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

Force and Justice

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and she visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.

Performance:

“‘Where force rules, justice does not exist.’ It’s not like, commonly used in conversation or anything, but like, I don’t think that’s what these things are for. I think it probably has something to do with all of the, you know, chaos (laughter) in the baltic region and whatnot. The soviets just kind of swooped in and screwed everything up, and so, yeah, where force rules, justice does not exist.”

Thoughts:

This is another politically salient proverb. As Tijana mentioned, it speaks to both the chaotic political situation in the post-war Baltic region as well as current tensions with Russia and the budding nationalist movement in the US. This proverb places a higher value on calm heads and diplomatic solutions than brute force.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Learning and Loving

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old student at USC; she’s studying neuroscience with an eye towards medical school. Her father is Laotian and French and her mother is French.

Performance:

“It goes: ‘learning means loving your country.’ I probably heard it from my Dad, since he’s a teacher, but I can’t really remember. It sort of reminds me of those bumper stickers that say ‘dissent is patriotic.’ Like, question everything, due your research, don’t just sit there and be complacent. Like, you’re only your best self and making your best contributions to, um, society, if you’re out there bettering yourself and asking questions and being aware of everything. Super important right now, with all of the fake news and stuff like that.”

Thoughts:

Like my informant said, this proverb seems to be of great significance in our current political climate. It speaks to the importance of education and knowledge in a political context; interestingly, it values the individual and the individual’s contribution over the state itself, which is unusual in the folklore we’ve studied. Generally the state and its glory, collective wellbeing and legacy are the focus of folklore.

Folk speech
general

Arabic Folk Speech to Handle Fear/Bless

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:

I’m from Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: 

بسم الله

Transliteration: Bismillah

Translation: In the name of Allah (or God)

Piece Background Information:

I’m from Saudi Arabia and in this country the culture is heavily influenced by religion. For example, we are taught from a very young age to say “bismillah” every time something scares or frightens us. Till this day, I automatically say “bismillah” whenever I get startled. It is also generally used whenever you start something to give it a holy blessing.

My sister taught it to me, she would always remind me about that- she’s my older sister. Whenever I get startled or scared of something, like a dog or something when I was little, I would start screaming and jumping and doing crazy things. She would just say “be calm, you shouldn’t be scared of things”. So it kind of just stuck with me and to this day, it’s kind of just a reflex. Sometimes I’m sitting or hanging out with Americans, and I say that, and they’re just like “what the fuck was that?”

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s apartment adjacent to USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

This piece emphasizes the Muslim ideal of strengthening their connection with Allah through exercising self control, thereby cleansing their minds, bodies, and spirits and also lends itself to this informant’s other accounts such as not believing in wearing a physical/tangible object for protection against the evil eye and instead focusing on the mind. It fits in with this informant’s overarching theme of this informant’s shared accounts with me (see:The Evil/Bad Eye and Arab Folk Beliefs on Protection Against It and see:see: Ramadan and the Ritual Celebration of Eid Alfutr).

Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Chinese Proverb/ Chengyu

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 parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: 蜻蜓点水

Transliteration: qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ

Translation: “The dragonfly touches the water lightly” or “superficial contact”

Piece Background Information:

We have a saying in my family that goes like “qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ”.

You know how when dragonflies fly around a pond and when they touch the water, they gently touch it and keep flying along? Well that’s just another way of describing someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. They say he’s just “qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ”. And that just means like they don’t go deep, they don’t go all the way into the water, they just touch it.

My mom would use this to describe my dad, for example when he would say he was going to clean the kitchen and like only clean half the dishes and leave everything else to be done. So I would hear that phrase used a lot.

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Context of Performance: 

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

The comparison of half-way cleaning to a dragonfly who skims the water is quite a romanticized outlook and allows for the conversation of “well… you really only cleaned a little bit” to be more easily had, as there is a funny context added to it. I can definitely relate to needing to somehow calmly and casually bring up to a roommate that they aren’t pulling their share.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk speech
general
Holidays
Homeopathic
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Gujarati Proverb Common Around Diwali

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:

I’m from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: मिच्छामि दुक्कडम्

Transliteration: micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ

Translation: “May all the evil that has been done be fruitless” or “If I have offended you in way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed, then I seek your forgiveness”.

Piece Background Information:

One specific thing that’s very interesting- whenever we meet someone on our new year’s day, we say micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ”. It basically means, “forgive me for anything I’ve done wrong over the past year and I want to start over on a clean slate with you”. Our new year, I think, comes right after Diwali- this big festival of lights. So it (the new year) is the day after that because the whole thing about Diwali is that it’s the conquering of good over evil, based on an ancient story.

So the ancient story is about this lord, he was called Lord Rama. He was a king who was in exile and his wife Sita was taken away by this evil king named Ravanna. So he crossed what is now called the region, the sea crossing between India, the south tip of India, and the current Sri Lanka to go and get his wife back. And they had like a fourteen day war where they basically, the two sides were fighting, and it ended with Rama putting an arrow through Ravana’s chest to kill him. The festival of lights celebrates his return after exile, back to the capital city.

Basically, we are asking for forgiveness from the other person and we want to start the new year off with a clean slate.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in Ronald Tutor Campus Center on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Through setting off fireworks, lanterns, and the like during Diwali, partakers in this tradition are recalling the celebrations that were believed to have taken place upon Rama and Sita’s return to their kingdom in northern India, after having been exiled and defeating King Ravanna. In this sense, Diwali can be seen as homeopathic magic as it is performed in order to bring about new beginnings/ wipe the slate clean through recalling the similar instance in which the slate was wiped clean for the once exiled Lord Rama. It also follows the Earth cycle as the celebration’s dates are dependent upon the Hindu lunar calendar.

For more information on Diwali, see Sims, Alexandra. “What is Diwali? When is the festival of lights?” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/diwali-what-is-the-festival-of-lights-and-when-is-it-celebrated-a6720796.html>.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

Informant AB is a 23-year-old male who is from the East Bay in Northern California. He is a student at the University of Southern California in his third year as a civil engineer major. Here, he discuses a proverb that he learned from his father while growing up:

AB: “My dad would always say, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’”

Where did your dad learn this proverb?

AB: “My dad learned it from his father who also learned it from his father.”

Does this proverb have any significance to you?

AB: “Absolutely. I believe that it is always best to save money when you have it and just because you do have money doesn’t mean you should be spending it. It is smarter to save it for a rainy day.”

How do you use this proverb in your everyday life?

AB: “I try to save as much money as I can and I generally don’t spend more than I take in. I’m always trying to save a little bit no matter what. And when the day comes when I have my own kids, I will pass this on to them to help them understand and learn the value of a dollar and to not spend frivolously because this was the way I was taught by my parents.”

Analysis:

This proverb that the informant shared with me I found to be very relatable in that I was raised in a similar way in regards to valuing money. This proverb was originally stated by one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin in the 1700’s. This proverb provides a positive connotation in that it is important to save money in the moment because it will benefit you in the long run. It teaches you to the importance and value of money and what you have.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Taj ko čeka, taj dočeka”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

“Taj ko čeka, taj dočeka.”

“A person who waits is a person who receives.”

In the Croatian language, the letter “j” is pronounced as a “y” sound and the “č” is pronounced as a “ch” sound like in English.

How do you know about this Croatian proverb?

MV: “Growing up in a Croatian and Italian family, it is a Croatian proverb that my parents used in our everyday lives.”

 How did your parents learn about this proverb?

MV: “Well my father learned this proverb from his parents while he was a very young boy growing up in Split, Croatia. It was a popular phrase used among our family members dating back generations ago. When he got older, he continued to pass this proverb onto his family.”

Does this Croatian proverb have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “It has great meaning to me because it is something that holds true to what I believe in and it is very much relevant to any generation and language today. I feel as though this proverb is relatable to most, if not everyone. This Croatian proverb is very similar to the one that says, ‘Good things come to those who wait,’ in that patience is rewarded to those who take the time to let things come that are truly meant to be. Not forcing the end result or expected outcome, but letting nature take its course in delivering what is really meant to be. You will meet your goal when you let patience and acceptance into your life.”

How can you or others relate to this proverb?

MV: “I think this proverb is fitting for me or anyone. When you think things are not going your way or something is not happening fast enough or not happening in the time frame that you would want it to happen in, it kind of makes you get your perspective and to move forward and to keep doing what you’re doing.”

In what context or situation would this be performed?

MV: “I use this Croatian proverb when I try to give advice to my kids, well, they’re not really kids anymore, but I say this when they are in times of frustration to remind them that everything happens in its own timing and that when you wait, what is meant for you will come along naturally.

Analysis:

This Croatian proverb is a great example of how folklore is spread orally over generations. Growing up in a traditional Croatian and Italian household, my mother learned the Croatian language before she learned Italian or English. As a child of immigrant parents, it was important to her and her family that they did not lose sight of their traditions. Once my mother had my older sister and I, we were taught Croatian before English, that way we were able to uphold our heritage and understand our family roots. Still knowing the language today, I find it comforting when my mom tells me this proverb in times of stress or frustration. It helps me to see past the obstacles that I am faced with in that particular moment. Now as an adult, this proverb especially resonates with me and I have continued to pass this proverb along to my friends.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Idimi dođimi”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

“Idimi dođimi” “Coming and going” 

In the Croatian language, the “đ” in the word “dođimi” has a “j” sound like in English.

 Where or who did you learn this Croatian proverb from?

MV: “I learned it from my parents and heard it from other family members in Split, Croatia growing up. It is a very descriptive, common proverb that is used to describe a person who is not reliable or consistent in their work or character.

Do you like this proverb?

MV: “I do very much and it is very short, sweet, and to the point.”

Does it have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “I just have heard a lot of people in my family say it and it has stuck to me over the years. It’s meant to be used in a light manner; it’s not a serious critique of a person or situation. It is usually said in a light, joking way and it usually involves a little laughing so that’s why I like it and use it because it really isn’t a negative thing. It is just a light way to describe something and everybody who is from Split knows what it means.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “This proverb is generally used to describe a personality type, someone who is not that driven or career oriented. It can also be used loosely to describe someone who does not have a clear goal in sight. It can be said in situations that are frustrating to help relief the tension in a light way.”

Analysis:

In Croatia, there are many different types of proverbs that are used throughout the different regions of the country. However, each region has its own vernacular. “Idimi dođimi” is a classic Split proverb that is used casually to describe a person’s disposition or demeanor. It is meant to be used in a light-hearted and joking manner. Growing up listening to my mom say, “Idimi dođimi” was also a type of way my mother reminded me that there are going to be people ‘coming and going’ out of your life and not everyone is meant to stay. She would say that those who ‘come and go’ are the people who are temporary placed within my life.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Mene musika nosi”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

 “Mene musika nosi”

 “Music carries me”

Can you expand on the meaning of this proverb?

MV: “This is generally used for describing yourself or another person who is fairly upbeat most of the time, not much gets them down. They don’t let the burdens of everyday life get in the way of their happiness. Music also tends to make people happy so this proverb has a positive, happy connotation.”

Where or who did you learn this Croatian proverb from?

MV: “I learned it through growing up in a Croatian and Italian household with parents who immigrated from Europe. It’s part of my cultural heritage. We spoke Croatian in our household fluently as it was the primary language in our family and friends.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “This proverb is mainly used to describe a person disposition. To this day, it is pretty common to use, not so much with the younger generation, but mostly with the middle age generation and the elderly. It is a quintessential proverb from Split, which is on the Dalmatian Coast where the Adriatic Sea is. That region is where a proverb like is originated.”

So this Croatian proverb is mostly regional more so than a generalized proverb that is know throughout Croatia?

MV: “Exactly because there was an influx of different people in different areas of Croatia who don’t know the history of Split and don’t know the old dialect and the old proverbs. It’s a melting pot like many places in Europe and in the world today. A lot of that gets filtered away, so it really is quite a gift to be able to move this forward generationally to my children. Knowing that my daughters know the Croatian language, they will uphold these proverbs and other traditional aspects of our heritage and that they will continue to pass them on to their own children and even their friends as well.”

Do you think Croatians from other parts of the country would be able to relate or understand this proverb in particular since it is a proverb from Split?

MV: “I think they would understand it, but they would look at you like you are from another generation or era because of the Split dialect used in this proverb and also because throughout Croatia, there are different dialects depending on the region, so that can influence the ability to fully understand the meaning behind it. There are people of course that would understand it who are not from Split, but it is not used as readily as it was when I was a child, so that is why I made sure and still make sure that my kids understand it and carry it along with them.”

Does this Croatian proverb have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “I use it quite frequently actually. It was kind of a joke in our family for a while because there was a good family member who would always be happy really no matter the circumstance and we would always say about him, ‘Mene musika nosi.’ It is certainly a positive, optimistic proverb used to describe how you feel or a person’s disposition.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “It could be something like if someone said, ‘Gosh, you are never down. Do you ever get upset?’ and the person would say, ‘Mene musika nosi,’which means that their general path in life is one of happiness as opposed to looking at life as the glass is half empty instead of half full. It is very comparable to that. It is a framework in which they view their life, but it’s not something that they think about, but more so how they live their everyday life.”

Analysis:

Music is a large part of our Croatian culture, which embodies positivity and self-expression. Croatia has maintained a vital musical culture since its independence in 1991 from the former Yugoslavia. “Mene musika nosi” is a classic proverb from the city of Split that my mother always uses. It is used as a reminder to never let the negative aspects of live interfere with the positive. It is a way at looking at life in the most optimistic way. Those who are content about how they live their life commonly use this proverb. It is a reminder to themselves and to others to not take life so seriously. I found it interesting how based on the regions and the different dialects that not everyone in Croatia will fully understand the meaning behind the proverb. Since the people of Split strictly use this proverb, people from other regions may not fully be able to relate to it.

 

Folk speech
Humor
Narrative

“Whatever you do, don’t step on the cracks”

Informant AB is a 23-year-old male who is from the East Bay in Northern California. He is a student at the University of Southern California in his third year as a civil engineer major. Informant AB was taught by his grandfather as a child to not walk on the cracks on the sidewalk to avoid bad luck:

AB: “When I was little, I would visit my grandparents on the weekends with my younger brother and we would sit in the family room all together after dinner. My grandfather would tell us all kinds of stories of when he was a kid growing up. He told us that his father would always tell him to never walk on the cracks on the side walk because it will give you bad luck for 7 years.”

How did your grandfather’s father learn about this type of lore?

AB: “Well, I asked him one day about the meaning behind the story and he said that his father learned it from a buddy of his when he was a kid. He said that his friend heard it from the neighborhood kids. My grandfather said it was mostly to be meant as a joke, but some of kids took it seriously, like my grandfather.”

Does this folklore have any significance to you?

AB: “Ya it’s pretty funny how it actually does mean something to me. Ever since my grandfather told me and my brother this story, I have been very conscious to walk a certain way to avoid the cracks in the ground. I know it’s mostly a joke and not meant to be taken too seriously, but just knowing the idea of the potential bad luck that can come from stepping on the cracks makes me more aware to avoid them. It’s pretty funny how seriously I take it sometimes.”

Have you shared your grandfather’s story with anyone else?

AB: “Ya I’ve told my buddy NC and a few other friends growing up about the story and it’s pretty funny now I have them doing the same thing. We know it’s not meant to be taken too serious, but I think it’s funny how much of an impact it made on all of us. Even at our age today we are still very mindful of the bad luck that can happen if we step on any cracks.”

Have your friends carried on this folklore in any way?

AB: “My brother and my friend NC have definitely shared this story with their friends just to mess with their minds in a joking way. They find it entertaining to make people feel that bad luck can happen if you step on cracks. It has become a running joke between all of us and it has managed to freak other people out.”

Analysis:

The informant’s example of oral folklore shows just how a story can cross boundaries between different groups of people and influence their everyday lives. It began with AB’s grandfather’s father who initially carried on the story, but now AB and his brother have continued to pass the story along to their group of friends. I find it interesting how this story has turned into an inside joke between friends, but how it also had such an impact that it managed to make them aware enough to avoid any chances of being struck with bad luck.

 

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