USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘boys’
Childhood
Life cycle
Proverbs

Un hombre con pelo en el pecho vale dos

Background: E.M. is an 18-year-old student at USC studying Cinema and Media Studies. She is Salvadoran but as lived all over the US, so she has picked up folklore and customs from a lot of different places. Her father grew up in El Salvador, so Salvadoran culture has been engrained into her upbringing and has influenced things that she learned from her parents.

 

Main piece: “Un hombre con pelo en el pecho vale dos,” “A man with hair on his chest is worth two”

 

“So this is a proverb that my father told me- he’s from El Salvador. To me as a joke-it’s not something he believes, just something he heard growing up and he thought it was funny so he decided to share it with me.

 

Basically what the proverb means is that you are more of a man if you have chest hair! It’s a parody of the more recognizable proverb that exists in both Spanish and English since It’s a comedic take on the proverb “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

 

It was something he would hear a lot growing up from his dad and brothers, as well as something that got repeated a lot and is all boys school. It was usually said to tease boys who didn’t have facial hair yet as that was seen a sign of immaturity or weakness. My dad says that to get revenge, sometimes the boys who were teased would shave their bully’s’ chests in their sleep! It was all in good fun though – this wasn’t a proverb that was taken very seriously or meant to be truly insulting.”

 

Performance Context: This proverb would be told usually among men, from older men to younger boys.

 

My Thoughts: I think this proverb better reveals Latin American society’s attitudes towards boyhood, masculinity, and coming of age. It is definitely used in a way such that growing chest hair makes a person part of “the group,” as the person now has something that all of the other members of the group have.

Folk speech
Humor
Musical
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

“I Believe I Can Fly” Parody

The informant is a college-age male whose parents are both originally from Pakistan. He has lived in Southern California all his life, with frequent trips to Pakistan to visit extended family. Although he graduated from a public high school, he attended a private Islamic elementary school until the third grade. He says there were Muslims of many backgrounds at the school, and one of his friends (who also happened to be of Pakistani descent) used to sing this as a joke during rehearsals for school programs. It is a partial parody of a once-popular song by the artist R. Kelly.

I believe i can die

I got shot by the FBI

My momma hit me with a chicken wing 

All the way to Burger King

 

Analysis: The informant (and, according to him, his other friends and classmates) always thought the song was funny, both because “the original song was about how, you know, you can do anything if you try hard and believe in yourself, and like… not letting your fears get in the way of…getting your dreams or whatever. And then it’s like, oh, I got shot by the FBI and my mom hates me…So, that was funny;” and also that the friend in question was also a bit of a troublemaker, so the just the fact of him singing the rather inappropriate song when he was supposed to be singing a school song, “made it even funnier” to the informant.

From a more objective point of view, the elementary school attended by the informant was located in South Los Angeles, which has a high population of African-American residents. It is quite possible that this parody was learned from neighbors or friends who were African-American, as it seems to give voice, through humor, to anxieties about dangers which are uniquely part of the reality of African-Americans in South LA–that is, being “shot by the FBI” or otherwise victimized by members of potentially racist law enforcement or the government. It’s also a very stark contrast between the original song’s message of hope and inspiration and this version’s obvious (justified) pessimism about American society. On the other hand, the second and third lines seem to include stereotypes about African Americans’ supposed fondness for fried chicken and fast-food and their strict parenting style.

An online search reveals that parodies of this song are common among African Americans from LA to Pittsburgh, revealing how far and wide the common anxieties of this minority group spreads.

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Proverbs

“Boys will be boys.”

My informant learned this saying from an old television show that he used to watch.  This saying has become part of his daily speech.  Almost every conversation he has includes his saying “boys will be boys” to the point that the person he is talking to is extremely puzzled.  He says it in situations in which they saying makes no logical sense, hence the confusion of the person he’s talking to.
My informant likes this saying for the irony and confusion.  He knows that it doesn’t make sense when he says it because he says it at the most random times.  When he says it, it somehow relates back to the conversation, but not necessarily.  It leaves people speechless because they don’t know how to respond.
For my informant, “boys will be boys” provides him with a sense of nostalgia because it reminds him of watching television as a child.  Because he learned the saying from watching a television show, the saying reminds him of childhood and the fun times he had as a child.
My interpretation of “boys will be boys” is quite different from his.  In his case, he says it for the sake of saying it.  I believe this saying represents how boys act, and many people interpret it this way as well.  This saying is a way of asserting that boys are stupid and immature.  Boys can act like complete idiots.  This saying is just a more polite way of explaining how boys can be.  I think that this saying is very useful in life when talking about boys.  It isn’t as harsh as saying how boys act.  By saying “boys will be boys,” people know what someone means without saying something in a blunt manner.

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