USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘banana’
Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Club Swim Team’s Banana Chant Tradition

Tradition: The Club Swim Team at the University of Southern California always does a chant involving bananas before every swim meet.

The informant is a 20 year old female USC student, who is on the swim team.

Informant: Before every swim meet, we always do this chant with bananas. Everyone on the team holds a banana in their hand, and we all chant:

“Are you ready to go bananas? (Everyone screams)
Peel bananas, peel peel bananas!
Swim bananas, swim swim bananas!
Fight bananas, fight fight bananas!
Win bananas, win win bananas!”

Collector: Why do you guys like to do this chant?

Informant: I think that it it gets everyone excited, and it’s a lot of fun.

Collector: What do you do with the bananas after the chant?

Informant: Most people just eat the bananas after the chant.

Collector: Where did you learn this chant from?

Informant: One of the members on the team taught it to us. He learned it from his swim team before joining our swim team.

I think that the swim team does this chant to get pumped up for their competition. I don’t know why they chose to use a banana, but it reminds me of the idea of ‘going bananas’ (going crazy), in a good way that gets everyone excited. Another reason may be that bananas are a health food and helps relieve muscle cramps for swimming. The words in the chant itself “swim,” “fight,” and “win” are suggestive of what the team wants–to swim, fight, and win the competition.

Childhood
Contagious
Foodways
Game
general
Humor
Life cycle

A juvenile Knock Knock joke involving Bananas

My informant told me the following joke, which she claims to have heard from a six-year old boy:

Informant: Knock knock

Me: Who’s there?

Informant: Banana

Me: Banana who?

Informant: Bannana in your face! Haha

 

While not as intrinsically complex or cultural revealing as much other folklore, given that my informant heard this joke from a six year old child at an Elementary School, it serves to illustrate the developing humor of adolescents, a difficult test subject to gather information from. Furthermore, given that the informant remembered this joke and still finds it humorous, it shows how sometimes the simplest amusements carry a charm which transcends all age boundaries.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Cure for Menstrual Cramps – Bananas

“My mom always told me to eat bananas when I’m cramping”

My informant told me about this cure when I asked her for advice concerning my own menstrual cramps.  She went further on to explain that when she was a young girl, she noticed that her mother was constantly buying bananas even though her mom hated the taste of bananas.  One day, she finally asked her mom why she kept on buying bananas.  she told my informant that her mother, my informant’s grandmother, had told her that the bananas help to remove cramps.

After hearing about this method from my informant, I actually ate a banana, and to my surprise, the cramping stopped.  At first, I believed that this was possibly the result of the placebo effect since my friend had assured me it would work.  However, after conducting research on the matter, it turns out that bananas contain a high amount of potassium, and potassium has been medically known to reduce muscle cramps.  This case is a great example of folklore medicine finding scientific backing and turning into a form of published media.

Folk Beliefs
general

Superstition

When you are on a boat or ship a lot of sailors think its bad luck to have bananas on board. Bananas at see are bad luck and can bring bad fishing/ bad catch and sickness to the crew. We never had bananas on board our ship the captain wouldn’t allow it.

Julia learned this about this superstition when she spent a semester at sea through the semester at sea program this past fall. She spent three months sailing around the world but never once was allowed to bring bananas on the boat. She said it was one of the rules associated with traditional nautical superstitions. She was told by the crew how the superstition came to be.

About a hundred or so years ago banana boats used to travel really quickly between the Caribbean and the east coast ports in the United States. The boats traveled fast to keep the bananas from going bad before the reached market. The boats traveled so fast that fisherman never caught anything when trolling for fish from the banana boats. Therefore fisherman believed that bananas on board a boat meant a bad catch.

Julia also said that she was told by some less superstitious crew members that bananas, if grown with out pesticides, often are home to lots of bugs and parasites some which can make the people on board really sick. So it is better to not bring the bananas on board period. It just keeps the crew and passengers from the possibility of a banana related sickness.

I find this superstition very unique. Julia’s explanation of the origin provides a terminus post-quem for the folklore. Folklorists know that this superstition must have started after the discovery of the Americas and American occupation in Cuba, Puerto Rico and/or other tropical islands close to the East Coast based on this specific story of its origin. I would not be surprised if the superstition dates back even earlier because sailing is an ancient practice and it is difficult to determine if the superstition were around based on a different reason before the banana boats came to be.

The term banana boat has infiltrated consumer society in the United States and the tourism industry in beach vacation destinations. A popular sunscreen brand is named Banana Boat and has a wide variety of products all advertised with a beach vacation lifestyle. Banana Boats are also popular tourist attractions in Mexico. Usually Banana Boats are a modified inflatable inner tube in the shape of a banana that 3 to 4 people straddle. The banana boat is tied to a larger boat with an engine that pulls the banana inner tube around at high speeds with the objective of seeing who can stay on the boat the longest.

This superstition, like many others is probably not going to go away soon. Although the original banana boats are no longer in use and are no longer associated with a bad catch the fact that this superstition has been around for so long and is still held by many sailors and crew (who tend to take superstitions very seriously) makes me believe that it will stick around for many more years to come.

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