USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘elementary school’
Game
Kinesthetic
Legends
Narrative

Chuckie Bathroom

Chuckie Bathroom

Informant: I first heard it from one of my friends, but then it kind of like turned into a game. So there is a bathroom downstairs at my school which weird because there is a toilet where every time you flush it, it makes a burping noise. So it goes like “zzzzzzzzhhhhhhh . . . UGGGH!” So my friends said the toilet is possessed by Chuckie, so that it always tries to swallow you. So now every time I go to bathroom, I like go to the bathroom and then run out of the stall before it like, makes the noise. And then rinse my hands and then run out as quickly as I can. They say the bathroom is possessed because when you put your hand in sometime on the sink for the automatic faucet, the other one, another sink turns on. So they say that he is coming after you, but he always has to wash his hands first.

Interviewer’s notes:

This is an instance were the unknown or “strange” has been demonized. The “Chuckie Bathroom” toilet has deviated from what the children usually expect from a toilet. To cope the children created a story to explain the unusualness which in turn has sparked a legend, and a whole set of corresponding behaviors like running away before the toilet can make “the burping noise”. It is interesting to note, that in creating the legend, they assimilated the bathroom to popular culture through “Chuckie”, which it turn makes it more familiar. Later, what began as a compulsive ritual is reclaimed from the participants as they consciously make a game out of it.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Bloody Mary Bathroom

Bloody Mary Bathroom

Informant: So in my elementary school, in the old building, there is the little kid’s bathroom. So it was really old and gross and the windows are all scratched up and everyone would say, “that’s where Bloody Mary is and if you’re going to do Bloody Mary, you gotta do it in there, she hangs out in there”. So it’s all beat up, and on the last wall, there is a board. Just a board nailed to the wall, this big (hold out hands 1 ft by 1 ft apart). And it’s painted over, okay, just a board painted over, but they would always say, “ You know why there’s a board there? BECAUSE THERE’S A FINGER UNDER IT!” I don’t remember who told me, I assume its is one of the older girls.

interviewer: Who did you tell this story to?

informant: The new kids, or the younger kids and then they redid it . . .

interviewer: So then did it stop being Bloody Mary Bathroom?

Informant: No, it was still Bloody Mary Bathroom to us, but then I think the tradition died.

Interviewer’s notes:

It is interesting to note the evolution of the variation of the legend. Originally, the old, strange, scary bathroom was dubbed “Bloody Mary Bathroom” because it was strange and scary like Bloody Mary herself. The young students assimilated the story of the board in the bathroom into the legend by correlating the two together. The severed-finger board is now part of the Bloody Mary legend due to their unification in the bathroom and the story has a new variation in this community.

Game
Humor
Kinesthetic

“This is Buggy”

Context: The informant is an 11-year-old resident of Southern California, of Indo-Pakistani descent. She lives with two older siblings, parents, and grandparents and attends a public middle school in the South Bay area. She has close friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and the following narrative sequence is one she learned from one of these friends while she was still in elementary school.

Transcript of video:

“This is Buggy!

Buggy says hi!

Buggy can fly!

Yay for Buggy!

Oops, Buggy died.”

Analysis: The informant says she learned it only a couple years ago and remembered it because she “thought it was cool” and “kind of funny”. The informant relates that she enjoys many types of art, including drawing and painting, and often is in charge of making signs for events among her friend group, like yard sales and party invitations. So the personal appeal to a young artist or craftsperson is obvious.

I think the general appeal here is similar: the fact that with a few simple drawings and letters, an entire story can be told with little effort. The idea that there are just enough fingers on a person’s hand to write “T-H-I-S” on the knuckles, and then fold different fingers to show different words, must be appealing to kids who are just starting to appreciate the difficulties of both language and tactile crafts such as beading, painting, or cursive handwriting. The simple story is also humorous and a common enough occurrence: trying to save a little bug only to find that you unfortunately don’t know your own strength; or simply the humor of seeing something that causes many small children, especially girls, some anxiety–“creepy crawlies”–being put out in such a messy and unceremonious manner helps them cope with those anxieties indirectly while not being called out as a “scaredy cat” or a “sissy”.

Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is a Pakistani-American 11-year-old girl and a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant

To buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread

She asked me what my name was

And this is what i said, said, said

My name is

L-I-L-I, Pickle-eye pickle-eye

pom-pom beauty, sleeping beauty

Then she told me to freeze freeze freeze

And whoever moves, loses.”

The word “freeze” may be said either once or three times, and at that moment the players must both freeze. The informant also showed me the two kinds of clapping sequence that are used for the two parts of the game, one for the first four lines, and the other for lines 6-8.

Analysis: At first glance, the rhyme seems like complete nonsense; but upon further examination, the rhyme could conceal casual racism. “Li” could be an East Asian name. Rhyming it with “pickle-eye” (which itself could be referring to culturally unfamiliar food which is automatically dismissed as unnatural or revolting–for instance recall the urban legend where neighborhood cats/dogs were disappearing after immigrants from [insert Asian country here] moved in), which is essentially a nonsense word, could be meant to show disrespect towards all people with similarly “Asian” names. Then referring to oneself as a “pom-pom beauty” (perhaps referring to a cheerleader’s pom-poms) and “sleeping beauty” (the classic western fairy tale) as a contrast to the “Li” lady is like proclaiming, I am an all-American girl, like a cheerleader or Sleeping Beauty, and you are not.

Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

Lemonade,

iced tea

Coca-cola,

Pepsi

Lemonade, iced tea, Coca-cola, Pepsi,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

Another version from the same informant begins with the same line:

Lemonade,

crunchy ice

Beat it once,

beat it twice,

Lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

In the last line of both versions, the players may perform the actions sung: they turn in a circle, drop to a crouch to touch the ground, and may even stand up and make a kicking motion. At the word “freeze,” both players must stop moving, and the first to move loses.

Analysis: I learned a version of this game, similar to the second version recorded, from cousins who went to the same school district as the informant. Instead of the words “beat it,” however, the words “pour it” were used, and the last line was completely omitted. The rhyme ended with the players crying “Statue!” and the first person to move, lost. Somehow, however, a player was allowed to tickle the other person to get them to move, even though tickling would seemingly count as moving. 

The incorporation of Coca-cola and Pepsi, both globally-recognizable drink names, into the rhyme is evidence of how popular the drink is worldwide and how it has been incorporated into “American” or “Southern California” culture, that children are mentioning it in their songs along with the ever-popular summer drink of lemonade.

The last line “Turn around, touch the ground” seems to be echoing some long-dead magic ritual, especially when followed by a mention of the singer’s boyfriend (keeping in mind that 11 years old, the majority of children likely have nothing close to a romantic partner yet). Also, the pouring of the drink–once, then twice–would seem to recall the adult practice of pouring drinks for oneself and one’s partner after a long day or at a party. This shows this age-group’s (perhaps unconscious) desire to  mimic the adult relationships they see with their own peers.

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 metaphor
Folk speech

Playground Lingo

Context: The informant is a 23-year-old white female from Florida who grew up with her parents and two older siblings. When the informant was in grade school, a common accusation between kids swinging on adjacent swings, when someone got too close to them, was, “You’re in my shower!”

Analysis: The informant says she remembers the phrase because “I thought it was a weird thing to say, i was like, okay, whatever you say…” This indicates that it was not a widespread saying but perhaps unique to a small area of schools or perhaps even just the one school that the informant attended.

It can be assumed that when someone had possession of a swing, they would be unwilling to give it up or to experience interference from other swingers. The connotation of a shower being a very individual, private space, therefore, transferred onto the swinger’s small area of free movement and they would understandably be indignant of someone invading their “private,” designated area.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Slow and steady wins the race”

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

The informant explains that he remembers first hearing this proverb in his first grade class in elementary school when his teacher was reading the story of the tortoise and the hare.  The informant explains that after learning this at a young age the moral behind the proverb stuck in his head.  The informant explains that he tries to think of this proverb whenever he feels he is acting too quickly or is not giving things enough thought.

It is interesting to note that the informant learned this proverb at an extremely young age within a classroom setting.  The location of learning this can tell one a bit about the morals and ideas that his teacher and school promoted and on a larger scale what education in the United States tries to promote.  It is also interesting to compare this proverb to proverbs with contradicting ideas such as, “the early bird gets the worm.”  It is common to see contradicting proverbs and on the surface it shows that different people hold different ideals and different ideals at different times.

This proverb is widespread throughout the U.S. and is seen in many published works.  Recently, on May 1st, 2013 the Nyngan Observer had the title of an article as “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.”  The article discussed different planting techniques in Southern Australia.  Here is a citation of the article:  “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” Nyngan Observer. N.p., 1 May 2013. Web. 1 May 2013.

Childhood
Game

Duck, Duck, Gray Duck

Interview Extraction:

Informant: In school, instead of playing just ‘Duck, Duck, Goose,’ we changed up the ducks. So you’d say different types of ducks, like ‘red duck, blue duck,’ whatever, and then when you said ‘gray duck,’ you’d run and ad the person you’d tag would chase you. So you just run at ‘gray duck’ instead of ‘goose.’”

Me: “Where was your school?”

Informant: “In Minnesota. They’re actually very militant about it, and they’ll insist that it’s ‘Duck, Duck, Gray Duck’ and not anything else, but like, I moved there when I was eight, so I knew from before that almost all other places called it ‘Duck, Duck, Goose.’ But they um, yeah, they insisted on the gray duck part and they thought the ‘goose’ portion was weird.”

Analysis:

Schoolchildren can be very adamant about protecting their games and creations. No matter where they are or what they are playing, their way will be the right way. This is evident in the  Minnesota elementary school kids who were “militant” about playing “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck,” as well as my informant, who despite being a college student, still showed signs of being upset at her old classmates. She strongly felt that it should be “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and that the Minnesota version was a singular place for playing the game differently. I admit that upon hearing the story and being introduced to the adaptation, even I felt slightly angry at these students for playing the “wrong” way. Neither I nor my informant still engage in “Duck, Duck, Goose,” but I imagine we expect to still see children playing in preschools and elementary schools years from now, and furthermore, we both expect to see it played the way we did.

Distancing myself personally from this game however, I must acknowledge that it’s interesting how “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” even evolved. Upon researching this, I found out that Minnesota was the only state in the US and even Canada that had this version, though without any sufficient information. Even more intriguing, evidently one can now call someone a “gray duck,” and use the phrase in a derogatory way to refer to that person being born or raised in Minnesota. Clearly, childhood vendettas can run very deep, and changing up a traditional staple of schoolyards is frowned upon by all adolescents. While the Minnesotans don’t retaliate by calling residents of other states “gooses,” are determined to persist playing their own adaptation, either to distinguish themselves or to simply continue a game their own parents or teachers taught them.

 

Legends
Narrative

Killer Upstairs

So when I was younger all the kids in the elementary school were scared of going upstairs. You know the parents say go upstairs to my room and get x object. And you’re all downstairs, the lights are all off upstairs, so you always run up the stairs to get, to get the stuff and run back down, because there was a story going round that a guy went up to his parent’s room to get a, uh, a remote, a TV remote or something like that, and he got killed by a killer who only goes up there when the kids are told to go up there by their parents. So all the kids were afraid, and um, I was literally terrified, because I knew for a fact . . . there is a guy in there! There wasn’t though.

This story is an urban legend spread by elementary school children. It was told to initiate children, as older children in-the-know could tell younger children this to scare them, without believing it themselves. It was also told by children who might have believed, as many children are afraid of the darker and being alone, even in their own house. Going upstairs to a parent’s room in the dark to retrieve something can be a terrifying experience. This story helps rationalize why one should feel afraid to go upstairs alone as a child.

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