Tag Archives: folk speech

Haud Yer Wheesht!


I conducted this interview over the phone, the subject was born and raised in Scotland before moving to England, Canada, the United States, then to Northern Ireland, and, finally, back to the United States. I knew she continued to practice certain traditions which were heavily present in her childhood and wanted to ask her more about them.



Interviewer: “Growing up, did you have any sayings that were thrown around your home in Scotland?”

Subject: “Well my mom used to yell ‘Haud yer wheesht!’ at us all the time, she still does. [Laughs] She even does it to you guys, it’s just become part of everyday language for her. It basically means ‘shut up’ but it’s in Scottish. I try not to say it, but when I do people give me a weird look and then I have to explain, and it basically ruins the point of the phrase since we’re talking so much now.”



I’ve found that this is an extremely common phrase in Scotland. According to the Scotsman, “First used in the 14th century, ‘wheesht’ has the handy bonus of being very adaptable. It can be used as a verb, a noun, and an interjection as in asking someone to ‘haud their wheesht’.”

The word ‘wheesht’ comes from adding more sounds to the command ‘Shh’. Many have found that the saying is more dramatic and demanding than the usual “Shut up” and is therefore more effective, especially when said with the seething tone of the wonderful Scottish accent.


Biblical Proverb

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with a friend marked HL. I am marked CS. She shared with me a proverb she was told growing up from her Grandmother.


HL: “My mom always told me a biblical proverb. It was ‘to he who much is given, much is expected.”

CS: “Can you explain to me what this proverb means?”

HL: “Well I was raised in a Christian home, and it reflects the environment I was surrounded by the way I was brought up. This proverb has religious context, obviously, and I think it’s from a specific passage from the Bible but I can’t remember. The proverb basically means that because God has given me so many gifts and talents, like I shouldn’t waste them, you know what I mean? Someone shouldn’t waste their talents that were gifted to them.”

CS: “Makes sense. So does all of your family agree with and follow this proverb?”

HL: “Yeah my mom told it to my brother and all almost throughout like our entire childhood.”



HL is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Mission Viejo, California in a family with a strong Catholic background.


An in person conversation at a local coffee shop.



I enjoy this proverb, namely because it is so relevant to many other kids my age and sounds similar to some of the sayings my mom also told me growing up. I think it’s important for these proverbs to reflect one’s heritage or culture in that these are the values one’s parents are instilling into them. They are words to live by and hopefully pass down again one day.

Old Age Proverb

The following proverb was recorded from a conversation I had with a friend marked HL. I am marked CS. She shared with me a proverb she was told growing up from her Grandmother.


HL: “Experience is a comb that nature gives us when we’re bald.”

CS: “Can you explain to me a brief translation?”

HL: “Sure. In other words, I think it’s meant to be along the lines of how as we age we are gifted more experience and knowledge over time. I like it. We said it all of the time in my house.”



HL is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Mission Viejo, California in a family with a strong Catholic background.


An in person conversation at a local coffee shop.



I enjoyed this proverb because it feels very frank, honest, and has an air of optimism. Instead of making age and growing up a dreadful future, it appreciates the growing because one gains much more knowledge and experience than they previously had. I think this saying is really important and something that could very well be spoken across many different kinds of cultures. I also enjoy its lighthearted and almost humorous tone, making the words less serious and indefinite and instead suggestive and admiring.


Feminist Riddle

I am a big fan of riddles, and I decided to search online for some specifically geared towards exercising the brain. Below, I recorded one I had never heard before, and most stood out to me


Question: Three doctors said that Robert was their brother. Robert said he had no brothers. Who is lying?

Answer: Neither, the doctors were his sisters.


I enjoy this riddle because clearly it is clever, but beyond that, I like that it is a slight take on feminism and misogynistic undertones. It merely suggests our mind is trained to associate siblings with firstly brotherhood, and also careers such as doctors. Usually, a classic feminist motivation is to clear up sexism in the work force, specifically in demand-driven jobs such doctors, surgeons, lawyers, etc. To me, this is an interesting example of folklore because I think it offers historical, political, and social context of feminism. It reflects, depending on when this riddle actually emerged, on a certain social climate of the time. It would be even more interesting to learn of the origination of this riddle.


Website Citation: For more references of other similar riddles, visit the following URL:




Riddle of the Days

I am a big fan of riddles, and I decided to ask my friend, marked KB, if she knew of any. She shared with me one.


Question: Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?

Answer: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.


Phone conversation in which I recorded KB’s recounts of folk similes as well as a riddle she grew up learning.


KB is a freshman at the University of Southern California and grew up in Austin, Texas.


I enjoy this riddle because it is clever and something I never would have thought of. It would be interesting to further research this riddles origins and possibly link it to specific heritages or cultures.

Cincinnati Proverb

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with a friend marked HL. I am marked CS. She shared with me a proverb she was told growing up from her Grandmother.


HL: “If you get on the bus to Cincinnati, don’t be surprised when you get to Cincinnati.”

CS: “And how would you translate this proverb?”

HL: “Basically, if you have sex outside of marriage and you’re not on the pill, don’t be surprised when you have a kid.”

CS: “Was this proverb said often in your house?”

HL: “So like my grandma used to say that to my mom when she was a teenager, and now that I’m getting older she says it to me. And of course my mom always says it to make fun of her.”

CS: “Do you think she really believes in that proverb?”

HL: “Yeah. 100%.”

CS: “Do you think you’ll tell your kids that saying?”

HL: “No. Only to give them more information about their great grandma. I’ve also never been to Cincinnati and don’t plan on it.”



HL is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Mission Viejo, California in a family with a strong Catholic background.


An in person conversation at a local coffee shop.



What I found so fascinating about this proverb was merely that I completely misinterpreted it until HL further explained its meaning. Initially, I would have translated the proverb to simply being if you make a choice, or have a wish, don’t be surprised when that decision has consequences or the wish comes true. However, I was clearly way off from its actual meaning, or at least the meaning has for her family. I also found this proverb to be unique in the sense that I haven’t heard of a saying quite like that before that seems to have such a true-to-life and almost blunt, candid undertone.


Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (CS) and I (ZM).

ZM: Do you know any like sayings? Like do your parents say anything like, that’s like a… like a proverb or anything?

CS: Mmmm

ZM: Like a one-liner? Or like a two-liner?

CS: When they’re praying, or not when they’re praying, but I don’t know if it’s a proverb. It’s just like a thing that every Filipino says. I don’t know if this counts, but like… Um. When their like mad or just like an exclamation of just like emotion, you know when people’ll be like, “God!” or something like that? Like anything like that.

ZM: Shit. Jes.. er Christ! Yeah people say “Christ”

CS: Yeah. (laughs) Every Filipino, like older person will say like, “Susmarioseph.” Which is like Jesus, Mary and Joseph combined. (laughs) And EVERYONE says it. And it’s, I didn’t understand what it meant until like I asked my mom like, “What are you saying?” It was like a combination, It’s “susmarijoseph.” So it’s “sus,” Jesus, “mari,” Maria, and “oseph” is Joseph.

ZM: Wow. That’s the best one I’ve heard.

CS: I don’t’ know if that counts, but that’s what they say when their mad, when their happy, anything, that’s just… the line they say. It’s like “Oh my god!”, but like, but like better. It’s an evolved version of “Oh my god.”

ZM: Yeah. It combines everything. Touches all the bases.


Context:Over the weekend I visited CS at her home and noticed gold coins laying around on various coffee tables and such. A few days later I asked her about them and this continuation of the conversation was recorded then.


Background: The performer is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She is first generation American and her parents came from the Philippines. They are Roman Catholic.


Analysis:I thought this was kind of funny because a lot of people will use single names of God when cursing like “Jesus!” “Christ!” or “Oh my god!” This one captures everything in one.


¡Que Viva La Marihuana!

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

KM: There’s this thing, like it’s related to Zozobra… (laughs) That’s all I can think of right now. It’s like um… So, what we do is like… Basically, there’s like this call and response type of thing that we do. So, it’s in Spanish, but it’s like “Que viva la fiestas,” Or like, “Long live the fiestas.” And we respond like, “Que viva.” But, we’ve kind of co-opted it to mean anything. So like, one time we were just like smoking weed (laughs) and my friend was like, “¡Que viva la marihuana! ¡Que viva!” Long live the weed. (laughs) So, I mean we do that a lot. Like… I mean, but not with weed (laughs) Sorry. We could do like um… What would we… So, we would be like, um… I don’t know, “Que viva…” I hate to say this, but like the baseball team in Albuquerque is the Isotopes. So like, “Que viva la Isotopes.”


Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture. Zozobra is a New Mexican festival composed of multiple fiestas.


Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Analysis: Although the phrase is in Spanish, the usage suggests a lack of knowledge of the Spanish language because the article is continuously left in the singular form even when the nouns are plural.




El chamuco, Mexico

This folk saying was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. El chamuco is a Mexican folk saying mostly used to as a slang term referring to the devil. It often comes with religious undertones, and some versions are very detailed; for example, some people believe that his body is on fire, has one cat leg and one chicken leg, and smells strongly like copper.


It was used in her household in different ways. Her mother would often say things like, “go to sleep right now or el chamuco will eat you.” The hostile tone of that type of threat-like statement made her feel very scared as a child.


However, people also used it to refer to an evil or angry person. When her mother got angry, her father would say “if you get any angrier the chamuco is going to come out of you.” It soon became a running joke with her siblings to refer to their mother as el chamuco when they wanted to tease her. She would get really angry, which they just thought proved their point.


Even though I wasn’t familiar with el chamuco specifically, my parents had similar ways of getting me to listen to them, like el cuco, which was used in the same context as el chamuco and I would think could even be a variation of it. As I pay closer attention to Latin American sayings and legends, I am beginning to see that parents tend to scare their children into behaving, which is really interesting. I think Latin American parents are very strict and more religious than the average American, which is reflected in these folk sayings.

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.