USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’

La Llorona- Colombia

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”. Collector did not speak during this portion.


“M: A cousin always visit us, and he always scared us with a sort of story. He would use the crying woman or the Llorona… I remember he turned the lights off and everyone in the living room, we’d sit down in the living room, and he would repeat the same stories.

“Could you tell again the story of the Llorona?” [said by "M" and her siblings]

” …everyone needs to be quite, never look outside in the windows, she could be outside there.” [Said by the Cousin]

The story was of a woman tha…. Uh… let me see thinking about how is this story…. Yeah they say that the husband took the kids from her. Yeah, and she killed herself, and she appeared every night in the cemetery, and she crying “where are my kids, where are my kids?” and the more funny thing is, my cousin was so funny, he said: “I was drunk one day, I was crossing the cemetery”.

He wanted to take a shortcut, so he took the cemetery. And he said the short way was in the cemetery, and when he was passing he heard the voice say “where is my kids, where are my kids?” . He said he was so scared he peed in his pants, and he wasn’t anymore drunk, and he said he ran like a crazy. But the funniest thing is he peed in the pants, when he went in the house, and his in the blankets.

But he doesn’t know if that was real or not, because he was drunk.

That story start in the 18th century, they said that was the time that that happened, in the 18th century.

He told us a lot of stories, that is the one I remember more.



La Llorona is a myth that has heavily permeated Latin culture, being a very common piece of Folklore in these countries (Kirtley, 1960). La Llorona, or the cying woman, is referenced here with the assumption that the person collecting the folklore knows about her origins, and her ability to be interested as a generic sort of scare in a funny situation only serves to reinforce her ubiquity in Colombian culture. The covering of the windows showed that at the very least, she believe the story could have been true at the time it was being told to her. I should also note, “M”s explanation of her origin story was simply at my request, and did not reflect her original approach to the story (the portion directly after the ellipse).




Kirtley, B. F. (1960). ” La Llorona” and Related Themes. Western Folklore, 155-168.




My informant is a father of three who lives just outside of Boston with his wife of over 30 years. He is originally from Cambridge, MA, but moved to central MA when he was younger. Graduating from Tufts, Northwestern, and the getting his PHD at MIT, he is an engineering professor.


Interviewee: I’m gonna tell you about making wine.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: It would always be in October, mid-October or so. That’s when the grapes were in season. We were in Cambridge and we would come home from school. I was like in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. Kindergarten through third grade we would do this.

So we would come home from school and the crates of grates would be stacked up against the house. And you would know that that was the day.

Interviewer: Did you know that it was gonna be that day? Did you know it in advance?

Interviewee: No, you didn’t know that that was the day until you saw the crates coming home from school.

My grandfather would go to the rail yard. It was over by Lechmere were Science Park is. East Cambridge. So he would go to the train yard and go to the trains that would bring in the fruits and stuff in. So he would get his whole stack of grapes.

Interviewer: When did he immigrate to America from Italy?

Interviewee: He must have been in his 20’s, right? So like early 1910’s because he was born in 1890.

So those crates would be stacked against the wall. And you could actually stick your fingers against the grapes and pull them out and eat them. That was always the first order of business. And my grandfather would actually encourage us to because they were so sweet and fresh.

So then my father would come home from work. And then my two uncles would come. And they would have to get the grapes into the cellar. So they would take the cellar window off. And then they would slide the grape bushels in through and get them down into the basement. There would have to be someone in the basement side too. Making sure the crates got through the window.

The next order was to grind the grapes. The grinder originally was a hand ground machine. So you would have to dump the grapes and then hand grind them. Then you put them in a crate to ferment after.

But my father put a motor on the grinder so you could do it in one night. And at the time we lived on the first floor, my grandfather lived on the top floor, but we were on the first, so it would smell like grape juice. Because we were doing it in the basement, so the whole house would smell like grapes. It was exciting. And so sweet.

A week or two later, my uncles would come back with my father and grandfather. And now they needed to put the ground grapes from the barrel into the press. So in order to turn the press it was kind of like a screwdriver on the side. And the juice would just flow and flow. But they would take turns, turning the press, making sure they could get every last bit of wine out of it.

And my grandfather would collect them in these special tin buckets that he would then pour into storage barrels. And the press, that had like a screen on it, to collect the debris and chunks of grape. So you had to open the press and then clean it off after every single batch. And two people would have to try and turn the screwdriver handle to get every last bit of out of the grapes. And the juice would go into the storage barrel.

Then, they would take the ground grapes and press them. Just to get all of the wine out. And we would watch them and just drink grape juice all night. We could actually get a little buzz. Just because it had been sitting there for a couple of weeks, fermenting.

My grandfather had these gallon jugs,like glass jugs, and he would fill them up with wine. You didn’t buy wine ever. Even after we moved to Medway, he would just load us up with wine when we saw him.

He had this house in Nantasket, on the beach, that he bought when I was like 1. He would move there for the summer in May and we would move in the summer. And we would have to move all of these jugs and jugs of wine. And sometimes we would have to go to Cambridge to give him a refill.

We would use it for everything though. Cooking and drinking. It went to the whole family. At Christmas people who didn’t have their wine would get more. He would take you down to the basement and fill you up.

Eventually the barrels got old and let air in, in the end you could only cook with it. It wasn’t as flavorful because the barrels were old.

But those were exciting weeks, watching them press the wine, the smell of grapes in the house.


This clearly brought my informant back to his childhood, specifically before he moved from the immigrant neighborhood of Cambridge that he lived in with the rest of his family. The smells of the grapes circulating throughout the house, “lasting for days,” is definitely a memory of nostalgia for him. But there was definitely a sense of tradition here. Wine is clearly important to his grandfather, and therefore to the rest of the family as it was a patriarchy. As a little boy, there is definitely something striking about watching any older man partake in a sort of tradition or ritual together. Every little boy wants to do what the big kids do. My informant certainly enjoyed being part of the ritual, drinking the freshly pressed wine, eating the grapes, even if he could not really help.

For his grandfather, this is most likely the continuation of the old world brought to the new world. I would not be surprised if he did the exact same thing growing up with his father and so on and so on. Sure he had to adapt, going to the train yard to get the grapes, putting the motor on the grinder, but I’m sure that the tradition and ritual are very constant.

It is also interesting that this wine flowed through this family. It did not stop and start with the men. Nobody bought wine ever. His wine was the whole family’s. A sense of belonging and identity, this is his family’s wine, all through a drink.


Trick or Drink


“Eventually it got super boring and some dad drank too much and they had to take care of him, so we left.”

The informant’s hometown had a tradition on Halloween catered toward fathers in the neighborhood. Mothers would typically stay home, passing out candy to kids, while fathers would take the children out for drink or treating. However, at each stop at a father’s house in the group, they would Trick or Drink, which involved going into the house and spending a short while having pre-prepared drinks. The dads would usually prepare the drinks at their respective homes before gathering up to go out, and when they got there on the journey with the kids, the moms would bring the drinks out for all the dads. As the drinking sessions got longer and the dads a little less “focused”, the kids would break off and go out alone or with minimal supervision to continue their trick or treating. The starting house was determined simply by cycling through ones that hadn’t been done in recent years.



The tradition started a few generations before the informant. It served as a way for dads to spend time with their kids but also have fun with each other in the process. The informant remembers it being a rather high energy night until the dads slowed down and took longer at each house, to the point where to kids got bored and wanted to go back out on their own. She wasn’t sure what kinds of drinks were being made since she was so young, but just knows there were a lot of them. Other people in the room chimed in when she mentioned this tradition saying they had looser but similar things that would happen in their hometowns.



It’s a little funny how formal this tradition is. While other people present for the performance noted similar tendencies from their hometowns, this particular one had ample preparation, planning, and repetition. While it wasn’t the case that this was the only way the dads could be incentivized to go out with their children, it was obvious that making sure their kids had fun and got candy was not the focus of their night. To a certain extent, it’s a night where the fathers can act more like kids, but with the added benefit of alcohol. The fact that every year at least one dad drank too much and had to be taken care of is also a bit humorous. It wasn’t clear what level of supervision the kids had after they abandoned the dads, or why they needed supervision earlier if they were comfortable going out later alone.



This was received via Facebook message from my informant, and is a drinking game that she played with her friends in the UK during university.

“Kings… A deck of cards in arranged in a circle facedown with an empty cup in the middle. Before you play you decide what each card value is… Some are normally agreed upon, some vary per group…So like 2 is you (pick somebody to drink 1 fingers worth of their drink), three me, four floor (whoever touches the floor last drinks), 5 guys drink, 6 chicks drink, 7 heaven (point up), 8, 5 fingers of never have I ever, 9… There are lots of random ones like funny accents (must speak only in an accent til the next 9 is picked), 10 waterfall (first person drinks, next, etc, until the first stops, then next stops… Etc), j make a rule (can’t say “drink”, can’t point, can’t say first names… Etc. break one and you drink), and some other random ones for Q and A, king you put some of your drink in the middle cup. Last king picked has to drink the cup. That is pretty common across the UK, with varying rules for each number. Also fun if you can help design (so I don’t like accents and we normally don’t use the cup because its gross)”

This drinking game is very complicated and flexible, changing every time it is played and changing based on who is playing it. Essentially, each card drawn from a normal playing card deck has a rule assigned to it, and that rule must be obeyed. If that rule is broken, the person who breaks it must take a drink. This game is popular because it is highly adaptable, can be used with any type of alcohol, and only really requires alcohol and a deck of playing cards. It’s also easily customizable, as the players can assign their own rules to each card to incorporate inside jokes. This kind of drinking game is a bonding experience, as the players will get increasingly drunk together while playing a potentially embarrassing game in which alliances are often formed between players against others. It isn’t one generally played with strangers, as other drinking games such as beer pong can be; rather, it is meant to cement already existing friendship ties among a medium sized group.

It can also include other drinking games within it, such as the reference of ‘five fingers of never have I ever’, which is a drinking game in which one person says that they have never done something, and those in the group that have done it take a drink (or put a finger down, as in this case where they would each have five fingers up).

Folk speech

Drunken Words Are Sober Thoughts

The saying is “drunken words are sober thoughts”, and was provided by an informant at university. This saying warns that alcohol has a truth telling effect, or an effect that would lower the inhibitions of whomever may be speaking and thus they will speak their true thoughts, rather than dissembling. It warns people not only to believe in drunken confessions, but also would warn those who would drink in a precarious situation that they may say things that they would normally not be driven to say. My informant didn’t know where she heard it but believed in its validity, and given that overconsumption of alcohol has a very long history, it would be fairly impossible to determine the length of time this proverb has existed. Alcohol alters the normal state of consciousness, thus allowing for people to do or say things that they might not normally, and this proverb indicates that one could gain insight into someone else’s character in this manner.

Earth cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Summer Solstice, Santa Barbara

Informant: “We have a Summer Solstice parade which is pretty wild too, but that doesn’t have anything to do with Fiesta. That’s a weird parade. I can’t even… It’s literally– the point of it is to be as weird as you physically, possibly can. There are people in, like, snow globes and they have, like, crazy make-up on. And they’re like, there’s, like, pregnant women doing, like, belly dancing.”

Lavelle: “So it’s like all the weird people come out–”

Informant: “Oh! It’s, like, people, it’s just, like, people who are like, ‘I’m usually a normal person, but I want my freak flag to fly.’ I don’t understand it but, Summer Solstice is the weirdest day in Santa Barbara. Like fiesta it’s, like, everyone’s drunk and blah lah lah… but that’s normal…”

Lavelle: “Where does summer solstice happen?:

Informant: “Uh, State Street. It all happens on State Street. It is the most bizarre parade and just… People make these floats that are, like, so strange and you’re just watching it and you’re like, ‘what drugs are you on?’ Like I imagine people would have a great time if they smoked some weed. It’s trippy, dude.

My informant is a native of Santa Barbara, California. He has never been very involved in the Summer Solstice celebration, but is aware of it’s existence. He seems wary of the population it draws into the town.


Bin Laden Assassination Joke

Contextual Data: I was talking with my brother on Skype, and he mentioned that he had heard this rather ridiculous joke from one of his coworkers, as the second year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination came up. The following is an exact transcript of our conversation.

Informant: “So you know how you can go to a bar and order all these different drinks? Like a Manhattan or a White Russian or whatever — you know, all these different mixed drinks? Well, there’s this new drink out there called the Bin Laden. And… And, well have you heard what’s in it?”

Me: “No.”

Informant: “Two shots and a splash of water.”

[Both chuckle].

- End Transcript -

My informant said that there’s a whole collection of these types of drink-based jokes arising out of serious news events — this was just one of many that he had heard (e.g. Another was “the Sandy” as a “watered down Manhattan.”) He mentioned that these jokes spoke to a very specific sense of humor and that not all people found them funny. He shared them mostly because he found them funny and he saw them as clever little plays on language.

These jokes seem to be a part of the sort of “disaster joke” culture — people telling jokes in response to big events, partially as a way of taking control of the information and making sense of what might have happened. In particular, the Bin Laden joke could also be seen as an outlet of sorts — a way for people in America to further take down this hated figure, who caused so much pain to the nation, by literally turning his death into a joke.


Drinking Game: King’s Cup

Contextual Data: I asked a friend of mine if there was any particular drinking game that she enjoyed playing, and she mentioned this game “Kings” or “King’s Cup.” I’d heard of the game once before, and I asked her if she could explain to me how it was played and why she enjoyed it so much. The following is an exact transcript of her response.  

“Um, okay, so… Kings is like a great game to play with like a whole bunch of people, because, well, you’re drinking, you’re all sitting in a circle, maybe you don’t really know everyone. So first you get a deck of cards, and you—everyone has cups, and of course, various alcohols, so whatever everyone is drinking, um… Maybe different pops or whatever or, like, mixed drinks. So you put one cup in the center of the deck of cards that you lay out in a circle in, like, kind of a fan around the center cup. And… Basically everyone just goes around and picks up a card when it’s their turn. So… I guess like… There’s rules, basically, that correspond with each card. I guess I can go over the rules.

“So when you get an Ace, um… I, I mean all the rules involve drinking. So every time you pick a card, something on that card is going to tell you an instruction on what you have to drink, how you have to drink it, um, who’s going to get stuck drinking, basically. And the point of the King’s cup is that as you go on, people are pouring, like, different things like their drink into that specific cup. And, um… it gets grosser and grosser, and at the end, the person who loses is gonna have to chug that disgusting, like, gross cup. Um, so…

“When you pull the cards—So you get an Ace. And if someone gets an Ace, um…it’s called ‘Waterfall,’ so the person who gets the card can, um, start drinking—whatever time they want—they start to drink whatever drink they have in their cup, and they can stop at any time, and—Oh! Everyone’s drinking at the same time. So everyone, um, in the circle of friends or whoever, starts drinking at the same time that person does, and then they can stop whenever they want, the next person can stop whenever they want, and that means the person next to them gets to stop whenever they want. So, basically, everyone’s getting screwed. Like, everyone’s getting plastered. Um, the second rule—a Two means You, so when it gets to Two, you have to drink. Three means Me, um, so—Oh wait. No. Two means You, so when you pick a Two you can designate someone that has to—so you like point to a person that you…has to take a drink. Three means Me, so when you pick that, um, you yourself have to drink. Four… Drinking games are sexist so Four means Whores, and all the women, um, in the group have to drink. That annoys me [Laughs]. As a side note. Um…Five means Jive. It’s like a really fun one. Um…Every—The person who picks it has to do a dance move, and the next person—in the circle—has to add on to it. And everyone’s probably drunk, so you have to keep building on to those dance moves, and if someone messes up, like the sequence, they have to drink. Um…It’s always fun to watch drunk people try and dance. And…Six means Dicks. More sexism. The men have to drink. Um…Yeah [Laughs]. That’s problematic. Then Seven is Heaven. Um…Everyone—the person who gets the card reaches up and puts both hands up to…touch the sky [Mimes putting both hands straight up in the air]. And the last person to notice and put their hands up has to drink. So if you’re not paying attention or, like, you’re just drunk or like, ‘What’s Seven mean?’ you get screwed and you have to drink. Um…Eight means Mate. So this is where you can pick someone and for the rest of the game when you have to drink—so when you are the last one to do the Seven Heaven thing or something that person has to drink too. And that’s a really good way to… Whatever. Either get back at someone or flirt with someone or whatever. Um, lets see. That was Eight—Eight means Mate. Nine is Rhyme. So…Someone—The person who draws the Nine thinks of a word and then everyone else after them has to, um, think of a rhyme to that word. And if they…The last person to either repeat the—something that someone’s already said or not be able to think of one has to drink. Um, Ten is Catagories. It’s like a similar idea, I guess. Um, so you pick a category, like ‘types of cereal’ or like… I don’t—Anything, really. It…In a party situation people usually pick something like…More vulgar. So ‘types of sexual positions’ or something and just like…Yeah. Interesting ways of getting people talking. And the last person—like the same thing with the rhyme—the last person to either mess up, not be able to think of one, or something else that someone’s already said has to drink. And then Eleven…Oh. No. There’s no Eleven in cards [Laughs]. Jack. Um, people play it differently, I guess. Like, there’s different rules, but when I play it, it just means, like, Jack means Back. I think other people play, like, Jack means, like, ‘Never Have I Ever’ or something. But that’s like a little aggressive to me…I don’t know. Um, Jack to Back is easier. So the person to the…Um, right of where you’re sitting when you pick the Jack has to drink. And… Queen is Question Master. So when the person draws the Queen, um, they kind of, like, don’t tell anyone. They might just say, like, ‘Oh, I got the Queen. I’m Question Master.’ But maybe no one notices and so that person, um, whenever they ask questions from that point—‘till someone else draws a Queen—they’re the Question Master, and if you answer—if someone playing answers the question that they’re asking, um, you have to drink. So, you can really mess with people because you just ask them, like, ‘Hey, is there anymore, like, in that cup or anything?’ If they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah! I can see some—Aww, you made me drink, like [Laughs], fuck you.’ Um [Laughs]. And…The King is like the whole point of the game—the King’s Cup. So when you get a King, you get to pick a rule for the game, like—same thing with the Queen, until someone else gets the King. And, um…The… So you might make a rule, like, ‘No swearing.’ And everyone’s drunk, so that’s pretty hard. [Laughs.] So if you do swear you have to drink. And then—or any kind of rule, basically. There’s like a few common ones, like…Again, like to mess with people, like…Whatever. There’s like…Yeah. Um, and then for the last King, whoever draws the last King, um—we kind of keep track—has to drink the King’s Cup and the game’s over…And they’re clearly messed [Laughs].”

- End Transcript -

When I asked my friend why she thought people played this particular game, she mentioned that it’s somewhat different from other drinking games, like Beer Pong or Flip Cup, because it doesn’t require any sort of “athletic” skill, it’s a game that could be played with large groups of people, and it’s a game that moves fairly quickly. She also mentioned that it’s a good game to get people talking and socializing. She said that she first learned to play it in college, and that it is particularly fun to play with people who have never played before, because when you first learn, it’s difficult to keep track of the rules, and so the “newbies” end up getting drunk very quickly. In that sense, it also seems to be a kind of initiation ritual in the drinking culture that’s often so prominent in the college social setting.

Her answer was fairly thorough and seemed to provide an insightful reason as to way the game is passed on — in particular that it is about getting drunk quickly (which is usually the reason people play these games) and that it does seem like a very good game to play to get people to start speaking and socializing with one another, which is certainly part of its appeal.

Interestingly enough, the game was made into an app for the Android, for those that don’t have a deck of cards handy. Different versions of the app do offer different sets of rules, which underscores that there are many variations to the game. It’s also interesting to note that the app exists under the name “Waterfall Drinking Game” and that an alternative name is “Ring of Fire,” which both emphasize that it is ultimately a game about getting drunk, which again, is why people usually play such games.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Folk Antiseptic – Alcohol

Informant: “I went to my friend’s farm in north Dakota, that’s where she grew up, you know on a family farm probably 50 miles away from the nearest town, and anytime they had an injury, if you stepped on a nail or something which is something you would do on a farm, what they would do is they would stick the foot in a bucket full of alcohol. You wouldn’t go to the doctors, you wouldn’t put antiseptic on it, you used alcohol. Like hard alcohol, like vodka or whiskey or something and that took care of the problem, that’s how they solved their infections, and prevented infections.”

Interviewer: “When did she tell you?”

Informant: “Let’s see, I went to visit her farm in like 1992, so this was only like 20 years ago, so relatively recent, but that’s what they did growing up.”

Interviewer: “What do you think of this particular cure?”

Informant: “Well, growing up in a city I thought it was kind of backwards because I’m used to just getting medicines, but it worked for them. They went to town once a week because of how far they lived from town and they only bought supplies once a week. So, for them to stop farming and drive into town to go get some antibiotics was like a big huge waste of a farmers time. So, instead they would just use a home remedy.”

Interviewer: “Sorry, but where does she live again?”

Informant: “Um its was like 50 miles west of the Minnesota, north Dakota border, so it was into the farmlands of north Dakota.”


The informant is a middle-aged mother with three-boys. She grew up in Minnesota with a large family in the suburbs of Minneapolis. As stated in the interview, the informant learned the lore from her friend when she went to visit her on her farm in North Dakota. The informant remembered this lore because she was surprised that they did not use medicine, but it still worked for her friend’s family.

I thought this was an interesting folk practice because it is very practical. This family would use the closest thing that they had on hand to deal with a particular medical problem, and these practices were still being used until at least 20 years ago. This folk practice really attests to fact that just because a remedy is a folk remedy does not mean that it is wrong.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Cure for Asian Glow

Click here for video.

“I’ve heard that if you get Asian glow that if you drink pepto bismol before you drink, you won’t turn red, but I don’t get Asian glow so I guess I would never find out first hand. Unfortunately.”

“Asian glow” describes when a person of Asian descent consumes alcohol and experiences flushing of the face, neck, and chest. This is often considered unattractive and embarrassing. This phenomenon stems from a single mutation in the aldehyde dehydrogenase gene, which ultimately prevents the breakdown of alcohol. Because acetaldehyde builds up in the body, creating the symptoms characteristic of Asian glow, the condition is commonly thought of as an allergic reaction. I have definitely heard of drinking Pepto Bismol to quell Asian glow because it contains common digestive enzymes that prevent other conditions, but recommended dosages vary from a capful to an entire bottle. This advice is a modern folk remedy.

Impraim C., Wang G., and A. Yoshida. (1982) “Structural mutation in a major human aldehyde dehydrogenase gene results in loss of enzyme activity.” American Journal of Human Genetics 34(6):837-841.