USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘child numbering’
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Vietnamese Child Numbering

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.

 

DD: In a lot of Vietnamese families, there’s a habit of numbering the children from oldest to youngest, in the way sort of like nicknames. So we’ll have, um, sister number two is the oldest sister [sibling], brother number three is the second oldest sibling and oldest brother. And, um, interesting thing about that is that you actually start with the oldest one being sibling number two because there’s a belief that if you called them the first child, the spirits will come take the child away. And it’s actually really interesting in my family because my grandparents have nine children and they were supposed to have a 10th but the first born did actually pass away… right after birth I believe, so it did actually fall into that superstition, and it’s something I know my grandmother always believed. Although with my dad’s family they don’t really number the children, but they give them nicknames to symbolize, like, where they are in the order of children. Like…uh my dad is one of the younger ones so his name is trè, which means young, and his youngest brother is út which means littlest. Út usually refers to like the littlest finger, um, so, and it’s even like I still call him uncle út, which means the littlest uncle.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in the sun on a bench on a university campus. However, the context that this numbering was used under was whenever a child was born. It would be numbered whilst still in the womb.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 

Analysis:

 

I find superstitions to be the most interesting of all folklore items. In this case, the superstition is that something bad will happen if the children are numbered starting at one. The reason I find it so interesting is because although there’s no solid, scientific proof, people still act based upon the belief, just in case. I find myself doing the same in other superstitions. This is also one that I’ve never heard of before, and one that had proof in the believers’ eyes, with the death of their first child. I also found it interesting that they adapted the numbering system to, in the form of “young” and “littlest.” This appears to be a form of an oicotype, where the folklore belief has been adapted to a new cultural zone.

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