USC Digital Folklore Archives / February, 2012
Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Irish Shoe Superstition

My informant is of Irish decent, and he told me of an old superstition he learned about shoes in the home. Apparently,  the Irish believe that it is bad luck to put one’s shoes on a table in the house. He has no idea as to the reason for such a superstition, all he knows is that in his house whether you believe it or not you’re afraid to find out if it is true.

The reason for this superstition may be unknown, but there is another version that I have come across on the internet. The other version says that it is bad luck to put one’s shoes on the bed, and the reasoning behind it is that it would bring a death in one’s family.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Magic
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Take Care of the Field, and the Field Will Take Care of You.

My informant was my baseball coach  last year, and he used this saying at a time when our team, who was usually very good, wasn’t doing so well. We were uncharacteristically making a lot of errors, and we just couldn’t seem to get the ball to bounce our way when we were hitting. One day after practice my coach noticed that the field and batting cages had not been worked on or cleaned. He brought us all together and annoyed he said, “How about we  get our jobs done and take care of this place. Take care of your field and the field will take care of you. Let’s get some good karma going and turn this thing around.”

This is a saying that my informant likely made up himself. That was the first time I had heard the saying, however, I have recently heard several versions of it, namely, “Be good to the field and the field will be good to you.” While I don’t believe in things like karma, I can see the logic in the statement he made. By taking care of the field, dragging and watering the dirt, making sure there it is smooth and there are no holes or big rocks in it will greatly decrease the chances of a ball hitting a rock or a hole and taking a bad hop, which in turn causes errors. So it’s simple: Take care of the field, and the field will take care of you.

Folk Beliefs
Foodways
general
Legends
Material
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Pop Rocks Legend

My informant told me of a myth he heard when he was young that involved a candy called Pop Rocks. Pop Rocks are little pieces of hard candy that pop and crack when one puts them inside his or her mouth. He explained to me that it has been believed that if one was to eat these Pop Rocks and drink a soda, or any carbonated beverage, at the same time, the combination would make his or her stomach explode.

This is very interesting, because I remember hearing this myth when I was a kid; about nine or ten. My informant is from Riverside, California, and I was living in Encino, California, when I first heard it so it seems that this version has diffused throughout multiple areas. Whether there is actually any evidence that such a result could occur from this combination remains to be seen. Neither one of us, my informant nor myself, has ever witnessed the result of ingesting the combination in person, therefore I can safely say that this myth remains nothing more.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Baseball Superstition

My informant gave me an example of a superstition about the foul lines in baseball. He told me that before a
baseball game it is bad luck to step on the foul lines before the game starts. He first learned of the superstition when he
was in little league, and a teammate of his told him not to step on the foul lines. My informant had no idea why it was bad luck, and his teammate was no help because he didn’t know either.
You see, on a baseball field the lines are either painted, or made with chalk. Usually this is done well before the
start of the game. A team will usually start getting ready for a game about three hours prior to the game. They will play
catch down the foul lines in the outfield, (But at no time during the catch play will anyone step on the line), take ground
balls and batting practice. After all this, the field is re-prepared for the game; the dirt is raked and smoothed over, and
new bases are put in, all the while the foul lines stay straight and neat. My guess is that the field of play is very important to a ballplayer, not every field is the same, there can be bad hops in the infield and bad bounces of the walls in the outfield, so to respect it by keeping it in good shape could only be good for a ballplayer, therefore any mistreatment to it would warrant “bad luck”.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine.

My informant first heard this saying from her grandmother when she was a child. She said that her grandmother was teaching her to sew using the baste method, which uses one long stitch over a piece of fabric in order to hold the fabric together for the main stitches which are smaller. My informant told me that along with the reasoning for using this method, her grandmother used the phrase, “A stitch in time saves nine.”, meaning that using this method, even though it seemed time-wasting and tedious, would save time in the ling run by keeping the the fabric in place and preventing mistakes when sewing the small stitches.

The person who originally said the phrase was Benjamin Franklin. My informant’s grandmother likely read it in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. Benjamin Franklin wrote the almanac under the pseudonym “Poor Richard” between 1733 and 1758. My informant’s grandmother used the phrase in a situation that actually involved a stitch, but the saying can also be applied to a number of situations.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

Baseball Superstition

My informant is a pitcher on the baseball team, and he told me that the first game that he started this season he had gotten  a brand new pair of baseball socks from the manager, because the ones he had been wearing had too many holes in them. That night he had a really good game and won. From then on, he says that he has been wearing a new pair of socks every time he has gone out to pitch.

It wasn’t anything he planned on doing, and nobody suggested that he do it. Neither him nor I had ever heard of another instance of a person who did the same thing. There have been instances in sports where players will, for good luck, do things like where the same socks or other articles of clothing, or use the same equipment (like a bat or shoes), while their performance is good. My guess is that he subconsciously feels that by wearing new  socks every time he pitches he is somehow starting fresh, free from the memory of the successes, and failures, of the past.

general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Knock-knock Joke – Amy Fisher

A. Knock Knock.
B. Who’s there?
A. Amy Fisher.
A. Amy Fishe…?
B. … BANG!
This was only a couple years after a girl named Amy Fisher went to the door of the house of a man named Joey Buttafuco, whom she was having an affair with. She asked him to leave his wife and when he refused she went to his house and shot his wife in the head. This can be an example of a kind of disaster joke, these are risky because for a certain time after the initial incident, people can find the joke inappropriate.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
folk simile
Folk speech
general
Protection
Proverbs

Laughter is good medicine.

This is a phrase my mom first told me when I was a young child. She used it when she would do or say something to cheer me up when I was feeling down, after which she would say, “Cheer up, laughter is good medicine.” From then on she always reminded me to have something in my day that would make me laugh, for she said it would actually make me feel physically better. Every once in a while when I was little, and I wanted to watch cartoons and my mom didn’t really want me to I would try to persuade her by saying, “But mom, laughter is good medicine.” That always made her chuckle a bit. The phrase actually came from the Bible, out of Proverbs 17:22. It says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” My mom also told me that she read in a medical journal that doctors will actually have patients watch or read funny material, and some how it actually makes them feel better.

Folk speech
general
Magic
Protection
Proverbs

…From my lips to God’s ears.

My informant told me that a friend of hers used to say this phrase as sort of a superstitious prayer. It was sort of the opposite of the knock on wood superstition. The way it worked was that whenever my informant’s friend would talk about her kids, or her grandkids, by saying, “little Timmy’s so talented, he’s gonna be a fine doctor some day.”, or, “ That kid’s got a great arm, he’s gonna be a great ballplayer one day.”, immediately after she would say, “From my lips to God’s.”
There’s no getting around the fact that parents want the best for their kids, and I don’t doubt that there are a number of other similar types of sayings throughout the world. As I said before this saying is very similar to the knock on wood superstition, however instead of trying to ward off bad fortune, “From my lips to God’s ears” attempts to bring good fortune.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

My informant once gave me this phrase as words of encouragement. He told me that he had used it many times for himself when he was faced with some difficult task or situation. He was a singer, and he also acted in plays, and when he was preparing for an audition he would use this phrase to ease his nerves and prepare him for the difficult competition against his peers. My informant did not know the precise origin of the saying, however he mentioned that he remembered that John F. Kennedy recited it in his inauguration address. I believe he used it to express the fact that the road to success for the United States was too long and difficult to expect immediate results, that patience be the key.

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