USC Digital Folklore Archives / April, 2015
Legends
Signs

The Dove

When my mom died, you know, she died of cancer at home. And all of us kids were home…and she died early in the morning. Aunt Pat was screaming and we were all really upset.

But we all went outside together. And there was this uh, these tracks, this railroad, between the yards and we sat on them. All my brothers and sisters were out there.

And we looked up at the roof of our house and there was a white dove. It just sat there on top of the house.

It was a sign, you know, that she had risen…if you look up the significance of doves, you know, they mean, uh, Resurrection and life.

And that really stuck in our minds as a sign that we was watching over our house…she was okay.

It’s sad, but it’s happy, you know.

It meant that our mother was, a sign, you know that even though she had died she was living on and watching over us. Kind of like an angel…she was still there.

Why do you think we retell this story?

It actually was very comforting. It was weird, uh, we’d never seen anything like that. Just a beautiful bird just perched on the peak of our roof.

It’s true, too.

I’ll try to that for you when I die (laughs).

context: 

I went home for Easter and the informant, my father, delivered this one on one.

thoughts:

I had heard this story before, because their mom died when they were all very young, years before I was born, and they (my informant/father and his siblings) tell and retell stories about her to preserve her memory, often speaking of her like people describe saints. This is a good example of that, as she sent down the dove as a sign and his emphasis on the truth of this story.

Digital

I Told You About Stairs Bro, I Warned You Dog

Homestuck is a complicated topic to breach when it comes to cyberlore and memetic mutations. It at one point held the title of longest webcomic in existence, and as of 4/30.2015 totals over 9000 pages and nearly 18000 panels, and includes 158 animated movies that total 3 and a half hours of animation. The most notable part about the comic is the ease with which a fandom can spring up around it. It features many reused frames that call back to each other, lines said by completely unrelated characters with tweaked phrasing, and incorporation of memes originating from the fanbase in the canon material. In fact, much of the art used in the later parts webcomic and all of the music were not actually created by the writer, Andrew Hussie, but by fans of the comic who he later hired to work officially on Homestuck. It’s a classic example of the lines of authorship being blurred between creator and audience.

Early in the comic’s running, Hussie created a side comic that was written by one of the main characters in-universe, called Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff. It is intentionally written to be “so bad it’s good.” with intentionally bad drawing, grammar, and nonsensical plot. The comic became a huge hit on the internet, and has contributed to the popularity of “meme comics.”

At one point in the story, one of the characters falls down some stairs while carrying a stack of video games, and the other yells the phrase, “i told you about stairs bro! i warned you dog!” after which the comic consists only of the first character continuously rolling down neverending stairs while the second shouts more warnings from off-panel. The second character never actually issued the initial warning as he claims, however.

Later, whenever anyone falls down anything, they yell out some mispelled variation of “IT KEEPS HAPPENING”.

This has since been referenced in countless other webcomics, memes, and regular communication among internet communities. Initially, this phrase was used exclusively as referencing someone falling down stairs, especially in unexpected situations, but later the phrasing came to encompass any kind of negative consequence resulting from not heeding another’s warning.

This phrasing has since infiltrated the vocabulary in the real world, even among people who had never known about the origin of the phrase. In the collection recorded here, BD and GT were having a conversation, and GT complained about having an issue with the notoriously buggy digital drawing tablet. GT said, “it keeps happening,” not intending to invoke the meme, but BD follows up with “I told you about tablet drivers, bro.”

When asked, BD admitted that he had heard of Homestuck, but never knew it had any relevance to the phrase or its origin, which he had seen in the context of reaction images on forums about completely unrelated subject matter.

Customs
Digital
Folk speech

Kek

“lel” is a common term used among people who frequent certain online imageboards. It is commonly used as schadenfreude in response to something bad happening to someone else, or some antic that elicits inappropriate laughter, implying the emitter of the laugh is a “troll.”

It has had a complicated history. The original acronym, “lol”, stood for “laugh out loud” and quickly replaced simulating laughter online. In the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft, there are two factions, Horde and Alliance. While their chat messages appear to each other while standing nearby in-game, the two factions cannot communicate with each other, which the server facilitates by running dialogue through a coder. When a Horde player types “lol” in chat, it appears to Alliance players as “kek,” which in itself is accepted as a sound made by silly laughter, especially when repeated (kekkekkekkek).

Soon, kek became itself used as to indicate inappropriate laughter, until it morphed back into “lel,” as k is next to l on the keyboard, and it also looks like a bastardation of “lol.”

There exists a type of Turkish snack food called “Topkek,” which the boards have since adopted as an higher-tier substitute for “kek.” Even this usage has now morphed into “Top lel” among groups of friends who have ventured deep enough into the imageboards.

general
Proverbs

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

 

The informant was born and grew up in Hawaii before coming to the University of Southern California to achieve her undergraduate degree in Psychology. She is half Filipino and half Japanese.

 

She has heard this proverb many times, hither in books or advice that her parents gave her, and she has said it many times as well, and she has yet to encounter anyone who has not heard of this proverb. She reported this proverb after being asked what her favorite proverb is or what is the one that is used most often.

 

This proverb is generally explained in a story. If you are gathering eggs from your chickens, and put them all in one basket, then if you drop that basket, all of your eggs are gone. If you put the eggs in multiple eggs, you can drop one of the baskets, then you will still have other eggs to make an omelette. In other words, you must not put all of your hopes and rely entirely on just one option, because if that one thing fails, then you lose everything.

This can be applied to many different things. Stocks are a good example. This proverb recommends diversity of investments, so that if one stock does horribly, there is still money in other stocks to fall back on. It can also be used to advise apply to more than one job or college, because if you don’t get that one acceptance, then you are left with nothing.

This proverb advises always having a backup plan. This is a big idea in American culture, always having something to fall back on. This may be in large part due to the ambition of many Americans, constantly striving to be the best possible, to achieve the highest ranking, but if that is not possible, you don’t want to completely crash and burn. To prevent that, people have backup plans, something to fall back on, skills to all back on. This proverb supports this plan.

 

For another definition of this proverb, please see: “put all eggs in one basket.” Idioms by The Free Dictionary. Web. 30 April 2015. <http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/put+all+eggs+in+one+basket.>

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends

The Loch Ness monster!

“The Loch Ness monster! He’s the creature that lives in the depths of Loch Ness, Scotland. Uh, we think we saw him when we were young. Um, and it’s really and it’s in a loch, and it’s really deep, and it’s um, hazy and fuzzy and stuff, so it seems like there’s creatures all around, and they saw that her name is Nessie.”

 

The informant is an American woman, born in California. She grew up there for the first 10 years of her life, then moved to Belgium when her father was stationed there, and stayed there for 6th through 8th grade. She stayed in an American neighborhood, but there was still interactions with European culture, and her family would take frequent trips to the nearby countries.

 

The story was provided after asking after urban legends that the informant believed in, or has perhaps even encountered at some point in her life.

 

The Loch Ness monster is one of the more infamous legends known internationally, comparable to the Chupacabra or the Yeti. Most people know at least of the monster, that some serpent, dinosaur-like creature who lives in a very deep, very murky lake in Scotland. Commonly referred to as “Nessie,” she is Scotland’s national urban legend. There are festivals related to the monster, t-shirts and knickknacks for the tourists who come trying to see the monster. The Scottish are very defensive of Nessie and a large percentage of the population believes that she exists.

There are also those who kind of believe in the legend, but with a twist. She is a common source of conspiracy theories. mostly that the government is testing submarines in the lake or something similar. For them, this is a more believable explanation than a primordial monster. Regardless of what the creature actually is, many people believe that something exists beneath the waters of Loch Ness.

The informant is one such person. She likely had heard stories about the monster when she was growing up, and when she went to the lake in Scotland, she was looking for the creature. So, whenever she saw something even vaguely resembling the monster, she was convinced that that is what she was seeing. Or she did see the creature. That’s the thing about urban legends—they might very well be true. As the informant says, the lake is very murky. It is located deep within the mountains of Scotland, a place that seems magical, where everything could be possible. There could be all sorts of wonderful creatures hidden in that lake. It is certainly possible that Nessie exists.

 

For another version of this story, please see: “Legend of Nessie.” The Ultimate Loch Ness Monster Site. Web. 30 April 2015. <http://www.nessie.co.uk.>

Legends
Narrative

Iowa’s Epic Beach Party

Version 1:

So I guess Grandma Pat and Grandpa Carballo were visiting Dad at college. And they couldn’t decide if they should check in at the hotel first or just go right to Dad’s house. So they decided to drive by Dad’s house and what they saw was all the furniture was outside and there was sand all over their lawn.

They were having a huge beach party. There maybe was even sand inside, inside the house.

And Grandma Pat just turns and goes, “Maybe we should just go to the hotel.”

 

(see Iowa’s Epic Beach Party version 2 for context and further analysis)

Legends
Narrative

“Parrots in the Neighborhood”

Text:

In my neighborhood, around when I was born, this idiot smuggled in a bunch of Amazonian parrots. He couldn’t take care of them so instead of doing something smart and taking them to a zoo or whatever, he just let them loose because he didn’t want to get in trouble for smuggling them in the first place. Eventually they just multiplied and multiplied and now there’s a huge colony of parrots around my neighborhood and they’re really fucking loud all the time and I hate it. Whenever someone did something dumb around the neighborhood we’d all say: “Oh, that must be the parrot guy.”

Background:

I heard that explanation from my sister who I think heard it from our backdoor neighbor. Pretty much everyone in the neighborhood knew. Nobody knew who though, we couldn’t point to a specific house or anything. I just thought it was funny, that this guy was so irresponsible with Amazonian parrots of all things. It was just bizarre.

Context:

Like I said, if anyone fucked up, we’d say “Oh you’ve got to be the parrot guy” or “Shut up parrot guy” or whatever. It was kind of our neighborhood insult, ‘cuz we used it all the time and everyone on the block would know what you meant, you know?

My Thoughts:

I think this is a really interesting story because it attempts to explain strange things in peoples’ environment. The people in the informant’s neighborhood created an origin story for these strange birds, and the most interesting part is that the truth value is so ambiguous since everyone is really confident that this happened but no one can point to a specific house or person that did it. I also find it interesting that it’s turned into a neighborhood-specific insult, which is again a good way of creating in-groups as if you aren’t really a member of that neighborhood unless you know this story.

Contagious
Protection

Cooking with Eggs

If you have a mole in your eye and you look at a dish that involves eggs while it’s being made, it won’t turn out well, especially when the recipe involves stew. The possible accidents can range from the egg popping to the stew ending up going bad.

Analysis: This is a type of contagious magic that my informant’s family believes. My informant actually does have a mole in his eye and this actually occurred multiple times. He believes the mole came from his mother’s side and that all these incidents are actually coincidences. However, whenever an egg stew is being made, his family tells him specifically to get out of the kitchen. I think these are also coincidences, since I’m sure the recipe has gone wrong more than once when the informant was not in the kitchen. The informant was never told how having a mole could mess up the recipe, so this seems to be without evidence.

Customs
Festival
Kinesthetic
Legends
Life cycle
Magic
Musical
Narrative

The Turtle and the Shark

The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head. 

Informant…

“During a time of a huge famine and starvation spread across Samoa a blind grandma and granddaughter were put out of there family because they were seen as kind of a burden. They decided to jump into the ocean to cast their fates upon sea because it was giving and caring. Magic turned them into a turtle and a shark. The grandma and granddaughter wanted to find a new home. They traveled for a long time and were constantly turned away from potential homes until they found the shores of Vaitogi. Vertigo had high cliffs and a rough coastline, the shores were occupied by a compassionate and generous group of people. The old woman and her granddaughter turned back into their human form. They were welcomed by the people of Vaitogi. They fed them and offered that they make this village their new home. The old woman decided to make it her home, but she felt a connection to the sea as if it were her home too. She couldn’t stay on land, so she told the villagers that she and her granddaughter had to go back to the sea. She said that they would make village waters their permanent home. She gave the villagers a song to sing from the rocks and a promise that when they sang the song she and her granddaughter would come to visit. They returned to the sea and turned into their turtle and shark forms. To this day, the people of Vaitogi still sing the song and many villagers will tell you that they have personally seen the Turtle and Shark. To each of them the legend is as alive today as it has been.”

The informant also told me that there is a song that goes along with the legend, he said that he doesn’t know it and only certain people in the village of Vaitogi are able to know the song.

Analysis…

This legend of Samoa is different because it goes against the Samoan value of family by throwing the grandma and her granddaughter out of the house. However, this legend depicts that it is hard to be accepted into the different samoan communities but when you are accepted they treat you as family and give you the upmost respect. This legend helps to show the culture of the people of Samoa and how they do things. The grandmother wanted to be a part of the ocean so she left the village that accepted her but lived in the nearby shores and visited only when a song was sang. Also, this legend shows the importance of animals in this society. The grandmother and granddaughter were both transformed into two common sea creatures, and shark and a turtle. The informant wasn’t sure why but it is important to the story. The informant said that this story originated in Vaitogi by its natives, but he heard it from his grandma.

Folk speech
Legends

“Just resting my eyes”

Informant :

So actually, “just resting my eyes”  when I’m taking a little nap, I actually got that from, do you remember, your great-uncle, Dennis?

Well his wife, Rita, she used to work at the hospital. And they have late shifts, sometimes. She was working 3:00 to 11:00 at night. So at night she would call him and say “Now Dennis, I’m driving home.”

In case… she had car trouble or just to have someone know where you are. And every time or almost every time, he’d be asleep when she got home.

So she woke him up and said, “You’re supposed to be listening for me!”

And Uncle Dennis said, “I heard you come in the drive. I was just resting my eyes.”

context: 

Papa, my grandfather, the informant, told me the story behind this family expression, over the phone after I explained to him and my grandma what I was looking for, in terms of folklore. I saw both of them over Easter. Papa takes at least one nap a day and if someone accidentally wakes him up he often says “I was just resting my eyes” to make them feel better or because he knows we think it is funny. The informant told me this one on one on the phone.

 

thoughts: 

It has become a family proverb, but started, ironically enough, as a well-worded excuse for negligence.

 

 

Informant 2, age 22, accountant

Another family expression that Papa always says and now I’ve heard the cousins say is “I’m just resting my eyes.” when they’re actually asleep. But I don’t know when that started.

 

 

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