USC Digital Folklore Archives / April, 2017
Game

No Johns

This entry can loosely be described as videogame folklore. The interviewer (DP) and the informant, C, were playing a game called Super Smash Bros for the Wii, a widely popular fighting game with well documented analysis for every character, stage, and since two players tend to face each other from a list of characters, every potential matchup as well. The game is considered to be well-balanced to the extent that the player makes all the mistakes – the game is consistently precise and accurate. The game is played with 4 lives “stocks” and set to an 8-minute timer. The first to force their opponent to lose their stocks is declared winner.

during a casual, friendly game:

DP: Man I really hate the way Game and Watch plays [character in the game]

C: What do you mean?

DP: He’s just really janky. His moves come out on frames earlier than my character can put out moves. I’m honestly just losing because your character is carrying you, he’s broken.

C: No Johns, man


The interviewer has a few things to say about this piece. It isn’t very common for both people in a collection setting to know equal amounts of the activity they’re describing, but this is a niche scenario where it happens to work out. The crux of this is the folklore behind the statement, “No Johns” which in communities that know about Smash terminology, is commonplace to those who are familiar with the term. No Johns essentially means “no excuses” and is an end-all-be-all phrase that is intended to stop further argumentation about the game acting as a hindrance to your ability to play. No Johns comes in as an ultimatum. The origin of No Johns, however is essentially a mystery. For reasons unknown to the smash community, the phrase originated around 10 years ago when tournaments were just beginning to start up, and it stuck. Perhaps there was a player who played under the tag John, who would have endless excuses as to why he couldn’t win, but as far as conclusive evidence goes, there is none.

Proverbs

Gujurati Proverb

Informant: P, the interviewer’s mother. She grew up in India and speaks Gujurati fluently, the language of origin of this proverb. Fluent speakers like herself still use proverbs in daily life whether in conversation or merely in passing.

Original Script:  આવે તોહ ઘર ને જાયે તોહ રસ્તો

Phonetic Script: Aave toh ghar ne jaaye toh rasto

Transliteration: Aave toh ghar ne jaaye toh rasto

Full Translation: If you come to my house, you’ll be welcomed, but if we don’t you can go on the road


The interviewer and his less than fluent knowledge of the language takes this proverb to mean, if one were to use a familiar version, “no hard feelings.” The full translation of the proverb into direct text makes it seem much more terse than it is intended to be.

Legends

Milennial Urban Legend

The interviewer, D, asked a group of friends what the craziest story they had heard of was, specifically regarding how two people met. His friend, C piped up with a story he heard that he acknowledged was pretty outlandish, but nevertheless told D his recollection. This story was told to him by his cousin initially.

“My cousin loves telling this story – I really doubt if it’s true but if it is, it’s really creepy. Supposedly two people, a guy and a girl, dated a bit when they were in high school or in college. I guess the age doesn’t really matter here, but the point is that it didn’t work out for them and they broke up as most young relationships tend to do. My cousin’s friend was the guy in this scenario. Apparently he had always treated this girl as the one that got away for him so he made it a personal goal to one day end back up with her.

Many years later, my cousin checks back up on his friend through facebook and finds out that they’re dating again. I guess it really isn’t that odd that some couples end up dating again but my cousin was curious because of the goal his friend had set for himself. He asked around and apparently his friend had set up some elaborate scheme where he befriended the girl’s best friend to slowly keep tabs on his ex. His friend also found out that she moved across the country and actually used his work days off to take “vacations” in the town where he knew she was living in. I guess over some time of continuing to do this he coincidentally just happens to bump [interviewer notes some sarcasm] into her seemingly out of the blue. He slowly reincorporates himself into her life and my cousin swears they’re married now and the dude never really let her get away. Kinda creepy if you ask me.”

Interviewer: “Do you think your cousin’s telling the truth, or more importantly, do you think something like this happened?”

C: “Nah, I don’t really pay much attention to what my cousin says [laughs]. Seriously though, the story is just vague enough to where it resembles a “it could happen to anyone” type of situation, so no not really.”

The interviewer attributes this story as nothing more than an urban legend of sorts. In a day and age where technology is increasingly able to pervade one’s daily life, this type of story becomes believable. Had someone thought of this story, say 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have received the traction it has now.

Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Message of the Geeta

The Geeta is considered the Bible of Hinduism. In the image below, the central message of the Geeta is written in Gujurati along with an image of a Hindu God, Yogeshwar. The interviewer’s mother frequently tells him to remember the message of the Geeta when he “complains too often” or is “too lazy”.

 

Translation:

Without efforts there is no gain – do not desire anything free

Efforts are never in vain – do not despair

You have the capacity to make efforts – do not feel diffident

Continue to make efforts pray for help and help is assured – do not lose faith

–Rev. Pandurangshastri Athavale


These four statements neatly explain the overall message behind the Hindu Bible, the Geeta. In short, if you make the effort in life to do what is necessary, you will be aided by God in achieving your goals. It is important to have faith in this process and to remain confident in your ability to make change in your life.

Folk Beliefs
Humor

Audi Advertisement

Living in an Indian household, folk knowledge is often easily substituted for what is considered “western logic.” Often times exorbitant price tags are seen offensively in Indian society, as overcharging needlessly is a sign of greed and lack of integrity. This conversation happened between the informant, D, and his grandma, G when they were watching Indian soaps and an Audi advertisement popped up.

Advertisement: we have 12 airbags, safety controls, safety sensors, and safety parking assistance… [translated to English]

G: *laughs*

D: What’s so funny, G?

G: We have Durga Ma and Babaji on the dashboard, Hanuman Ji on the rearview mirror, Nimbu Mirch on bumper, and Maa di Lal Chunni around the rearview mirror… Don’t worry about our safety… tu price kam kar


The interviewer laughed after G’s final statement. The ease with which G was able to scoff at the safety mechanisms Audi incorporated in their vehicles truly shows the disconnect between Western and Eastern ideals of wealth and necessities. Audi believes that they are selling Indians on the message of increased safety to justify the higher expenses on their vehicles but just the opposite is true – Indians just need Durga Ma, Babaji, Hanuman Ji, etc (religious figurines) to feel safe. What they would rather see Audi do is worry about their exorbitant prices (“tu price kam kar” = work on your pricing).

Folk medicine
general
Homeopathic

Sore Throat

The interviewer was curious about Eastern Medicine based remedies because of their supposed homeopathic properties. Luckily for him, his grandma, G, knew a few tried-and-true methods to relieve everyday aches and pains. Over the years of seeing success in their implementation, Indian elders would much rather administer these folk remedies than to give out medication like Advil or Tylenol which they see as unnatural.

This particular remedy is for a sore throat:

“Mix 1 teaspoon pepper powder, 1 teaspoon ginger powder and 1 teaspoon honey. Consume this mix twice a day”


The interviewer understands the need for folk remedies. From the point of view of his grandma, these folk remedies provide effects that are similar to pharmaceutical medicine but at a fraction of the cost and are immediately available. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be so prevalent as they are in Indian societies if they were not at some level able to treat the malady.

Homeopathic

Oily Scalp

The interviewer was curious about Eastern Medicine based remedies because of their supposed homeopathic properties. Luckily for him, his grandma, G, knew a few tried-and-true methods to relieve everyday aches and pains. Over the years of seeing success in their implementation, Indian elders would much rather administer these folk remedies than to give out medication like Advil or Tylenol which they see as unnatural.

This particular remedy is for oily scalp:

“Massage a mixture of lemon juice and honey into your hair. Rinse it off after five minutes. Repeat daily until your hair is no longer oily”

 

The interviewer understands the need for folk remedies. From the point of view of his grandma, these folk remedies provide effects that are similar to pharmaceutical medicine but at a fraction of the cost and are immediately available. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be so prevalent as they are in Indian societies if they were not at some level able to treat the malady.

Homeopathic

Cure for Depression

The interviewer was curious about Eastern Medicine based remedies because of their supposed homeopathic properties. Luckily for him, his grandma, G, knew a few tried-and-true methods to relieve everyday aches and pains. Over the years of seeing success in their implementation, Indian elders would much rather administer these folk remedies than to give out medication like Advil or Tylenol which they see as unnatural.

This particular remedy is for depression:

“Powder the seeds of cardamom and boil them in water along with tea. It gives a soothing aroma to the tea. Take this tea regularly for the treatment of depression.”


The interviewer understands the need for folk remedies. From the point of view of his grandma, these folk remedies provide effects that are similar to pharmaceutical medicine but at a fraction of the cost and are immediately available. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be so prevalent as they are in Indian societies if they were not at some level able to treat the malady.

general
Narrative

Silly Man Moved Mountains

The 24-year-old informant is originally from Rhode Island, but currently resides in New York, NY. Her parents are both from China, making her a first-generation American Born Chinese. This story was one that she heard as a child and has been engrained in her mind ever since.

“Once there was an old man that desperately wanted to move these mountains that were in front of his house. He thought that they were obstructing his path—and also his family’s. He began digging and digging and digging, and he eventually made his sons and grandsons do the same. Everyone thought he was foolish for trying to do so, but he vowed that his descendants would continue to do this forever. But, the gods heard and admired this man’s perseverance and decided to move the mountains for him. This defied the man’s critics and showed that if you try hard enough, you can accomplish whatever you want.”

This story is a simple one that represents strong work ethic and good intentions. Everyone can take something away from this story and decide to work harder in some aspect of his/her life, whether it’s school, work, family, friendships. Even just good intentions can have a positive effect.

general

The Magic Gourd

The 24-year-old informant is originally from Rhode Island, but currently resides in New York, NY. Her parents are both from China, making her a first-generation American Born Chinese. This story was one that she heard as a child and has been engrained in her mind ever since.

“A long, long time ago, there was a boy who was fishing at the lake, and um, his classmates walk by and laughing at his fishing poles like, ‘Oh, so ugly, and so cheap!’

And they showed him, like ‘See, look at our fishing pole. We can fish biiiig fish! And so big and strong enough to pull them up.’

And on the other hand, his poor, very weak fish pole–even one fish can broken his pole. So, after the left and he was quietly sitting there, still fishing, fishing, fishing—and suddenly, he fished not a fish—it’s a gourd! He was very, very angry like, ‘I don’t want a gourd—I want a fish!’

However, the gourd, because it’s magic gourd, and talk about, ‘Please, ok save me! You can do whatever you want and I can satisfy you.’
And the boy’s not really wanting to bring the gourd back home, but he’s casually put him into the school bag. After he came back home, and he said, ‘Oh gosh, I have a lot of homework to do.’

The gourd, of course, tried to please him because, after all, he brought him back, and said ‘I can do whatever you want! I can satisfy you!’

The boy said, ‘Ok I have a lot of homework. Please do it for me.’

And pretty soon, ‘His homework was done in front of him.’

And also, he said ‘Oh I want to read certain books from our library but I forgot to bring them back home,’ and wow, suddenly, many, many books were full on his desk and another thing he said was, ‘Tomorrow, I want to eat a lot of good stuff like chicken, duck, and other things.’

Wow, a huge pile of money appeared on his desk. He was so satisfied he went out and bought all the food he wanted.

He went to school the next day and suddenly, there was a math test that he wasn’t prepared for. The gourd sensed that the boy needed help and helped him by copying a classmate’s test—but the test ended up having the classmate’s name on it too—and the girl’s test became blank. Of course, the boy was embarrassed and the teacher was not happy. So, the boy learned his lesson and did everything by himself from that point on to avoid embarrassment, and he learned humility and accountability.”

This story about a magic gourd is a very old story with Chinese origins, according to the informant. It represents Asian values of humility, honesty, and accountability– which Chinese people, especially, hold very highly.

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