USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘bed time’
Folk speech

Sleep well in your old bett gestell

Text:

“Sleep well in your old bett gestell”

Genre: Phrase / saying

Background: The interviewee, VP, is an American middle-aged female. VP resides in Northern California and comes directly from Austria and Latvian descent. VP’s heritage and traditions are deeply influenced by her Austrian descent and capability to speak both German and English. The folklore originated in Austria and was translated from German to English. The original German translation of “Schlaf gut in deinem bett gestell” translates loosely to “sleep well in your bed frame,” but means that the sturdiness and safety of your bed will allow you to sleep well. VP states that the phrase is used at night before either going to bed or tucking someone in. It can be said amongst adults and children alike, but is primarily used by parents and grandparents of German descent when tucking in their children at night. VP notes that she learned this from her Austrian great grandmother who passed it down verbally to her daughter, then down to her.

Nationality: Austrian
Location: origin: Austria, practiced: America
Language: English German hybrid

Interpretation: Like most oral traditions, these are passed down from generation to generation. What I find extremely interesting is that by definition, folklore contains variation and multiplicity, much like the phrase that has been passed down to VP throughout generations. Over time and through Americanization, the phrase has gone from the native tongue to shift into a mixture between both American and Austrian cultures as both languages are present in the phrase. This is seen more commonly within those who are capable of speaking both American and Spanish. People with this bilingual capability are often seen speaking both languages at the same time that some may call “Spanglish.” This blend of languages makes it extremely hard for someone who is monolingual to translate or make sense of quotes or conversations, thus causing a loss in translation as seen with the Austrian phrase presented above. What I also find interesting is that the original phrasing’s translation into English doesn’t make all that much sense, but in the native tongue of Austrian it carries a far deeper meaning. However, the mixture of the two languages does not lose any emphasis or meaning as the words become more of a phrase or saying that carries meaning versus a straight language translation.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Don’t let the bugs bite

Text

“Sleep tight, don’t let the bugs bite. If they do hit ‘em with a shoe, and they’ll turn black and blue!”

 

Background

The informant knows this saying because her parents would always say it to her right before she went to sleep every night. It reminds her of childhood and she remembers that when she was younger, it comforted her because it gave her a sense of power over the things she couldn’t control (like monsters under the bed or in this case, bugs in the bed). She currently thinks it’s just a silly rhyme but would also like to pass it on to her children some day.

 

Context

The informant is a college student in Southern California and grew up in Orange County. She grew up in a nice area and went to a local public school.

 

Thoughts

Interestingly enough, one time when I was babysitting, I said “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!” to the kid I was babysitting because I remembered that my mother use to always say that to me. To my surprise, the boy got very upset and scared that there were bugs in his bed. When I was a kid, I knew that this was a very common phrase, so I did not take it literally, but I saw firsthand how this nursery rhyme might be scary to young children. This version that the informant told me about fixes that problem by giving the child some sense of control over this fictional bed bugs by giving him or her a sufficient way to take care of the problem (by hitting the bed bugs with a shoe).

 

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