USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘friends’
Proverbs

Friends Proverb

MG: Cual is tu favorito dicho?

Which is  your favorite proverb?

CG: “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres. Como si te juntas con personas inteligentes seras inteligente y si te juntas con personas malosas tambien vas a ser cosas malas.”

Tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are. Like if you are around people who are intelligent you are going to be intelligent too and if you hang out with people who do bad things you are also going to do bad things.

English proverb: “A man is known for his friends”

Context: I asked CG for her favorite proverb and this was the first one that came to her mind.

Background: CG is my mom and she was born in Mexico. She came here when she was 17 years old and she still remembers these proverbs that old wise people would tell her. She believes it especially because the people who you are around can strongly influence who you are. She has told this one to me before and when she told me the proverb many stories of her using this one on me came to mind.

Thoughts: This is a well-known proverb and I was not too surprised to find that there is an official English version of this proverb. Growing up my mom would tell me this whenever she would advise me to choose my friends wisely. She has always explained to me that even if I did not do bad things with my friends, people would automatically make assumptions on who I was by the people I would hang out with. This is a common Mexican proverb used in families within the context of gangs. There is a large amount of young people in the Latin American culture who are involved in gangs and this proverb is used to discourage them from being friends with gang members.

 

Customs
Folk speech
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Friendship Toast

When at a large group dinner with many friends all drinking and eating, Lizzie offers a toast:

“There’s good ships and wood ships and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships so cheers to you and me”

After she gave the toast, I ask when she uses that particular toast:

“I use it every time I’m with good friends, old or new, to bring everyone together. Regardless of if everyone knows each other or not, it gives everyone a reason to laugh.”

 

 

Background: Lizzie is a recent graduate from USC originally from Riverside, CA and now living in Westwood, CA.

Context: Lizzie will offer this toast frequently when out drinking or eating with friends. I personally heard her say this once at a small party and another time at a birthday dinner. Originally, Lizzie heard it from another friend offering it as a toast when she was 17 years old living in Riverside. She then adopted it as her signature toast and her friends always expect it from her now.

Analysis: Proverbial sayings and in particular short toasts spread very easily since they are usually concise and catchy. In this circumstance, I found it interesting to consider a proverb or toast becoming a part of someone’s personal identity or image to other people like this has for Lizzie. Whenever Lizzie is at an intimate social event, her friends expect this toast from her. It made me consider any phrases or sayings that I frequently use in my daily vocabulary, and if there is a word-based habit that would remind my friends or family of me.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Oktoberfest

About the Interviewed: Julian is a senior at Calabasas High School. He’s passionate about Oboe Performance and Theatre. At 18 years of age, Julian is also my younger brother. He generally identifies as Caucasian American, but like myself, he has a close ethnic lineage tracing back to Germany and Ireland.

I asked Julian about Oktoberfest and our family history of celebrating it.

Julian: “I like Oktoberfest. It’s fun. It’s not a day like most people think – it’s like two and a half weeks. In Germany, people celebrate for a long time.”

I ask Julian if he remembers what Oktoberfest is about.

Julian: “It’s just a festival – I think. It was the marriage festival for German King [King Ludwig I] in the early 1800’s. It was so fun that people never stopped celebrating it. There’s a lot of music and dancing. And beer. (laughs)”

I ask Julian what Oktoberfest means to him.

Julian: “It means booze! (laughs) I’m joking, I’m kidding. It’s when grandma and grandpa [our mom's side] and all of Dad’s friends come over here. We have a party. And I get a glass.”

Since we both turned thirteen, our parents give us a glass each year so that we don’t feel left out during the annual party. It’s not a lot of beer, but it’s meant to keep us cheerful.

I ask Julian why our family celebrates Oktoberfest like we do.

Julian: “Well, it’s more like a get-together. Our grandparents all came from Germany, so it’s a fun way to celebrate our heritage. Yeah it’s just fun, I guess. It’s about celebrating family and friends. I mean, it’s the only time other than Christmas when we’re all here together.”

“We only celebrate it for a day, but it’s a unique sorta celebration.”

Summary

My family celebrates the German Festival of Oktoberfest once a year by throwing an annual house party. Though it’s not celebrated in the *authentic* German way, it’s meant to be a fun way of touching our heritage.

Oktoberfest isn’t that complex of a festival; it’s not steeped in religious tradition, but it carries a sort of nationalistic pride. My parents are both second-generation German folk, meaning their parents came from the motherland. My parents were raised observing Germanic traditions and to them, this is a way of giving back. My family celebrates Oktoberfest the same way others celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or Mardi Gras, but we do it with the idea of uniting both family and friends.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

You don’t have friends; you have associates.

Information about the Informant

My informant currently lives near USC, near enough that he likes to ride his bicycle around the campus to relax and swim in the John C. Argue Swim Stadium. He grew up in downtown Los Angeles. He spent his childhood and adolescence in the impoverished parts of the city. Even now, though according to him, he has a “nice place” now with neighbors that don’t bother him if he doesn’t bother them, he still sees people he knows to be either gang members or pimps or prostitutes, and he avoids them as he doesn’t want to get caught up in their ways of life. In this account, he tells me about how he avoided falling into a bad way of life in the first place.

Transcript

“You know, when I was coming up, I have a lot of friends down, you know, and most of them, they dead or in jail, right? Or sprung out on crack somewhere. All the drugs. So, um, when I was like, uh, I don’t know. I’d say about, I’d say about thirteen, fourteen years old. Mom used to say this. She used to say, “Yo, you think you got friends out there, but you really don’t have friends,” you know. “You got ‘ssociates,” that’s what she said. “A friend is somebody that’s gonna be with you, you know what I’m saying? Through thick or thin, you know; that’s a real friend. But these people you meet, they out here, they’re trying to, you know, they drinking with you, they doing wrong with you, wanting you to do wrong, those is not your friend.”

So, you know, I listen to Mom, and then again, there goes these old, these old winos used to be out there on the corner, drinking their little wine, you know, not, not, not like bum winos, but they just be out there on the corner drinking wine and just getting together, you know. So one time, they, they would stopped us, you know, they say, “Man, you, whatcha’ll going? Where y’all going? Whatcha’ll doing?” “Well, we’re just going around, just, you know, just chilling, just, just going around, you know.” “Y’all gonna get in some trouble. Now, let me tell y’all,” and you know what, he explain to us just like what my mom said, you know, same way, you know. And it, it, it got to me, you know. Now, a lot of kids nowadays, they don’t believe what their mother tell them, you know what I’m saying? They, they, they go out there and do things and—but I took notice. I said, “Now, why would this guy just sit there and tell me something that my, my mom just told me, you know. So what she’s saying must be true. She don’t even know this guy. Right?” So, right then, I cut with those friends a loose. I slowed down with them. And I basically, ‘cause you know, ‘cause we was done, we headed for the wrong way, doing things out there, the wrong thing. And so these guy—you know, I cut them loose, and as I did that—I, I didn’t just like, bam, going out, I won’t see y’all no more. But I, you know, when they wanted me to do things, oh, I got something, you know, I’d tell them that. You know, I’m doing something else.”

Analysis

I would not have entered this as a piece of folklore if not for the fact that I too have heard people say this. The one specific instance from my life that I can remember came from my mother. Searching for this possible proverb on Google turns up an article called “Friends vs. Associates: How Do You Know Who’s Who?” It may be coincidental, but the article is featured on a site called Single Black Male, and my informant himself is African American, as was, presumably, his mother. I could also speculate that my own mother may have heard this from the African American community in Baltimore where she lived while she was in America. No matter where it came from, it is a useful piece of advice. While not always phrased the same way, therefore not making it a true proverb, it does always feature the same two key words, that is, “friends” and “associates.” These two words are the most important as they are the types of people being compared in the advice, considering whether the person in question is truly a friend or merely an associate who may not want the best for you as a friend would. In this way, the advice resembles a metaphor or a simile, although it is never stated in either form, comparing and contrasting two concepts in order to define the qualities of both. In this case, of course, the important thing is how the concepts differ and not how they are alike.

Growing up in the neighborhood that he did, my informant told me many stories about the terrible tragedies and crimes he’s seen in the darker parts of Los Angeles. Many of them involve gang-related activities, and he constantly expressed his relief that he never truly got involved in any of that and his determination to never be dragged into it through associating with the wrong people. If indeed this is a piece of advice that specifically circulates throughout African American communities, then my informant’s case is certainly indicative of why this is. The unfortunate reality is that impoverished African American communities still suffer a disproportionately higher rate of crime, and specifically gang-related crime, and the poverty in those communities plus the temptation of the benefits one gets from being a part of a gang does drive many young kids growing up in those neighborhoods to becoming a part of the lifestyle that my informant is glad he avoided. This piece of advice then would be helpful in telling those kids to re-evaluate the peers they associate with and determine whether or not those peers have their best interests at heart.

Citation for the article on Single Black Male:

Streetz. “Friends vs. Associates: How Do You Know Who’s Who?” Single Black Male. Web. 1 May. 2014. <http://www.singleblackmale.org/2011/12/21/friends-vs-associates-how-do-you-whos-who/>.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Proverbs

“Gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang”

“gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang”

Literal translation: “close to ink then black, near by light then bright”

The informant learned of this Vietnamese proverb when he was in third grade of Vietnamese school, while studying for a test.  Again he heard it from his grandmother also, which is when he began to remember it clearly.  His grandmother would tell him this proverb whenever she talked about his studies and friends at school.  She would say, “gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang,” which implies that you are what your friends make of you.  If you hang out with bad friends (ink), you will become bad (black).  If you have good friends (light), they will influence you to become good (bright).  The informant believes this piece of wisdom because he sees it come true in his cousins’ lives.  One was really wild and rebellious and when she found a boyfriend who was very religious and good, she began to change into her old, nice self.  The informant likes to retell this to his friends who are Vietnamese, often making them laugh because normally one would not randomly quote a proverb out of the blue, but he likes to lighten the mood with quirky sayings.

This is a fairly common Vietnamese proverb, often used to teach younger kids to have good friends and be influenced by good people, opposed to bad friends.  The original proverb is actually a play on words as well as a useful saying about choosing your friends wisely.  It is slightly repetitive yet different, it also uses “đen” for black and “đèn” for light, in order to emphasize the similarities between the two phrases for increased memorability.  This creates the most unique phrase that is easy to learn and easy to say.  Usually it is the older generation teaching the younger generation, as it is in the informant’s case.  However, the younger generation can also spread it to others.  I believe they spread the knowledge because somewhere deep down they have an appreciation for the Vietnamese language and because that proverb is so true and the play on words is so easy to memorize, it remains in one’s memory, even from childhood.

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