USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘children’
Tales /märchen

Poop Problems

Item (direct transcription):

So, what happens is… a guy… he’s having some… poop problems. Okay? He goes to the doctor and he says, “Doctor, there’s something wrong. What happens is, when I eat an apple I literally poop out the apple I just ate. Like, whole, you know. Like, it’s a frickin’ apple, you know what I mean? I eat a doughnut, it’s still a doughnut. Okay? I eat a—You get what I mean, Doc?!”

The doctor’s like, “So, yeah, uhh, what’s the problem?”

He’s like, “I can’t poop! Think about it: I eat food and it just goes straight out, whole!”

So the doctor’s like, “Have you considered just eating poo?”

Background Information:

The informant first heard this joke from a friend in 6th grade.

Contextual Information:

Interestingly, the informant doesn’t believe that the joke would only be appropriate to tell between children. On the contrary, he believes that this joke is an example of cross-generational “toilet humor.” When he was younger, he enjoyed sharing this type of joke with his father.


The joke has the qualities of a typical children’s joke focusing on obscenity play and absurdity. Human excrement is often a good topic for children’s humor, since it lends itself to these categories.

Also, the joke is genuinely rather witty.


La Llorona

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KA) and I (ZM).

KA: Oh, and we have La Llorona.

ZM: Oh! Wait, wait wait, what?

KA: La Llorona?

ZM: What is that?

KA: So, La Llorona is… well just word wise, it’s like someone that cries, a woman that cries a lot. Like “llorar” is cry. La Llorona is, um… It’s this lady… There’s different versions of it, but the version that um I was told is that there’s this lady who was married and she…She and her husband… It was like first love, love at first sight, he saw her and he wanted to marry her. Um, they got married within like a short amount of time after they met, they had kids and she, she kinda like let, quote on quote “let herself go.” Like she wasn’t taking good care of herself because she was like focused on the kids and the kids were like driving her crazy. And one day…She had like two or three kids. Umm, one day, she like completely lost it and ended up like drowning her kids and um, I think killing her husband? For sure, she killed her kids. And then it’s said that she like runs, er walks around like the town crying “Mis hijos! Mis hijos!” Like “My kids! My kids!” Cause after she like snapped out of… like the craziness or whatever, she realized what she had done and she was like upset that her kids were dead. So, she goes around like crying “Mis hijos. Mis hijos.” Crying for her kids. Even though she killed them.

ZM: Do you know who told you that story?

KA: Uh, I think my cousin.


Context: I was talking to KA about their childhood when this conversation was recorded.


Background: KA was born in El Salvador but raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is a junior at the University of Southern California.


Analysis:I got really excited to hear this particular story because we discussed it in class, but before that I had never heard of it. I was interested to hear the version of KA who heard the story more organically than how I was exposed. This version included the woman “letting herself go” which I hadn’t heard before. The reference to women caring less about their own appearance after bearing children was an interesting twist.


Lemonade Handgame

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KA) and I (ZM).

ZM: Did you ever play any “Apples on a stick” kinda thing?

KA: Lemonade!

ZM: I haven’t heard of that one. What’s that?

KA: You haven’t heard of it? Okay it’s like… shoot. It’s like…

Lemonade (3 claps)

Crunchy eyes (3 claps)

Beat uh once (3 claps)

Beat uh twice (2 claps)

Lemonade, crunchy eyes… beat huh once, beat huh twice

Touch the ground, turn around, freeze!

And then you would like freeze… until like the first person who moved got out.

ZM: Is this like a two-player game? Or more?

KA: Its… You can play it with two. But like you can play it with a bunch of people. Oh…yeah. Well, like two. Because you can go in a circle and like do it like that, but it’s usually just two people. Doing it like this (like a hand game). But, yeah… The point of the game is not to move at the end.


Context: I was talking to KA about their childhood when this conversation was recorded.


Background: KA was born in El Salvador but raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is a junior at the University of Southern California. She attended Los Angeles United School District schools from elementary to high school.


Analysis:The version recited by KA doesn’t make much sense lyrically. She acknowledged that there were multiple versions and some people said her version was wrong. She learned Lemonade in elementary school. I had never heard of this particular game. I found other versions online that make more sense.


For another version see:


Folk Beliefs

La Llorona

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

ZM: Any legends? Is there like a New Mexican legend that you…?

KM: Oh! Yes. Indeed. So, there’s this legend. I can’t pronounce it for the life of me.

ZM: Could you spell it?

KM: Yes. So, it’s “la,” like la and then space, “ll.” Actually…it’s on my phone. (laughs) lemme… Okay, so it’s “la,” space, “llorona,” like La Lallorona or something like that. They roll their r’s or something that I can’t do. So, basically there’s this um, legend that this woman, um, took her kids (chuckles) This is scary. So, uh she took her kids like from her house and like drowned them in the river. Yeah. So, and that like… her kids and were like screaming the whole night and like… OH NO NO no. I think it’s… Her kids were screaming so much that she like took them to the river and drowned them. So, the legend is when you… like um… The winds in New Mexico, in the spring, are like really bad, like they’re like fifty miles an hour. Like crazy. And so the legend is, when you hear the like really fast wind. Like the scream from the wind, it’s the scream of her kids. And um, stay away from rivers. So, like the whole thing is like if you’re near an arroyo, which is what we call a ditch…

ZM: (obviously lost)

KM: You know those ditches that like…

ZM: On the side of roads?

KM: Not really. They’re kind of like… um… They’re like where rain water goes, but they’re like pretty deep.

ZM: But they’re not on the side of roads?

KM: Sometimes they are, but not necessarily.

ZM: Are you talking about like natural ones?

KM: Yeah. Like natural ones.

ZM: I’m sorry. Florida doesn’t have much… variation in… (laughs)

KM: So, I have one behind my house and it’s basically like… it’s lower in elevation so all the water goes there and then it goes under the road. So, I guess it’s kind of near the road. And it like drains to like a river.

ZM: whaaaa. hunh

KM: So, it’s kind of like a stream, but it’s only when rain…

ZM: I feel like this is a language barrier. It’s like a land barrier. Like, I’m not exposed to these land forms.

KM: But anyway, so when you go to like an arroyo and you hear the wind scream. It’s like La Lallorona is coming for you and you have to like go in your house or she’s gonna kill you.

ZM: Is that just kids or is that everyone?

KM: It’s mostly just kids. Like, parents tell their kids these stories so they won’t be near the arroyo at night.


Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture.


Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Analysis: I thought it was interesting that this version still contained the classic “Stay away from rivers” message, but also more specifically to stay away from arroyos at night. This is a geographic marker because arroyos are only found in arid and semi-arid climates.


Folk speech

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



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.




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]



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.



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.”



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: 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.




This is a Japanese story called Momotaro which translates to “peach” or “first son”. One day a grandma and grandpa find a giant peach in the river, they take the peach home to have for dinner. When they cut open the peach a baby boy comes out of it and they are overjoyed because they have always wanted children. The boy grows up to be very strong and one day goes off to fight the demonic ogres. On his way he meets a talking dog, a monkey and a bird who decide to help him fight the ogres. They all go to the island where the ogres reside and attack the ogres. When they defeat the demonic ogres they return home as heros and with many treasures taken from the ogres.

Background & Context:

This story was told to me in a casual interview style in the evening on a weekday. It was told to me by a Japanese American USC freshman, who has grown up in Honolulu, Hawaii but has visited Japan several times. This student has grown up listening to these stories as bedtime stories or just for entertainment. These stories were told by her parent or grandparents who reside with her family.

Final Thoughts:

My thoughts on this story is that it seems to be a popular piece of folklore as I have heard different variations of this story before. The moral of this story is what goes around come around because the old couple happily raised this little boy who eventually helped them in turn by defeating the demonic ogres and bringing back riches.


Another place you can find this piece of folklore is in the children’s book Peach Boy: A Japanese Legend by Gail Sakurai.


The Goddess and 1,000 Sandals


This is a Japanese story about a goddess who comes to visit earth. When she visits earth she goes swimming in a lake naked leaving her clothes on a rock. A man sees her swimming and falls in love with her so he steals her clothes and hides them. The goddess cannot leave earth without her clothes, so the man helps her to his house. Eventually they fall in love and have children, but she soon finds the clothes the man hid and leaves earth with their children. The man wants to join his wife and children and learns he can join them if he makes 1,000 straw sandals and buries them. The buried sandals will grow into a beanstalk that will allow him to leave earth, so the man makes 1,000 sandals and buries them. A beanstalk grows from the sandals and the man climbs the beanstalk. At the very top he realizes he can see his wife and kids but cannot reach them because the beanstalk is not tall enough to reach. As the man had miscounted and had only mad 999 straw sandals.  

Background and Context:

This story was told to me in a casual interview like setting in the evening on a weekday. It was told to me by a Japanese American USC freshman, who has grown up in Honolulu, Hawaii but has visited Japan several times. The student grew up listening to these stories either as bedtime stories or just for fun. These stories were told by her parent or grandparents who reside with her family. Something she also explained was that she did not remember the direct Japanese translation for the title of the story. She also told me this story is suppose to be an origin story for the four seasons but she cannot remember the rest of the story.  

Final Thoughts:

This is a popular story in East Asian culture because I have similar stories with similar aspects but with major differences. I believe this story is telling the listener about true love because even though the man lied and stole from the goddess she was still willing to forgive him and let him join her outside of earth. While I do not agree with the message of the story, it is romantic and entertaining for the listeners as they feel pity for the man.





The next folktale is titled Nezha and is originally from China. The tale tells the story of a man names Nezha who was the son of a military commander. Before he was born his mother was pregnant with him for three years and three months. Immediately after birth Nezha was able to walk and talk having skipped infancy. As he was born under unusual circumstances his father believed he was a demon and attempted to murder him at birth but failed. One day Nezha and and his friends were playing by the ocean when the Underworld King kidnapped one of his friends. Enraged Nezha searched for his friend and fought with the Underworld King’s son severely injuring him. When the Underworld King hear of Nezha injuring his son he went to the emperor and threatened to dishonor Nezha’s family. To not bring dishonor to his family Nezha dismembered himself. Later his mother build a temple for Nezha, which became well known for granting miracles and wishes to its visitors.

Background & Context:

This story was collected in a casual lunch setting. The informant was a 21 year old junior at USC. She is ethnically Chinese but has grown up in New York her entire life. The way she found about this folktale was by watching a popular Chinese from several years ago, that is a remake of this traditional tale.

Final Thoughts:

I thought this story was interesting because it could be conveying a message about someone who might not fit into the standards set by society and be considered abnormal. Like Nezha someone could suffer discrimination from others only based on their differences from the norm. The story’s message  focuses on how someone who does not fit societal norms can be more severely punished for their mistakes than others and is consequently more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts and depression. However an aspect I found interesting is how the informant originally heard about this folktale. As she learned about it through mass media. I think learning about folklore through media is unique and good way to teach the newer generation about old traditional folktales.