USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘egyptian’
Folk speech
Proverbs

The Wolves Will Eat Your Butt

The informant is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California, studying Creative Writing and Social Sciences with an emphasis in Psychology. She was born in Egypt and originally held Egyptian citizenship, but moved to the United States when she was quite young and is now an American citizen.

This piece is something that the informant’s grandmother would tell her when she refused to put her clothes back on after a bath.

“So, when I was younger my family used to always tell me stories in order to get me to do what I was supposed to do. They knew that was kind of the only way to manage myself. So my grandmother, who was especially fond of the horror stories of what happened to naughty children, so um, my personal favorite was when I got out of the bath, I liked to run around naked. And she would tell me that if I didn’t put my underwear on, the wolves would eat my butt.

[laughs] And, when I didn’t believe her, she gave me examples of people with tiny butts and she would tell me why they had tiny butts and it would because the wolves had eaten them. So my cousin had a tiny butt because one day she had forgotten to put her underwear on after the bath, and um, they had come in and eaten her.”

Analysis:

While this is an entertaining anecdote, it is also indicative of what is and isn’t considered “proper” for girls to show. This interested me because of the specificity of the consequences of not putting on underwear—though the informant was naked she was not warned about what would happen if she failed to put on her shirt; the focus was on her underwear. Additionally, this warning only applies to women. The informant’s grandfather describes the buttocks of her female relatives, and not the males. The implication is also that small buttocks are not desirable.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Treat Your Mother with Respect

The informant is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California, studying Creative Writing and Social Sciences with an emphasis in Psychology. She was born in Egypt and originally held Egyptian citizenship, but moved to the United States when she was quite young and is now an American citizen.

This piece is an Egyptian proverb about the importance of respecting your mother. The informant recounts her and a friend’s experience with Yo Mama jokes (jokes that insult another person’s mother: ex. Yo Mama’s so fat she rolled over twice and ended up in Africa) and how that reminded her of an Egyptian proverb.

“In Egypt you also cannot make Yo Mama jokes. You will get beaten up. A friend who went there, who grew up here but he was Egyptian, and he went there one summer and he made Yo Mama jokes cause we were in middle school and that’s what we did; everyone’s an asshole in middle school. And um, I think he got punched in the face by his cousin for making that kind of joke.

No it’s just like, the biggest insult you can say to somebody is to insult their mother. It’s like, especially to guys cause it’s like their pride and joy, like “You always treat your mother with the deepest and fondest respect.” So, that was a big proverb. And culture shock when I came here in middle school and everyone was in the Yo Mama phase and I was like, “That is appalling.” But like, I don’t know. Like Yo Mama So Fat jokes, it was just very strange to me.”

Analysis:

While the proverb itself is fairly standard, demonstrated the cultural value of the mother figure in Egyptian culture, it was fascinating to see the conflict that arose when members from both cultures, such as the informant and her friend, participating in or witnessed jokes that directly opposed what they had learned from that proverb.

folk metaphor
Folk speech

He’s an Egg

The informant is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California, studying Creative Writing and Social Sciences with an emphasis in Psychology. She was born in Egypt and originally held Egyptian citizenship, but moved to the United States when she was quite young and is now an American citizen.

This expression is a somewhat crass way of calling a person dull.

“Can I tell you an expression that’s kind of dirty? Yes? Excellent. So, so the first boyfriend I had, my dad came over and met him, and I asked, “So what do you think?” And he said, “He’s kind of an egg,” but he said the word “egg” in Arabic, so I was like, “What? I’m so confused as to what you mean by that.” And he’s like, “You know, an egg.” And I said, “Go on, dad,” and he told me apparently, in Arabic, you call someone an egg to signify that they’re like a testical. They just kind of hang there. They’re more or less useless otherwise. Um, so that’s what my dad thought of my first ex-boyfriend. He called him a vanilla egg, because he was really white. It was really sad, he kinda just hung there like a testical, but it’s a common expression!”

When do people use it?

“When they’re trying to describe people that are really dull and really….basic bitches, basically. Someone who’s there, but you don’t necessarily need them to be there, you don’t kind of like them, they’re very average. They just kind of exist.”

And what’s the Arabic word for egg?

“Baydatan ( بيضة).”

Analysis:

I find it interesting that this expression indicates a dismissive view of male genitalia, where the testicals are viewed as dull or not particularly useful. It’s especially compelling when compared to how patriarchal western societies refer to testicals as the “goods,” the “family jewels,” and other terms that indicate value. This expression does highlight the reproductive value of testicals by referring to them as eggs.

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