USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘advice’
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Dance Proverb

My informant SS is a 20-year-old girl of Jewish descent. She is very passionate about dance and participated on a dance team all throughout high school. In this piece, she describes a common saying to me (AK) that her dance coach attempted to instill in the minds of each girl on the team.

SS: From dance team we had the saying of: “Early is on time and on time is late.”

AK: So does this just mean you always had to be early?

SS: Kind of. At first it was annoying, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

AK: Does it have any significance to you or does it still apply to your life today?

SS: Definitely. It really sticks with me now. It’s a good life skill and saying I guess.

I found this proverb to be quite applicable to pretty much every facet of life. For me, this proverb is most applicable to things from my everyday life. For important events like interviews and tests, it is very easy to find the motivation to be on time because a lot is dependent on the event itself. However, for things like class and other day to day tasks, it is way harder to have the motivation to always be on time. For this reason, I try to abide by this proverb. It is certainly very difficult, but just the mindset of needing to be early allows me to show up on time. In a way, I still am “late”, but just this shift in mindset allows me to be traditionally “on time”.

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Cooking with High Emotion

Folklore Piece:

“Well, my grandmother always used to tell me that when you cooked, your emotions would like seep? I don’t know if that’s the right word. Seep into the food and affect the taste. Um, she would say you should never cook, especially for other people, when you are angry or sad or the food will come out wrong or, like, taste bitter. And this goes double for baking, um because baked goods should be made with love so that they’re sweeter. Basically, like, basically you should always cook in a happy environment where you’re relaxed, with music, your favorite show, or, like my grandmother’s favorite, a glass of red wine.”

 

Background information:

Asked for more information online at a later time, and this was her response

“My grandmother is the cook in our family and we’ve done a lot of baking and cooking together, both for family holidays and for daily meals while she taught me how to cook. Cooking and baking with my grandmother was a great way for us to bond and we made many great memories. She taught me everything I know about cooking. This was a good reminder of not only taking care of myself and my emotional/mental health but also of caring for my loved ones. Food is sustenance in the same way love is; family and friends need both food and love to thrive. It’s a pretty traditional idea as well, grounded in the idea that women are the main caregivers and the source of a family’s happiness and well-being. I’m not sure where my grandmother heard it from, but I take it very seriously and it helps me feel connected to both my ancestors and the loved ones I’m cooking for. “

 

Context

I knew the informant had liked to cook and bake, so I asked if she had any good advice she had learned from her grandmother, who, based on previous collections I had taken from her, I knew was quite the character. She told me this story, and also said that it would “definitely be something she would teach kids whenever they’re learning how to cook”.

 

Analysis

Cooking and its various associated folklores are important identifiers for many ethnic groups and families. Recipes, traditions, and the act of cooking itself are taught traditionally between family members and those belonging to the same cultural group. Particularly interesting in this piece is the dynamic between the food and the cook; tangibly, the ingredients in a recipe are what makes the food taste the way it is. The preparation has an effect, too, but if you prepare food the same way, with the same ingredients, you should get the same result. That the participants grandmother suggested that the cook’s emotions and feelings can be used as an ingredient is a way to personify the food to be an extension of the self.

In the same way that one would not want to make a family member sad, angry, or distressed, the cook would not want to give food that would have that emotion cooked into it. This was perhaps introduced so that the cook – often put in stressful situations – can remember to keep calm. Especially as a child learning recipes and how to cook, it’s important that they not become frustrating and instead are taught that cooking can be the cultural instrument it is often used as.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Never carry a gun

Information about the Informant

My informant is a professor teaching English and American Literature at the University of Southern California. He grew up in Chicago during the 1950s, and fought in the latter half of the Vietnam War. After that, he returned and received his degree in English Literature at UC Irvine. He has worked on many textbooks and movies that deal with the Vietnam War.

Transcript

“Same man…who was a professional burglar…taught me to never carry a gun. Because, he said, if you carry a gun, you’re gonna have to take it out. And if you take it out, you’re gonna have to use it, because if you don’t use it, the son of a bitch you’re pointing it at is gonna take it away from you and use it on you. So, never carry a gun.”

Analysis

Practical advice, but also folklore as it has been passed down by word of mouth from person to person such that even I, who grew up in Taiwan and has been nowhere near Chicago, have heard a variant of this piece of advice. I have heard this advice given not just about guns, but about knives and about Mace. An interesting comparison can be made between this piece of folklore that my informant gave me and the similar advice I’ve heard. In my case, the example I’m thinking of was about Mace, and it was told to me as a reason why girls should not carry Mace pepper spray around with them to defend themselves with, because it could so easily be turned around and used on the girl if she was not careful or if she hesitated at all. Which seemed to me at the time a bit sexist and troublesome as its core message seemed to be that I, as a girl, should not carry items that I could use in case of being attacked. But here, it sounds more like practical advice, because it was told to a male, and was told to my informant by a purported criminal who would be more likely to know these things firsthand, and thus the advice has more of accuracy associated with it.

Folk Beliefs

Farrier Lore: If a horse has a glass eye, he will always kick on that side

Interview

Informant: “Here’s one for a fact. You know how some horses have a blue eye or a glass eye, if that horse is gonna kick, he’ll kick with the side that has a glass eye. That doesn’t mean the other side won’t kick, but if you’re gonna get kicked it’ll be on the side that has that glass eye”

 

Collector: “Why is that? Do you think it is because they do not see as well on that side?”

 

Informant: “I don’t know, I don’t know but if you hit one of em with a whip haha he’s gonna kick. He’ll hit with that one.”

 

The informant is a sweet, older, “cowboy” who has been working with horses and farm animals for his entire life. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier (the highest level of certification by the American Farrier’s Association) and is very well respected in the farrier and greater equine community. He was born in Wichita, Kansas to a family that has been farmers for generations. In fact, the informant said that some of his family is still farming in “places like Oklahoma.” He learned of this lore as a child when he was about ten years old from his father and grandfather while working on the family farm, which included horses and mules. He shod his first horse when he was 13, and has been shoeing horses for about 51 years. * To “shoe” or shod a horse is to put horse shoes on the horse’s hooves. Horses need to be shod about once every six weeks, so quality farriers are highly sought after in the equine community. A farrier is a very specialized and difficult profession because if a horse is shod improperly the horse could become crippled.*

Sometimes a horse has an eye that is a clear, light colored, or blue-ish colored eye. The coloring of the eye does not physically mean anything as far as the informant knows; the coloring of the eye is similar to other animals like malamutes who have eyes of different colors. This piece of occupational lore is especially important for farriers because they work with horses’ feet and can get kicked. A horse kick is definitely something to be avoided because it is very painful and can even break bones. In fact, when asked how he felt about the lore, the informant said “I do know that one about the glass eye, that ones true. Let me tell ya.”  “I’ve been kicked.” Therefore, being aware that a horse has a “blue or glass” eye and a propensity to kick on a particular side would be helpful to avoid injury, especially for someone who has previously been kicked by a horse.

It is interesting that the reason the horse will kick on a particular side is unknown. I wonder if it does have to do with the horse’s ability to see out of a particular eye. Personally, my mother owns a horse and I sometimes work around horses, so I will definitely remember this information and probably pass it on if I ever see a horse with a blue or glass eye. Apparently “Pinto horses,” horses with big spots, are more likely to have blue or glass eyes.

Folk speech

“Te Dan La Mano Y Se Cojen Del Codo”

“TE DAN LA MANO Y SE COJEN DEL CODO”

“Te dan la mano y se cojen del codo”

Literal Translation: You give them your hand and they take your elbow.

Translation: When you extend your hand, they grab for your elbow.

My informant explained that her dad used to say this phrase all the time, as a warning about other people.  Her father had told her that with some people, you have to be cautious because they will try to take advantage of you.  The expression basically means that when you offer kindness or generosity, be careful because others may manipulate or abuse your benevolence.

The Spanish phrase echoes the American children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or the expression “when you give someone an inch, they take a mile.”  Once you start offering, the demands start building.  I asked if she had heard of this book or saying and she replied: “Oh yes, it’s exactly like that.”  So just remember, a small little offering can create a snowball effect and you’ll end up dealing with much more than you bargained for.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Proverb – USA

Proverb—USA

“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

I first heard this proverb from my father (Philip Katz) when I was 17 years old.  I recall a time period in my life that was extremely chaotic and stressful; SAT’s, college applications, schoolwork, and Ice Hockey.  While ice hockey has always been one of my greatest passions in life, our mediocre record didn’t seem rewarding for the amount of time that I had sacrificed to play.  The first time I remember hearing the saying came after we lost a close game. I was sitting in my room staring at my computer when I heard my dad tell me, “if it doesn’t kill you Jeremy, it makes you stronger.”  From then on out he said it to me a number of times, when I was frustrated with work or upset over a grade.  He first learned the proverb from his father (my grandfather) when he was in high school as well.  He remembers his dad using the proverb after he broke his leg trying to do a back flip off of a enormous boulder at a park in his hometown of Great Neck, New York.

He informed me that the proverb can be used in a number of situations, but all deal with something bad or negative that happens or could potentially happen to someone.  “It’s similar to looking at the silver lining of something,” as he puts it.  The proverb is trying to say that unless “it,” this problem or potentially harmful item is so powerful that it actually “kills,” it will make you a stronger and more advance person who will be able to contest future problems and will have a deeper understanding of himself.  Take for example my father giving me this proverb after I lost an crucial hockey game.  Losing the game wasn’t enough to “kill” me or even otherwise destroy my passion for the game or ability to play, but it was able to teach me not only the ways in which I individually could improve as a player, but also how our team could compete together and increase our chances of being successful.

The saying fits the traditional definition of folklore because it has no known author and is characterized by multiplicity and variation.  The proverb certainly expresses a philosophical outlook or world-view of (some) Americans.  I would classify it as free phrase as the saying could certainly change, and likely has evolved over time while still possessing the same meaning.  Furthermore it is undoubtedly trying to convince somebody of something and thus an example of rhetoric.  Just as folklorists have called proverbs the “wisdom of the ages,” (Lecture 2/5/08) I can see how one might use this proverb as beneficial insight into coping with problems and understanding how one might react to negative consequences.

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