouble with his superiors if the men had been overheard.

The informant stated that there are very few men in the field of social work.  Because he and the other two people in the room, including the individual who told the joke, were all men, the teller probably felt comfortable enough to assume that none of them would be offended.  He said that he does not agree with the jokes, and he would not find the subject funny at all in a real life situation.

These jokes are a great example of conversations that only arise when one is within a comfortable and familiar social group.  The informant describes the situation as a group of men within a field dominated by women.  Because the men realize that they are a minority group in their field, they would not dare to tell the joke in front of their female coworkers.  Spousal abuse is also a taboo subject in popular culture.  This is coupled with the fact that the men work in a field where it is often their job to interact with and protect women and children in abusive situations; therefore, the jokes would be deemed inappropriate by anyone outside of the group who might overhear them.  The fact that the subject of the jokes is taboo also adds to their appeal.  It is common that we find humor in situations that would be deemed politically incorrect simply because of the likelihood of the item to offend.  This is often exemplified by the telling of ethnic or racial jokes.

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Humor

Joke

Q: Why can’t Stevie Wonder read?

A: Because he’s black.

The informant asked that I withhold his name from the project.  He told me that he heard this joke in high school from another student.   He was about 15 or 16 years old when he heard it.  The individual who told him the joke was a white student.  He said that he was offended when he heard the joke because it made him feel that his white classmates were getting to comfortable with him. He happened to be one of the few minority students in upper level classes, and the majority of his classmates were white.  He asked me not to attach his name to this piece because he feared that he would be viewed as condoning racism and bigotry by sharing the joke.

The joke itself combines more than one taboo in its telling.  It expresses long held stereotypes about black people as uneducated and illiterate.  The other politically incorrect topic that this joke touches upon is mocking the disabled.  It is generally known that it is unacceptable to make disparaging comments about the condition or abilities of those who have physical or mental handicaps.

This joke once again exemplifies the lure of taboo.  The individual thought that the joke was funny because of the taboos it addressed, whether or not he agreed with the stereotype or the derogation of Stevie Wonder and his disability.  The situation in which this joke was shared is a very interesting one.  Although the informant is a part of the group being disparaged in the joke, the teller believed that because they were both part of a specific social group, the informant would not be offended.  This illustrates the ability of any one of us to play a role in several different definitive groups at once.  The informant stated that his identity as a member of his racial group conflicted with his identity as a member of the social group that he was involved with at school.  This was often manifested by jokes such as this one, which his peers seemed to enjoy more that he did.

Folk Beliefs
general

Stereotype

Mexican women are extremely fertile.

The informant asked that I not attach him name to this piece.  He told me this stereotype in conversation as we walked back from the dining hall, and I later asked him if I could include it in my project.  As we were walking, another individual stopped us and asked me if I happened to be Dominican.  I replied that I was actually Nigerian, and we went on our way.  I joked that I should pretend to be Dominican so that I could make free copies in the Latino Student Union when the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs was out of ink and the informant; I then made a comment about picking up a Latino boy while I was there, and the informant scoffed.  He then stated that he couldn’t date a Latina girl because, “Mexican girls are so fertile that if you finger one she’ll end up pregnant.” The other male that was traveling with us then stated “Mexican houses have a six child minimum.

When I decided to use the comment in my project, the informant told me that he had heard it from a classmate in high school, but he believed the implications behind the comment to be true.  He stated that Mexican women tend to have a lot of children, and that they usually start very young.  When I went to ask the informant if I could use his comment for this project, a friend of his roommate was in their lounge.  As he answered my questions, a very anti-Mexican sentiment arose.  Their visitor stated that not only was it true that Mexican women are very fertile, but they breed enough to overpopulate their living areas.  He then told the joke:

Q: What do you can a Mexican in the water?

A: Pollution

Both of these comments are examples of Blason Populaire.  The anti immigration sentiment may be partially responsible for these individuals hearing these stereotypes.  All of these individuals attended public schools in the Los Angeles school district, which in most cases are predominantly Hispanic.   These facts most likely fostered an environment where the other students felt threatened enough to begin disparaging the Hispanic population in response to a perceived threat.

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Humor

Joke

A woman dies in a car crash and is sent to her judgment at the gates of heaven.  After St. Paul decides that she lived a virtuous life, she is allowed to enter heaven.  One of the other angels approaches her and offers to take her on a tour of heaven.  He shows her the greatest restaurants, the best theaters, the hottest clubs, the amusement parks, and all the best of heavens attractions.  Suddenly she notices a building with a long line out in front.  As they get closer she hears shrieks of pain and agony.  She asks what’s inside and the angel says:

“That is the room you must enter to become an angel.”

The screaming gets louder and more anguished.  So she asks what is happening inside.  The angel replies:

“First they drill holes in your head to hold your training halo in place, then they drill holes into your back to put your wings in, and finally -”

She stops him before he can finish and tells him that she would like to be sent to hell.  He says:

“You realize that if you are sent to hell you will be tortured, raped and sodomized daily?”

The woman answers: “Yeah, but I already have the holes for that.”

Ariel told me that she heard this joke from a coworker during their break at Taco Bell.  This joke once again deals with social taboos.  It was told among a group of individuals in their late teens to early twenties.  The focus of the joke is somewhat sexual in nature.  It also comments on death and the afterlife.  The joke is one that would not likely be told around anyone outside of one’s immediate age group.

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