Context:My roommate discovered this meme one day, and it prompted a discussion about the various levels of depth it reached.
Background: My roommate is a self-described “conveyor of fine memes” and has a hobby of collecting, creating, and sharing Internet memes.
The Meme: The meme (attached to this post) is a play on the phrase “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” The phrased is reworked in a text explanation that laments the fact that things are not “easy peasy lemon squeezy” as once believed, but are in fact “difficult difficult lemon difficult.” This explanation is accompanied by the image of a middle-aged woman furiously gripping a laptop in both hands and biting into it.
Analysis: This became a folklore discussion as a surprise, as the further my roommate and I discussed it, the more it seemed to work as a piece of folk speech. “Difficult difficult lemon difficult” is definitely an evolution of the saying “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” which itself has an origin that feels meaningless in the context the phrase has since gained. The specific discovery of the newly-changed saying also has the context of being in meme form, memes being one of the more common areas of unauthored expression in the 21st century.
“Whenever I was going out for the night or spending time with friends, my mother would always warn me that ‘the trolls would come out and get [me]’ if I got into trouble. She was definitely influenced by Swedish folklore because of growing up in Sweden.”
The informant, my best friend’s father, was born in Oklahoma to Swedish parents. He remembers Swedish folklore influencing much of his parents’ speech. His parents were responsible for him learning of Swedish culture and much of the folk speech inspired by Swedish tradition. Though he and his family never believed in trolls per say, trolls were a big part of the culture, representing a significant danger for those traveling alone in the forest or mountains. I had asked the informant about the influence of Swedish folklore on his life at lunch when he visited my friend over Spring Break and it was funny to hear that how when he was little, he was deathly afraid that a troll would actually come and take him if he was misbehaving.
I always find stories from other cultures amusing that entail parents telling their kids to behave or something bad will happen. Many children take their parents threats literally and shape up over the fear of some monster coming to get them. The story my friend’s dad told me reminds me of what I’ve learned in our folklore class thus far regarding La Llorona, as many Latino parents tell their kids that she will come and take them if they continue to misbehave.
“You have just as good of a chance of meeting one as finding a kernel in a field of grain.”
The informant grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City before moving to Los Angeles with his wife and having kids. I am friends with his daughter who goes to USC, and we were coming back from dinner and discussing how his daughter couldn’t find a boyfriend here and how at parties there never seemed to be classy enough guys. I chipped in that I knew a few were out there but her dad came back with the folk expression above which made me laugh. I had never heard this expression before and was more used to hearing the “needle in the haystack” analogy.
I figured that he used this expression since he grew up in the Midwest but asked him how he learned it regardless. He told me he picked it up from his father and that lots of the expressions he uses today come from him spending lots of time with his dad. He also explained that in the Midwest, the expression isn’t as rare since farming is a huge part of daily life and industry there. Overall, I found it humorous that her dad used the expression in this manner, referring to how difficult it was to find a good enough guy for his daughter at a typical USC fraternity party.
My grandfather, like my grandmother, grew up in a small farming town in the middle of rural Louisiana. The town, Ponchatoula, was still very French/Creole in nature and both of my grandpa’s parents spoke French as their first language. When he was younger, my grandfather and his schoolmates would always take clandestine swims in the Mississippi River on hot and muggy afternoons, much to his mothers chagrin. She was always worried that he would get caught in a rip-current and end up drowning in the river.
When telling me about his youthful mischievous adventures on our home patio, my grandpa would always recall his mom telling him that proverb when he got himself into trouble. One of the days he went swimming in the river, he recalls being pinched by a crawfish then running home crying to his mother, who had nothing to say besides “Comme on fait son lit, on se couche,” which in simpler terms refers to having to put up with the unpleasant results of a foolish action. I enjoy this proverb because I find it interesting that the “make your bed, lie in it” proverb exists in other languages and cultures. The expression, though varying from place to place, is quite universally popular, with friends of mine from different backgrounds all using it in one way or another.
My grandma grew up in a small town outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents were strawberry farmers and she helped take care of their farm before meeting my grandfather and moving to Long Beach, California. Whenever speaking about someone who seemed to be attracted to another person, she always uses the phrase “took a cotton to” to describe the situation, as cotton has a tendency to stick to clothing upon touching it. Since she grew up in the South, it’s not a surprise to see this expression become part of her vernacular, as cotton was one of the South’s main industries since its colonization. In speaking to my grandma, she learned the phrase by hearing her parents use it along with her friends parents when she was in elementary school, all of whom were involved in some sort of agricultural production.
I enjoy hearing my grandma say the phrase because it makes me feel more connected with my family roots in the South, despite many of the negative connotations that associate cotton growing with slavery. I’ve used the phrase a couple times here and though people understand the analogy, they tend to think of it as a random and bizarre expression since cotton farming is completely unfamiliar here in Los Angeles.
Literal Translation: You give them your hand and they take your elbow.
Translation: When you extend your hand, they grab for your elbow.
My informant explained that her dad used to say this phrase all the time, as a warning about other people. Her father had told her that with some people, you have to be cautious because they will try to take advantage of you. The expression basically means that when you offer kindness or generosity, be careful because others may manipulate or abuse your benevolence.
The Spanish phrase echoes the American children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or the expression “when you give someone an inch, they take a mile.” Once you start offering, the demands start building. I asked if she had heard of this book or saying and she replied: “Oh yes, it’s exactly like that.” So just remember, a small little offering can create a snowball effect and you’ll end up dealing with much more than you bargained for.