USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘child’
general
Tales /märchen

Abiyoyo

IN: Okay, so far away in a village in Africa, uhm there was a giant by the name of Abiyoyo. For some reason, he got angry and started rampaging, like towards the village of people. Until this little boy decided to take this guitar and start singing, “abiyoyo, abiyoyo, abiyoyo..” and all of the villagers joined in and it started to make him get happy. The giant started dancing, and he and the boy walked into the sunset singing the song.

JJ: Does abiyoyo mean anything? Or did it start to mean anything after?

IN: No, as far as I know it was just kind of arbitrary, like a cool sounding word. It could mean something I guess.

Context: During a slow work shift I asked the informant if he remembered any folktales from his childhood.

Background: The informant is s South-African American. This was a story his father used to always tell him before bed. It is one of the few ways that his family actively passed down their African heritage to him in the States, so this was a significant story to him growing up.

Analysis: In this tale, we see music as a healing tool and important instrument in society. Music is a huge piece in African culture, and this story undoubtedly expresses that. Music has the ability to calm and tranquilize even a beastly giant, and gives reason for little kids to learn instruments and develop and explain interest in music.

 

Childhood
Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Game
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Magic

Don’t Get the Cheese Touch

Piece:

Interviewer: “What about games? Any you remember from childhood?

L.F.: “Lemme think…. Oh yeah haha the cheese touch.”

Interviewer: “What is the cheese touch?”

L.F.: “It was kinda like the elementary school bully version of tag. Basically when someone had the “cheese touch” no one would speak to them out of the fear of getting it.”

Interviewer: “What was it though?”

L.F.: “hahahaha… I don’t know… It was just like cooties. No one knew what they were but you definitely didn’t want it.”

Informant:

Informant L.F. is a teenage boy who recently became an adult. He is half Japanese and half Jewish and has spent his entire life in Northern California. During the summers, L.F. likes to attend away summer camp, and had attended the same camp for the past five summers. The camp is ranges from three weeks to 2 months and L.F. will be returning this summer as a counselor.

Context:

I asked informant L.F. to sit down for a formal interview on young adult folklore and if he remembered any weird games from his childhood or now. This is what he thought of.

Interpretation:

To L.F. the cheese touch was a childhood game used to ridicule and scare kids into bullying one another. And, while her has fun memories of playing the game, he admits it was a representation of childhood bullying. L.F. does not remember who he learned the game from, but it was the sort of game that never really ended and all his school friends were apart of it. It reminds him of simpler times and of his youth.

 

Childhood
Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Hand Gestures for Learning Left and Right

Informant: “To figure out right and left as a kid I was taught by my mom that if I hold up both my hands in the shape of an “L” with your palms faced downward, the hand that makes the actual “L” is the left one and the one that makes the backwards “L” is the right hand.”

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Context: The informant is the partner of the collector and was discussed when they were speaking about how they both know or learned right from left as children.

Informant Analysis: As a child, the informant said that they had difficulty in learning the right from left, so as a measure to help teach them, their mother taught them the trick. The informant noted that the hand gesture did help them learn it and even today, while he doesn’t make the hand signs, they determine right from left through identification with the sides of their body in their head.

Collector Analysis: For people who have mild dyslexia, certain tricks are preformed that sometimes are utilized to help. In particular, this trick is common for people who have difficulties in determining right from left. This piece is intrinsically English oriented since it only works due to the fast that left starts with an “L”. It also shows the necessity of being able to distinguish right from left in everyday life, for example, giving directions being a great example. There is of course arbitrariness to right and left since the actual location is dependent on the perspective of the individual. In this regard, the hand signs mimic the individual perspective of determining right from left.

We can also note that these sorts of gestures are intended to teach children. It has been studied that different people respond to certain learning techniques like visual, auditory, or tactile. Children in particular are sometimes able to memorize things when they are done kinesthetically. Therefore, the motion of making “L’s” with ones hands for children may be the best way to teach children. Another interesting idea that should be explored is the realization that, since many people have difficulty in determining right from left even as adults, the whole concept may be something humans are not innately born with. Or, it could be said that the addition of abstract words to describe a location in respect to the individual is perhaps where the confusion occurs.

Folk speech
general
Humor
Musical

Anti-Lullaby to Children

“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some worms. Short fat skinny ones, itty-bitty little ones, guess I’ll eat some worms.”

Context: The song was originally preformed by the mother of the collector when her child said that she was having difficulties making friends with children during elementary school. The collection is taken from a later date when asked to recite the song.

Informant Analysis Below:

The informant had grown up switching many schools, about 11, during her time from elementary through high school. She noted that because of moving around so much she often had difficulty making strong friendships. This song seemed to encapsulate the self-pity she once had as a child, and how she learned to become less emotional about such things.

Informant: “I honestly don’t remember when I first heard it, but I know it was definitely while I was still a child. It’s possible my mom also sang that to me too.”

Collector: “Do you have any idea of what it means?”

Informant: “I think it is saying, like, who cares if you feel unliked. Be stronger than that. The whole eating worms thing, to me, is saying that if you are gonna whine about not having friends, might as well eat worms while you are at it because the world does not care.”

Collector Analysis: Lullabies in themselves are supposed to be calming and reassuring to a child. This lullaby is rather odd because it does no such task. It seems to point out any amount of self-pity one may have for themselves and make light of it. In doing so, it can be seen as “tough love” and harsh in many ways. The concept of not being liked is a very common fear, not just for children, but for adults too. Perhaps when told to a child it not only is meant to teach children to “toughen up”, but also remind the adult to do the same. I believe this piece also has a lot to do with the drives in American culture of being self-sufficient. Starting at a young age, it would make sense to instill a sense of individualism by not caring what others think onto a child.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Signs

Mal de Ojo

Main Piece:

“This happens when a person has a very strong stare. If they stare at a newborn with their glare the child will get a really high fever, convulse, and die. The only cure is to have the person with the evil eye carry the baby. That is the only way to reverse the evil done. I know babies who have died from this curse.”

Context:

The informant is a 77-year-old Spanish speaking woman, born in Mexico. She believes this to be true. She does not think those with the evil eye necessarily know that they have that power.

Analysis:

It seems that this belief is a way to explain sudden deaths of infants. It is a way to explain the unexplainable.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Material
Narrative
Protection

Saint Christopher Medallion

Content:
Informant – “When I was being raised, Saint Christopher was an important saint. All of us, the kids, got medals, little medallions that we wore, that were Saint Christopher medals. Saint Christopher was the patron saint of travelers.
Now Christopher means Christ carrier. And the legend is that he was a big person, almost a giant, and he came upon a little boy on the bank of a stream and the little boy asked him to please carry him over to the other side. And so Christopher said sure and proceeded to carry him on his shoulders across the river, and as he went further and the water got deeper the boy got heavier and heavier, and it took all his strength, and when he finally reached the shore, exhausted, he asked the child ‘My gosh how could you weigh so much?’ And the child revealed that he was really Christ and that he was carrying the weight of the world. And then he disappeared.”

Context:
Informant – “I grew up with it. And while I was growing up, Christopher was touted as being a real person, but more recent research has found that there is no real record of his existence. The first mention of him was like 3 centuries after he supposedly existed. So they say he’s pretty much a legend.

JK – “What were the medallions for?”

Informant – “It was really a religious good luck charm. It was supposed to protect us from the travails of travels and journeys and all that.”

Analysis:
There is an interesting connection between the medallion and the story. One wears a medallion around one’s neck. You feel the weight at the back of the neck – the same place where you would feel the most weight if you were carrying someone on your shoulders.

Folk speech
Game
general

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe

The informant is my 9-year-old cousin, who lives in Buena Park, California. I asked her about what rhymes she knew, and she shared this one with me. Though she could not remember where she first heard it, she believes it was from other kids at school when she was younger.
——————–
“Eenie Meenie Miney Moe/catch a tiger by the toe/if he hollers make him pay/fifty dollars every day/red, white, and blue/I choose you.”
——————–
This was particularly interesting to me, because this is a rhyme that is fairly universal in children’s lore. Though these were not the lyrics I remember from when I was younger, I recited a version of this rhyme when I was growing up, and almost everyone I know also knows this rhyme. The fact that this rhyme has been so widespread and also has so many different versions demonstrates the “multiplicity and variation” of folklore as laid out by Dundes. The “red, white, and blue” part of the rhyme was particularly interesting to me, because it made this version specific to the U.S. Because this rhyme exists in the United Kingdom as well as in other English-speaking countries, I thought it was interesting that this version specifically referenced the colors of the American flag. After doing some research, I found that different versions of the rhyme have arisen over time, each of them reflecting the specific time period during which they were invented. For example, during World War II, children in Atlanta recited this version of the rhyme: “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe/Catch the emperor by his toe/If he hollers make him say:/’I surrender to the USA.'” There have also been racist variations of this rhyme using the n-word that appeared in the mid- to late-1800s, around the time of the Civil War.
——————–
For more versions of this rhyme, see “Counting-out Rhymes: A Dictionary” by R. D. Abrahams and L. Rankin. (R. D. Abrahams and L. Rankin, Counting-out Rhymes: a Dictionary (University of Texas Press, 1980)).

Game
general

Hand Clapping Game

I interviewed Audrey when I met her in Everybody’s Kitchen, a USC dining hall. I asked if she had any folklore she wanted to share. She was very eager to share details about a schoolyard game she used to play in elementary school. The following is lifted from the interview:

Audrey: “There was this hand game-thing kids would play in elementary school. And it’s so weird because me, Brianna, and Caroline [Brianna and Caroline were not present at the time of the interview, they were just referenced by the speaker] had a different version of the same thing! Like, it sounded vaguely similar. They all started the same and the devolved into chaos.

 

I then asked my informant to perform her version of the piece for me, which I then asked her to write down for me so I could accurately document it:

 

Down by the banks of the hanky panky,

where the bullfrogs jump from bank to bank,

with an eep, ay-p, ope, oop,

oop-flop-a-dilly and an oop-flop-flop.

Pepsi Cola Ginger Ale, 7-Up, 7-Up, 7-Up, you’re out.

 

Audrey: “Brianna’s version also mentioned sodas, but Caroline’s didn’t! So weird!”

 

Me: “Where did you learn this?

 

Audrey: “I learned it from a third grade classmate. Like a bunch of third grade classmates did it. It somehow became… knowledge.”

 

Me: “When would you play this hand clapping game?”

 

Audrey: :Elementary school recess or field trips — anytime third graders are put in a room together with nothing else to do.”

 

Analysis

I personally played a lot of hand clapping/patty cake games in elementary school, but I’m not familiar with this one. I found another website that documented many versions of this same game: http://awe.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=94034&messages=404&page=1&desc=yes All the versions are slightly different, but fit the same cadence as my informant’s version. It makes sense that it would vary so much because of how children’s folklore is taught and spread.

Folk speech
general
Musical

Yo Sun-Sun Ikimashou

On a few occasions my informant, Peter, has taken my hand and rhythmically chanted a short, japanese phrase while swinging our arms back and forth. I never knew what he was saying or who he had learned it from until I asked to document it. The following is from when I interviewed him in the USC Village:

 

Me: “Can you explain that thing you do where you swing our hands while sing-chanting in Japanese? What is that?”

 

Peter: “Well, when I used to go on walks with my grandmother, we would hold hands and swing them while chanting this over and over again: ‘Yo sun-sun ikimashou, yo sun-sun ikimashou.’”

 

Me: “Could you please translate that for me?”

 

Peter: “The ‘Yo sun-sun’ part does not have a real meaning…”

 

Me: “Can you extrapolate on that?”

 

Peter: “It’s like, ‘la, la, la” in English. It’s just sing-songy.”

 

Me: “And the second part?”

 

Peter: “That means, like, ‘Onward, here we go…;’ but in a pleasant way.”

 

My informant then helped my find the Japanese script and translation with my computer so I could add it to my entry:

~Original script: 行きましょう

~Roman script: Ikimashou

~Translation: (A nice way of saying) Let’s Go

 

Analysis:

I’m so glad my informant chose to share this with me. I now know a little more about his cultural background and how that comes into play in his everyday. I’m also honored that he has done this with me when we hold hands. I think it means he feels connected to me, and wants to replicate the happy feelings he got from his grandmother in me.

 

Game
general

Banzai

My informant is a twenty-three year old man who is half-Japanese, half-Mexican. He grew up more with Japanese culture, and was very eager to share the folklore he knew from this culture. The following is from when I interviewed him in the USC Village.  

 

Peter: “My mother and grandmother would do this thing during walks. We would yell ‘Banzai!’ and they would pull my arms in the air while I jumped.”

 

Me: “What does ‘banzai’ mean?”

 

Peter: “I’m pretty sure ‘banzai’ is a war cry. Warriors would yell it while bayonet charging… so it’s kinda funny that we would use it for something so lighthearted and playful. It literally means ‘May you live ten-thousand years.’ Actually, the ‘may you live’ is inferred because ‘banzai’ just translates to ‘ten-thousand years.’”

 

My informant then helped my find the Japanese script and translation with my computer so I could add it to my entry:

~Original script: 万歳

~Roman script: Ban-zai

~Translation: (May you live) ten-thousand years

 

I then asked my informant if he had any other thoughts to add or any other meaning ‘banzai’ has to them.

 

Peter: “I was taught that this is something to yell when jumping into a pool or body of water. It’s basically the Japanese version of ‘cannonball.’ [He chuckles]

 

Analysis:

While I have heard ‘banzai’ being used on the playground as a child, I have never seen it used in a structured play format. In Peter’s account, ‘banzai’ is somewhat like a game: his maternal figures shout it and lift him to assist him in jumping high. It’s also amusing that ‘banzai’ translated later in his life to something fun to yell while jumping in a pool. To me, ‘banzai’ denotes daring in able to have some fun.

 

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