USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘folk speech’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Protection

Protection Against Compliments and the Evil Eye

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: So, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they make fun of this, but it’s kind of true. In Greece, we believe very heavily in the evil eye and that its disease very easy to get. If you receive a lot of compliments, and you don’t do this one superstitious thing, you can get the evil eye. Everyone, or at least every Greek, knows that one person who died from the evil eye. Honestly, maybe he or she died from cancer, but there’s always that one grandmother who believes the death was because of the evil eye. Basically, when you get complimented, someone will warn you that you will get the evil eye. If a family member complimented me, for instance, then someone would probably say that he or she is giving me the evil eye. Then, I would have to make a spitting noise three times. Sometimes, someone else can do that for you. Also, sometimes people compliment you but say that you don’t have to do the three spitting noises. They will explain that they are just stating a fact and not complimenting you in an envious way. Some people give compliments out of jealousy or resentment, but if they don’t and say that they don’t, then you don’t have to make the spitting noises. If you do make the spitting noises in front of someone who complimented you, they will not take offense to it. Also, people can walk up to you and make the spitting noises three times  and say that they did it just in case someone compliments you today. People will not stop complimenting you. You just have to do this to avoid the evil eye. Everyone in Greece does this. I learned this from my mother when I was really little.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important because I don’t want to get the evil eye! Actually, one time, one of my cousins had a friend who died when she was little. She told me that it was because of the evil eye, and it really freaked me out. I asked my mom, and she told me not to believe that too heavily but to always follow the superstition to be safe. Once, in high school, I got a really bad headache for days. My mom asked if I had been doing the spitting noises, and I hadn’t for a while, so I got back to doing that. Also, sometimes when my mom gets lightheaded, she blames it on that. It’s all in our heads, but in the back of our minds, we think it’s possible.


Personal Thoughts: I really enjoyed hearing about this piece of folklore because I never realized how seriously Aliki, and Greeks in general, take the evil eye. What is also interesting is that this piece promotes those receiving compliments to take caution. In a sense, it keeps them from being conceited and just accepting compliments, which is admirable.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Foodways

“Your mother-in-law loves you” Greek Tradition

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:
Informant: This takes place when you are eating at the dinner table. Say my aunt will call us. In Greek, my mother will say to my aunt, “Your mother-in-law loves you.” When she says this, my aunt will understand that she is at the table eating. That way, she doesn’t have to explain to my aunt that she is eating; she just gets it. This phone conversation has to take place between two Greeks because you speak the phrase in Greek. My aunt, or whoever is on the phone, and my mom can laugh it off, and my aunt will tell her to enjoy her meal and hang up. My mother taught me this when I was about thirteen. That’s around the time I saw her do this for the first time. I just remember that one day, my mom kept saying it.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s just kind of important to know because it’s part of my culture. Also, it’s useful to know because if I called someone and they said that my mother-in-law loves me, I should understand what it means.

Personal Thoughts: I like this piece of folklore a lot because I think it is very unique. It is interesting to me that Greeks have a general understanding of what to do when they hear the phrase, “Your mother-in-law loves you” over the phone. I also find it compelling because it seems that this phrase takes just as long to say as something like, “I’m eating right now. I’ll call you back.” Since the two are just as simple to say, it is interesting that Greeks choose to say something which most people would deem more confusing, rather than just explaining what they are doing.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Albanian Proverb

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context:We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: There’s a proverb that Albanians say. It goes, “When you have given nothing, ask for nothing.” So, it has a lot to say about respect in Albanian culture. We believe in returning favors and that, basically, you only get what you give. If you don’t give anything, you don’t get anything. It’s kind of like karma. I learned this from my dad. He was trying to teach me valuable lessons about appreciation and hard work .He taught me this when I was in middle school and I asked him for money. Like always, he had to turn this into a life lesson.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important because it taught me about not being greedy. You only get what you give. I feel like it’s so opposite of American culture. It reminds me not to be selfish. Honestly, so much Albanian folklore has that message.


Personal Thoughts: I think that it is fascinating to learn about the central messages of folklore of different cultures. I found it very interesting that Mrika said that much of her folklore is about not being selfish and making sure to return favors. The fact that their proverbs revolve around other people aside from themselves is admirable.

Digital
Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

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.

Customs
Folk speech
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

How to Name Scottish Royalty

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate comes from “a long lineage of Scottish kings and clan leaders of a certain group of isles.”

The Tradition: In Scotland, the ritual for naming a child in a family line, particularly if they’re royalty, is to simply add the prefix “Mc” or “Mac” to the name of the father and make that the child’s surname.

Example: My roommate has an ancestor with the full title Angus McRonald McDonald Sworely, King of the Isles. Thus, he is alternatively know as King Angus, Son of Ronald McDonald Sworely, who was himself at one point King Ronald, Son of Donald Sworely.

(Note: The proper spelling of the surname “Sworely” is unknown.)

Analysis: I found this Scottish process of naming is most comparable to the Vikings’ method of creating the “____son” surname (Ex: Lief Erikson, or Lief, Son of Erik). I put a little research into the claims my roommate made, and the only thing I found off about the whole thing was that the names mentioned above are in fact “MacDonald” rather than “McDonald” (I kept the piece above as is for the sake of putting down what I was told by my roommate).

Folk speech
Proverbs

Hawaiian Proverb

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My mother’s mother’s mother and even from before her are from Hawaii but some England roots are interjected into the bloodline as well. My mother’s father’s father’s father hails half from Hawaii and the other half from China and Portugal. But what is funny about most Hawaiians, is that they are not only Hawaiian. They are also Caucasian, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, Samoan, Japanese, Korean, e.t.c…….Plantation workers were brought in to work the sugar and pineapple fields and they brought their culture with them.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: I maika’i ke kalo i ka ‘oha 

Transliteration:  I maika’i ke kalo i ka ‘oha 

Translation: The goodness of the taro is judged by the young plant it produces.

Piece Background Information:

 I maika’i ke kalo i ka ‘oha ” basically means that “parents are often judged by the behavior of their children”.

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Context of Performance:

Via email.

Thoughts on Piece: 
The informant is my half-sister and we have over a 20 year age gap. I met her when our father was dying and I immediately noticed her mother-like qualities as she was very caring and would look after me and my sisters in light of the difficult time. She is a mother of seven and has home-schooled all of her children (including some who are older than me) and also loves to cook for, and support her children at their sports meets. That being said, when I asked her if she had any Hawaiian folklore to share, it came to no surprise that she shared this proverb on parenting. Her believing that the actions of her kids reflect on her own parenting, like a responsible parent should, clearly demonstrates to me why she is such a good parent.
folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

Arabic Expression

طلعله من الجمل اذنه

Transliteration: Telaalu min al jamal ednu.

Translation: “He got only the camel’s ear.”

When someone works hard to get big share of a deal but the outcome turns out to be very small because many other people shared it with him.

Background information: An expression known in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. This is a common figure of speech in the Arabic language.

Context: The informant told me about this expression in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is a very interesting way to describe this situation, one that appears to be quite common all throughout history to today. I find the use of metaphors in other languages to be fascinating and a colorful way to carry out the language. I don’t think I use nearly the amount of metaphors as other languages (such as Arabic) when I speak English.

folk simile
Folk speech

Like dogs in church- “Como perros en misa”

“Como perros en misa”- Like dogs in church. This saying is used when one is having the worst day possible where you feel attacked from all sides with no warning. Back in the day in Colombia, churches used to have their door always open and on hot days, stray dogs would sometimes seek refuge inside a cool tile church only to be physically kick out by a variety of feet, leaving what should have been a sanctuary, bruised and confused. So when you ask someone how was their day and they answer “Como perros en misa” you now know that they have had a surprisingly terrible day. The correct response is “I am so sorry, that sounds horrible” as you would expect to react to a puppy being kicked without reason.

Analysis: There have been times this semester when everyday for a whole week I felt like a “perro en misa” because everything would go wrong and an undesirable event would happen like surprise reading quiz. The American version would be something like “ when it rains, it pours” but that along with “Mercury is in retrograde” seem more impersonal and generalized, while “perros en misa” is more specific and means that you are personally are being brutalized, not the whole world.

folk simile
Folk speech
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

“Hacer Conejo”-To Rabbit

“Hacer Conejo” – an expression meaning to bail out on the check at a restaurant incorporates folk simile, folk gesture and humor. Holding up two fingers (index and middle fingers in a spread out V) behind your head means you are thinking about doing “conejo” and lets the others in your group to get ready to run without paying the bill. It is also a way to freak out a friend who is still eating and scare them in to thinking you are about to bail out. When I asked my grand Aunt Marlly, who had married my Grandfather’s brother, she said she had never hear of the story and the expression that it sounded rather sordid. I realized that the story was attached to what social economic level you grew up in. My grand aunt came from an upper class family, while my Grandfather and all of his brothers came from a poorer lower class family where being able paying the bill was not always possible. My Grandmother came from an impoverish class that would never even think about eating in a restaurant in the first place, but she was aware of the expression and knew people who had gotten away with it. The trick was to be a very fast runner and not to have eaten too much.

Analysis: This folk simile, to my maternal grandfather, is more of a humorous gag expression, meant to scare or outrage the other diners you were with. Making the gesture is a way to get a point across without tipping your hand. I personal think is kind of funny, especially when I explain it to other people. In the U.S. the folk gesture of the rabbit ears made with the fingers has a different meaning and when I explain what it means in Colombia, I usually get a laugh or extreme fascination.

Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Guatemalan Eclipse Ritual

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

The informant was born and raised in Guatemala, but immigrated here to America when he was about seventeen. He has not and will probably never go back to Guatemala as he fears he will be killed.

Piece: 

When I saw my first eclipse… lunar, you know a moon eclipse? I heard… well first we moved to the country because my grandma was dying. I grew up in the city and when I moved into the farm, everything was new to me. So I remember when the moon eclipsed, everybody was there banging things- they were banging the ceiling of the house, they were banging drums, making noise, you know? Because they thought that it would be the end of the world. *laughs* I got so scared! *laughs* That night I couldn’t sleep. It was, it was kind of disturbing for me.

Were they trying to scare you?

I don’t know, maybe they were kind of, kind of ignorant you know? They thought that the moon was fighting with the sun. You know what I mean? And the sun was… it was like that. This is something that they’d think for years. They thought that the moon was fighting with the sun. So they were rooting for the moon and that is why they were making so much noise.

So they were cheering on the moon?

Yeah… it was weird. I don’t know if they still do that. They probably still do, or maybe not because you know… traditions sometimes die. It was in the 60s you know? The beginning of the 60s. I was very young.

Did they tell you to bang on things too?

They want me to. They want me to but I was like… scared. I was surprised you know cause I never saw one of those things. I mean I didn’t know that there was so much superstition in that… in that people’s heads. You know, I don’t know… there was dancing, they were looking at the moon. I was like… I don’t know. The only thing I remember I told my dad, “what happened?” And my dad just laughed. You know because my dad didn’t believe in all this stuff.

Piece Background Information:

Informant already expanded that he thinks that the people he witnessed partaking in this tradition were ignorant, and that he did not quite understand what was happening at the time.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day at informant’s house in Calabasas, California.

Thoughts on Piece: 

I could tell while collecting that the informant (who is my boyfriend’s father) was and still is very disturbed by this experience, which reflects in the fact that he is disconnected from Guatemala. He was very young when he witnessed this and it adds to why to this day, when we go out to lunch, he is always saying that Guatemalans are very superstitious- it scared him to death because he literally thought the world was going to end. Upon further research, I found further expansions on this belief that one must cheer on the moon during an eclipse so that it does not die. Apparently, without the moon, it is thought that there will be lots of deaths within the community and the age range of the persons involved in these deaths (children to elders) depends on the size of the moon being eclipsed.

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