USC Digital Folklore Archives / April, 2012
Folk Beliefs
general

Babies!

Debbie Cook and Linda Richter

Kingwood, Texas

March 11, 2012

Folklore Type: Folk Belief

Informant Bio: Debbie is my cousin and Linda is her mother and my aunt. Debbie grew up in Kingwood her whole life. She was a teacher for elementary and middle school, but will soon be a stay at home mom. Linda was a stay at home mom. They both are incredibly sarcastic and humorous. Debbie just had a baby.

Context: I had flown home for Spring Break the evening before we drove almost an hour to my Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank’s to see Carey, Debbie, and their new baby Ashley. As Ashley was amusing herself with some suspended toys, I asked Debbie what some of the things she got told when she was pregnant were.

 

Item:

D: Everybody at work; older women, in the elevator, strangers, would tell us all this stupid stuff. They said she was going to be a girl cause I was craving sweets instead of the savory. Girls ride high; boys ride low. There’s supposedly a test with a ring and a string and if it turns a certain way it determines the sex.

A. L: Women lose a part of their brain for every child they have.

 

Informant Analysis: They both saw the different beliefs as kind of stupid and untrue. People were just trying to be a part of what was going on.

Analysis: I think the part about people trying to be a part of Debbie’s pregnancy and interacting is probably true. The things that were said had a lot to do with figuring out the sex of the baby, and women losing their sanity while pregnant. Pregnancy is really hard. Debbie was especially sick. I think women like having the connection of giving birth with each other, and talking about those sayings or those experiences is a way to welcome a new member to the crazy mommy club.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Folk Beliefs
general

Baby Beauty Stealers

Carey Cook

Kingwood, Texas

April 11, 2012

Folklore Type: Folk Belief

Informant Bio: Carey Cook is married to my cousin, Debbie Richter Cook. He is half American and half Australian. He is very sarcastic and funny.

Context: I had flown home for Spring Break the evening before we drove almost an hour to my Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank’s to see Carey, Debbie, and their new baby Ashley. As Ashley was amusing herself with some suspended toys, I asked Debbie what some of the things she got told when she was pregnant were. Carey chimed in, in the middle.

Item: If you start to break out it’s cause she is robbing you of your beauty.

Informant Analysis: He laughed, and said I dunno (shoulder shrug).

Analysis: Clearly, Carey did not pay much mind to his comment other than the fact that he thinks it is funny. Especially because he knows our family is notorious for horrible acne which my cousin is not exempt from. What underlies this possible folk belief or saying is that there are stories where mothers or step-mothers are angry because their beauty is fading as their daughters’ is growing. This is the process known as aging, but some women do not want to accept that. So the answer is that their daughter must be stealing their beauty for themselves. This folk belief is actually a reflection of women’s struggle to accept how they look as they age.

Annotation: There is a book called Beauty by Nancy Butcher where the main character’s mother, the queen, is so obsessed with being the most beautiful she rounds up all of the young girls in the land including her daughter and puts them in an academy where the teachers give them drugs so they lose their minds and learn that ugliness is beauty. The mother also uses potions and other concoctions to maintain her youth and beauty. In the end the main character confronts her mother and with some bad mixing of poisons and concoctions the mother dies, and it is hinted her beauty gets transferred to her daughter.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Legends
Narrative

Is That My Name?

Greg Williams

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Legend

Informant Bio: Greg is my father. He is the hardest working man I know. He really values hard work so much so that he named his daughter after the hardest working woman he ever knew, his grandmother Laura. He grew up relatively poorer or lower middle class, and his father grew up dirt poor in very rural Hix, Texas. Both of Greg’s parents worked, and he started working at the age of ten. He has never stopped since as far as I know. Today Greg is a very accomplished and sought after Corporate Financial Officer. He is also very caring like his father.

Context: My Papa, my Father’s father, died. We were going to have the funeral soon. I knew I wanted to ask my Dad about the stories his grandfather told him because he talked in length about talking about them, but never told them himself. The one he came up with although he was a little hesitant to tell it because it is not very pretty is the story of our last name, Williams.

 

Item:

I spent every summer with them [father’s parents] as a youngster until I started playing football and had summer workouts at home. It was like going to camp except with much better food as my grandmother was an amazing cook having raised 8 kids. I did everything with my grandfather during those summers – milked the cow, tended to the acres of garden, mowed the pasture, rode horses, hunted squirrels and listened to him tell stories usually about people I did not know. He was a small man at 5’ 2” tall and my grandmother was 5’11” tall. They made quite a pair. She was fairly quiet but Lee Williams loved to tell stories while we sat outside at night eating watermelon. My grandfather and my father always thought our last name was different. I asked how they could not know. They said it was a different time. My grandfather had several siblings and they all thought this was true.

My grandfathers’ father’s family migrated from Ireland and my great grandfather lived with his family in Baltimore, Maryland during the civil war. My grandfather’s father got into a confrontation with the law. We think either over union confiscation of horses the family owned or somehow taking up for his brother over something or both? My great grandfather fled Baltimore to New Orleans where he traveled back to Ireland for some period of time. He later returned to the United States via Galveston, Texas migrating up from the coast into central Texas settling about 30 miles west of Bryan/College Station, home of Texas A&M. He settled in central Texas and we think my great grandfather changed his name to Williams to easily blend into society.

 

Informant Analysis: We heard the same stories over and over again. No television, (laughing) no radio, it was pretty much the only form of entertainment. At first it bothered me a lot. You know it’s kinda one of those things where as a kid, Tommy was doing the project, and we were going to go to Baltimore to figure out who we were. And at one point the court house burned down and a lot of the documents were gone, but in the end it is what it is and I know I’m Irish and who I am. The other thing it probably did, is it gave me a sense of you know when they were in Baltimore they had horses and a farm and back in those days that was everything, and then it was all gone. You know he went back to central Texas with the shirt on his back and had to start over, and he had a family and started a new life.

Analysis: This legend really is not discussed in my family. I probably bring it up the most out of everyone because I think it is interesting. It tends to make other people in my rather large extended family uncomfortable. What made it stick in my mind is that the last person I talked to about it was my Papa. I identify with it as a part of my identity that is yet to be explored because I really value my origins. This is something I learned from my father. He knows where he has come from because of where he ended up in spite of his origins, as did his father, and as did my Dad’s great-grandfather. Whether or not all of the details in this legend are true is unknown thus far, but it is the closest thing to an ancestry the Williams family has.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Folk speech
Proverbs

Russian Proverb about Driving Slowly

“Driving slower, you will advance further.”

Transliteration: “Tishe edesh – dalshe budesh.”

Q. What does this proverb mean?

A. The meaning is that if you do things slower, you will get further. It’s like saying, “Wait a minute, don’t hurry.” My brother would always say this, for instance, if I did a math problem and wanted to skip steps—if you do everything slower, part by part, you will do better in the end.

This proverb has an English analogue: “Slow and steady wins the race.” Yet, comparing these two versions, we can see that the American version has a much more competitive spirit than the Russian version, as it focuses upon winning. According to my informant, the Russian version refers to riding a horse; if one rides a horse too fast, the horse may become fatigued or sustain an injury. Thus, the Russian proverb focuses not upon winning, but rather upon not losing, not overtiring one’s horse.

Annotation: Writer Mikhail Zeldovich utilizes this proverb in an article concerning Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), commenting upon Russia’s slow, snail-paced progress of accession to the organization:

Zeldovich, Mikhail. “Slowly Going Nowhere: Russia’s Entry to the WTO Falters as Major Exporters Fight Shy of Membership.” The Russia Journal, 19 Nov. 2002. Web. 26 April 2012. <http://russiajournal.com/node/12071>.

general
Humor

Jay Bird

Billy Echols-Richter

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Joke, Rhyme, Song

Informant Bio: Billy is my uncle on my mother’s side. He is a Methodist Pastor, and a hilarious and friendly person and/or kid. He recently did a sermon series using Dr. Seuss. I have recently discovered he could be considered the family story teller because he learned all of my grandfather’s stories, jokes, and songs.

Context:  During this past summer of 2011 my grandfather on my Mom’s side passed away. Then recently my grandfather on my Father’s side passed away, and my Uncle Billy stayed with us and did the funeral service. He, my parents, and I were all talking. Then all of a sudden he started telling jokes his father used to tell.

 

Item:

Way down yonder not so very far off.

The jay bird died with a (w)hooping (silent w) cough

He (w)hooped so hard with the (w)hooping cough

That he (w)hooped his head and his tail right off.

 

Informant Analysis: Let me see which one. I hear a certain word and it always kinda reminds of the punch line of some of those jokes. And he was always telling us those kinds of jokes. Well I think part of the deal was, 1 dad came from a big family. He was not the oldest and he was not the youngest and so between the eight of them they told lots of stories. They didn’t have a TV or anything and his dad was a good story teller. And people stopping through getting gasoline and that’s where you would hearthe latest story or gossip. Of course he was also in the military and that’s notorious for hearing all sorts of things. The last thing is work in the oil fields and he didn’t realy work in the fields well I guess at first he did. And workin in the fields you get lots of jokes. And there were still lots of racism. Lot of the jokes centered around African Americans, Hispanic, and even Cajun. What made me think about it was dad work in the oil fields was corpus and they were with a lot of Hispanic and Mexican Americans. It would be a racist riddle.

There’s two or three things. It certainly helps me have a joyful smile and just helps my dad stay with me. I had a sense that papa was with me with just the sense of things. I had a friend where my dad used to write me handwritten letters and when I read them I can still hear his voice. For these little rhymes or jokes I can hear my dad. I also think of family and how it came from my dad and his family and his dad. As silly as they are I’m a part of something much, much bigger than myself. I’m not the first to think it’s funny. It’s funny but at the same time there’s some depth to it. You know a lot of people have items that they pass on to people and special objects and what not, but the silly things we are talking about now they don’t ever get lost or deteriorate. You know now I try to pass them on to my kids, and some things they find funny and some they don’t. I think Julie finds some funnier now than when say she was Lawson’s age.

 

Analysis: This joke is also part rhyme and song. It appears to be a funny little ditty. It is a bit violent though since the final image is basically a bird exploding. However, it also acts like a riddle in which words’ double meanings are being explored particularly with hyperbole in this case. Although the final image of the bird’s tail and head being (w)hooped off is a bit grotesque it could simply act the same as someone coughing their head off.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

general
Humor

Bar Stool

 Billy Echols-Richter

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Joke

Informant Bio: Billy is my uncle on my mother’s side. He is a Methodist Pastor, and a hilarious and friendly person and/or kid. He recently did a sermon series using Dr. Seuss. I have recently discovered he could be considered the family story teller because he learned all of my grandfather’s stories, jokes, and songs.

Context:  During this past summer of 2011 my grandfather on my Mom’s side passed away. Then recently my grandfather on my Father’s side passed away, and my Uncle Billy stayed with us and did the funeral service. He, my parents, and I were all talking. Then all of a sudden he started telling jokes his father used to tell.

Item: Do you know what a bar stool is? That’s what Davey Crockett stepped in.

 

Informant Analysis: Let me see which one. I hear a certain word and it always kinda reminds of the punch line of some of those jokes. And he was always telling us those kinds of jokes. Well I think part of the deal was, 1 dad came from a big family. He was not the oldest and he was not the youngest and so between the eight of them they told lots of stories. They didn’t have a TV or anything and his dad was a good story teller. And people stopping through getting gasoline and that’s where you would hearthe latest story or gossip. Of course he was also in the military and that’s notorious for hearing all sorts of things. The last thing is work in the oil fields and he didn’t realy work in the fields well I guess at first he did. And workin in the fields you get lots of jokes. And there were still lots of racism. Lot of the jokes centered around African Americans, Hispanic, and even Cajun. What made me think about it was dad work in the oil fields was corpus and they were with a lot of Hispanic and Mexican Americans. It would be a racist riddle.

There’s two or three things. It certainly helps me have a joyful smile and just helps my dad stay with me. I had a sense that papa was with me with just the sense of things. I had a friend where my dad used to write me handwritten letters and when I read them I can still hear his voice. For these little rhymes or jokes I can hear my dad. I also think of family and how it came from my dad and his family and his dad. As silly as they are I’m a part of something much, much bigger than myself. I’m not the first to think it’s funny. It’s funny but at the same time there’s some depth to it. You know a lot of people have items that they pass on to people and special objects and what not, but the silly things we are talking about now they don’t ever get lost or deteriorate. You know now I try to pass them on to my kids, and some things they find funny and some they don’t. I think Julie finds some funnier now than when say she was Lawson’s age.

 

Analysis: This joke had more of a country tinge to it. It is a play on words with stool. The joke refers to a stool being poop and also a stool one sits on. The common inconvenience in steeping in poop combined with the reference to a bar sort of results in a subtle joke about Davey Crockett possibly being a bit of an alcoholic, although, it was probably told more for its vulgar effects than its subtleties.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

 

general
Humor

Sonny Beaches

Billy Echols-Richter

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Joke

Informant Bio: Billy is my uncle on my mother’s side. He is a Methodist Pastor, and a hilarious and friendly person and/or kid. He recently did a sermon series using Dr. Seuss. I have recently discovered he could be considered the family story teller because he learned all of my grandfather’s stories, jokes, and songs.

Context:  During this past summer of 2011 my grandfather on my Mom’s side passed away. Then recently my grandfather on my Father’s side passed away, and my Uncle Billy stayed with us and did the funeral service. He, my parents, and I were all talking. Then all of a sudden he started telling jokes his father used to tell.

Item: There is a Mexican who came and said, “I am able to understand. I can tell you what things are cause of what they sound like. I can tell you that’s a cheekin.” “How can you tell?” “Cause it go cluck, cluck.” “I can tell you that’s a cow.” “Well how can you tell?” “Cause it go moo, moo.” And I can tell that a man from Florida because he always yelling sunny beaches, sunny beaches.”

 

Informant Analysis: Let me see which one. I hear a certain word and it always kinda reminds of the punch line of some of those jokes. And he was always telling us those kinds of jokes. Well I think part of the deal was, 1 dad came from a big family. He was not the oldest and he was not the youngest and so between the eight of them they told lots of stories. They didn’t have a TV or anything and his dad was a good story teller. And people stopping through getting gasoline and that’s where you would hearthe latest story or gossip. Of course he was also in the military and that’s notorious for hearing all sorts of things. The last thing is work in the oil fields and he didn’t realy work in the fields well I guess at first he did. And workin in the fields you get lots of jokes. And there were still lots of racism. Lot of the jokes centered around African Americans, Hispanic, and even Cajun. What made me think about it was dad work in the oil fields was corpus and they were with a lot of Hispanic and Mexican Americans. It would be a racist riddle.

There’s two or three things. It certainly helps me have a joyful smile and just helps my dad stay with me. I had a sense that papa was with me with just the sense of things. I had a friend where my dad used to write me handwritten letters and when I read them I can still hear his voice. For these little rhymes or jokes I can hear my dad. I also think of family and how it came from my dad and his family and his dad. As silly as they are I’m a part of something much, much bigger than myself. I’m not the first to think it’s funny. It’s funny but at the same time there’s some depth to it. You know a lot of people have items that they pass on to people and special objects and what not, but the silly things we are talking about now they don’t ever get lost or deteriorate. You know now I try to pass them on to my kids, and some things they find funny and some they don’t. I think Julie finds some funnier now than when say she was Lawson’s age.

 

Analysis: I think my Uncle Billy really understands and has thought about this joke and where it comes from. It is a slightly racist reflection of a language barrier. Yet it still contains innocence because the Mexican does not know what the last part means; he is just going on the sounds he hears. This joke was more than likely developed as a result of Mexicans crossing the border and willing to work for very cheap resulting in fewer jobs for other lower income ethnicities.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Customs
Foodways
Material

German Recipe: Curry Wurst

German Curry Wurst Recipe:

Ingredients: 

Ketchup, 10 tablespoons

Water, 5 tablespoons

Salt, ½ teaspoon

Pepper, 1 teaspoon

Paprika Powder, 1/2 tablespoon

Cayenne Pepper, to taste

Chili Sauce, 1 1/4 tablespoons

Curry Powder, 1 tablespoons

Sugar, 1 tablespoon

Bratwurst sausages

Instructions:

First, cook your sausages on either a grill or pan if you don’t have a grill.  Once the sausages are done cooking, set them aside.  In a saucepan add ketchup, stir in 4-5 tablespoons of water and boil while stirring. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili, curry powder and a little sugar if necessary. Serve hot!

(Warning: SPICY!)

Analysis:

When I first traveled to Germany, I really wanted to try some local cuisine.  My informant suggested that I try curry wurst, because the fast food dish is very popular and she thought I would like it.  I had curry wurst for the first time at a small open air market in Berlin.  There were all kinds of condiments you could add to the curry wurst such as mayonnaise and hot sauce.  The curry wurst was also sold with potatoes, french fries, and white bread rolls which you would use to dip in the extra sauce.  My informant told me that Berliners normally get white bread rolls with their curry wurst, and I wanted to do ‘the local thing’ so I got a bread roll to go with my snack.  To me, doing things as they locals do them when I travel is my way of trying to get an understanding for the culture.  I hoped that in trying many different types of  German food, I could get an understanding of what kinds of foods Germans like.  Are they the kind of culture that likes spicy, savory, or sweet foods?  German food seems to be a good combination of all those food tastes, like the sweet taste of apple strudel, the savory flavor of potato dumplings, and the spicy kick of curry wurst.  I ended up loving the food so much that I asked the informant’s mother for a curry wurst recipe that I could take back to America with me.  I think the recipe is very close to what I had at the market in Berlin, but of course nothing can compare to the real thing.

The invention of curry wurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer, who created the sauce in 1949 when she obtained ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and curry powder from British soldiers in Berlin.  Her recipe soon became very popular and her stand was selling as much as 10,000 servings per week. Heuwer patented the recipe as ‘Chillup’ in 1951 and started her own restaurant.  Today curry wurst stands can be see all over the major cities of Germany, and they are a popular form of fast food for tourists and Germans.

My informant was born in 1992 Hamburg, Germany.  She studied at USC from 2010-2011 before moving to Brussels, Belgium to study international policy planning for her undergraduate degree.  She lives part time in Brussels, Belgium and part time in her hometown Hamburg, Germany.

general
Humor

Artheritis

Billy Echols-Richter

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Joke

Informant Bio: Billy is my uncle on my mother’s side. He is a Methodist Pastor, and a hilarious and friendly person and/or kid. He recently did a sermon series using Dr. Seuss. I have recently discovered he could be considered the family story teller because he learned all of my grandfather’s stories, jokes, and songs.

Context:  During this past summer of 2011 my grandfather on my Mom’s side passed away. Then recently my grandfather on my Father’s side passed away, and my Uncle Billy stayed with us and did the funeral service. He, my parents, and I were all talking. Then all of a sudden he tells this joke his father used to tell.

Item: These two women see each other in church and they can’t figure out where their third friend Mable is. (in Older Southern Church Woman accent) “Where is Mable?” And one says, “Oh honey, she is in bed with Artheritis.” The other comments, “Oh, those Ritis boys are bad, and that Arthur he’s the worst one.”

 

Informant Analysis: Let me see which one. I hear a certain word and it always kinda reminds of the punch line of some of those jokes. And he was always telling us those kinds of jokes. Well I think part of the deal was, 1 dad came from a big family. He was not the oldest and he was not the youngest and so between the eight of them they told lots of stories. They didn’t have a TV or anything and his dad was a good story teller. And people stopping through getting gasoline and that’s where you would hearthe latest story or gossip. Of course he was also in the military and that’s notorious for hearing all sorts of things. The last thing is work in the oil fields and he didn’t realy work in the fields well I guess at first he did. And workin in the fields you get lots of jokes. And there were still lots of racism. Lot of the jokes centered around African Americans, Hispanic, and even Cajun. What made me think about it was dad work in the oil fields was corpus and they were with a lot of Hispanic and Mexican Americans. It would be a racist riddle.

There’s two or three things. It certainly helps me have a joyful smile and just helps my dad stay with me. I had a sense that papa was with me with just the sense of things. I had a friend where my dad used to write me handwritten letters and when I read them I can still hear his voice. For these little rhymes or jokes I can hear my dad. I also think of family and how it came from my dad and his family and his dad. As silly as they are I’m a part of something much, much bigger than myself. I’m not the first to think it’s funny. It’s funny but at the same time there’s some depth to it. You know a lot of people have items that they pass on to people and special objects and what not, but the silly things we are talking about now they don’t ever get lost or deteriorate. You know now I try to pass them on to my kids, and some things they find funny and some they don’t. I think Julie finds some funnier now than when say she was Lawson’s age.

 

Analysis: I think my Uncle Billy definitely knows where the jokes come from and what they mean to him. This joke in particular he did not touch upon as much. There is a certain understanding needed about older southern church going women especially the kind that my grandfather probably knew. Older church going women are good Christians that are well mannered and generally tell everyone else how they should act, which means people should act like them. This is the stereotype. However, some of these women definitely have or had a wild side once upon a time. This joke makes fun of that fact. It also plays with the ideas of young and old, and what is associated with them. Old people are associated with Arthritis and being bed ridden while younger people are associated with sexuality. This joke brings up that older people can still be sexually active as well as mixes other usually oppositional themes.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Legends
Narrative

Capax (Legend)

My informant’s mother is Colombian, and her father taught at an American school in Colombia. They met because her dad was her mom’s English teacher at night school for adults. They took their honeymoon in the Amazon jungle. The villagers in Leticia (the city bordering the jungle) had a story about a man who traipsed through the jungle wearing nothing but a loincloth. He was rumored to live in the jungle by the fruits of his own labor, howled like a dog, and carried a dagger. His name was Capax. My informants father swears that he saw Capax for a short instance back in ’78.

[geolocation]