USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘guns’
Humor
Legends
Narrative

Police Officers and Guns in Minnesota

Main Piece

“So he… he was a…he was a cop. He was going into the bank, and there were always false alarms at the bank. He was running in the bank and he had a rifle in his hand, and the way he would always check if the safety was on was by pulling the trigger. One time, he was running and he went to check if the safety was on and the gun went off and he shot a statue outside in the ass.”

Background

Informant Details

Nationality: American

Location: Willmar, Minnesota

Language: English

The “cop” in the story is the informant’s Great Uncle Nick, but the stories were all originally told to the informant by the his Great Uncle’s brother, the informant’s Grandfather. The informant didn’t fully believe the stories until he attended Nick’s funeral. There, the informant heard the story told by other people, and now the informant completely believes the story.

The informant finds the story very funny, as did everyone else. Everyone who knew the story had a positive memory of both the informant’s Great Uncle and the story. Someone at the funeral commented to the informant the following: “The only thing that would surprise me about Nick [Great Uncle] is if any of those stories [referring to other stories about Nick and guns] weren’t true.”

Although the informant was not born at the time of these events, he fully believes in them and the fact that his Great Uncle Nick was a great, if sometimes irresponsible, handler of guns. The story means a great deal to the informant, and is one of the main memories he has of Nick, who has since passed away.

Context

The informant’s Great Uncle was a police officer from the 1950’s to the 1980’s in West Central Minnesota, and the story occurred somewhere in this time period.

Notes

The story and people’s positive reaction to it are demonstrative of America’s somewhat irresponsible history with guns, which is where much of modern gun culture presumably comes from. It is also interesting that people’s belief in Nick’s escapades is unshakeable. He has become something of a ‘legendary’ local figure.

 

Humor
Legends
Narrative

Police Officers and Guns in Minnesota, Piece #2

Main Piece

“One time they were, ah shit, I think they were at the range, and next to the range was a locker room. He was looking at a gun, and he asked if it was loaded, and someone said they didn’t know, so he pointed the gun at the wall and pulled the trigger. The safety was off, and the bullet went right through the locker and went through someone’s police jacket, and the owner never found out where the hole was from and never got a new one. Oh, and one time he blew a hole in the roof of a squad car while testing a shotgun.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Willmar, Minnesota

Language: English

The “cop” in the story is the informant’s great uncle Nick, but the stories were all originally told to the informant by the his great uncle’s brother, the informant’s Grandfather. The informant didn’t fully believe the stories until he attended Nick’s funeral. There, the informant heard the story told by other people, and now the informant completely believes the story.

The informant finds the story very funny, as did everyone else. Everyone who knew the story had a positive memory of both the informant’s great uncle and the story. Someone at the funeral commented to the informant the following: “The only thing that would surprise me about Nick is if any of those stories weren’t true.”

Although the informant was not born at the time of these events, he fully believes in them and the fact that his great uncle Nick was a great, if sometimes irresponsible, handler of guns. The story means a great deal to the informant, and is one of the main memories he has of Nick, who has since passed away.

Context

The informant’s great uncle was a police officer from the 1950’s to the 1980’s in West Central Minnesota, and the story occurred somewhere in this time period.

Notes

The story and people’s positive reaction to it are demonstrative of America’s somewhat irresponsible history with guns, which is where much of modern gun culture presumably comes from. It is also interesting that people’s belief in Nick’s escapades is unshakeable. He has become something of a ‘legendary’ local figure.

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shooting guns to welcome visitors

My friend Amal is of Jordanian and Lebanese descent. She told me the following story about a tradition in the town of Fuheis, Jordan, and a chaotic culture clash resulting from it:

“My grandfather was from a wild west of Jordan, otherwise known as Fuheis. And like, so in Jordan like, at weddings- not weddings but like parties the night before the wedding; I don’t know if there’s even an equivalent in America ’cause it’s not like a bridesmaid’s, it’s not like a shower. So at the party the night before the wedding you like shoot guns in the air. And then also like, sometimes to like, welcome someone who’s coming to your town you like, or if there’s a party, you just shoot a gun in the air. And so there was this um, famous Arabic singer who was coming to do a concert in Fuheis, um, I forget his name…But um, famous Arabic singer, like really big concert, blah blah blah. And uh, he’s like introducing himself and his set and my grandfather yells and like runs up on stage and is like, ‘welcome! We’re so happy to have you in Fuheis!’ and whips out a gun. And shoots the gun in the air. And this guy has uh, has never been to Fuheis, he doesn’t know this tradition, and he is terrified and security drags my grandfather away. And uh, that’s my fun story about our traditions.”

This personal account of a tradition in practice demonstrates the ways in which local folklore can create unpleasant or funny results when placed in a context with outsiders who aren’t familiar with it. These kinds of recontextualizations result from an increasingly interconnected and officialized world in which non-institutionalized local traditions often remain.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Don’t Jump the Gun” in Norwegian

“Okay, so it’s this thing, and it’s literally translated, ‘Don’t sell the bear’s pelt.’ Is that what it is? Pelt is fur? Yeah, ‘Don’t sell the bear’s pelt before it’s shot.’ It literally means, like, don’t celebrate until it’s happened. Don’t, don’t, don’t jump the gun. But in Norwegian we say that about hunting and bears. *laughs*  So yeah, it literally, but yeah that’s one term.”

 

The source talked about this proverb with particular passion because he really likes it. He says he tries to live by this proverb so that he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself. The source is a filmmaker, so he has a lot of grand ideas, and he says that if he sells the bear’s pelt before it’s shot, there’s a chance it’ll bite him in the butt later because he may not always be able to come through with his projects. He says it’s better to celebrate step-by-step than assuming you’re going to be successful the entire way.

I very much like this proverb as well, particularly because we don’t have one like this in the US. Or at least, I’ve never heard one quite like it. I know I’ve heard the sentiment before from my parents, but I think the phrasing is pretty unique. The message is also great. What does it say about Norwegians? Perhaps that once, their egos were large, so they have to weigh down their pride using proverbs like this.

This proverbs speaks to patience and wisdom. Also, the fact that it phrases in terms of bears is interesting. It makes it even more uniquely Norwegian. You wouldn’t get this proverb in, say Cuba for example or Peru even. Because those countries don’t have bears. For Norway, though, bear hunting is huge. They need the pelts for making clothing and blankets to protect from the cold, which gets awful in Norway for half of the year.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Never carry a gun

Information about the Informant

My informant is a professor teaching English and American Literature at the University of Southern California. He grew up in Chicago during the 1950s, and fought in the latter half of the Vietnam War. After that, he returned and received his degree in English Literature at UC Irvine. He has worked on many textbooks and movies that deal with the Vietnam War.

Transcript

“Same man…who was a professional burglar…taught me to never carry a gun. Because, he said, if you carry a gun, you’re gonna have to take it out. And if you take it out, you’re gonna have to use it, because if you don’t use it, the son of a bitch you’re pointing it at is gonna take it away from you and use it on you. So, never carry a gun.”

Analysis

Practical advice, but also folklore as it has been passed down by word of mouth from person to person such that even I, who grew up in Taiwan and has been nowhere near Chicago, have heard a variant of this piece of advice. I have heard this advice given not just about guns, but about knives and about Mace. An interesting comparison can be made between this piece of folklore that my informant gave me and the similar advice I’ve heard. In my case, the example I’m thinking of was about Mace, and it was told to me as a reason why girls should not carry Mace pepper spray around with them to defend themselves with, because it could so easily be turned around and used on the girl if she was not careful or if she hesitated at all. Which seemed to me at the time a bit sexist and troublesome as its core message seemed to be that I, as a girl, should not carry items that I could use in case of being attacked. But here, it sounds more like practical advice, because it was told to a male, and was told to my informant by a purported criminal who would be more likely to know these things firsthand, and thus the advice has more of accuracy associated with it.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Don’t Ever Stuff a Gun in Your Pants

“Don’t ever stuff a gun in your pants”

 

The informant learned of this proverb from military officers and his peers during basic training for the Coast Guard when he was about 19 years old. He learned that this saying came about when safeties were common in guns (when you pull back a hammer before shooting). Now double-safeties are commonly built into guns that force disable you from pulling back a hammer without pulling the trigger so if it’s dropped of stuffed somewhere, it won’t go off.

While in training, the informant said he was trained with 9mm, which officers told him, was to help him and his peers get a fell for how to use a gun. When you graduate to become a full member of the military, they will issue a different gun with a double-safety to protect from accidental discharges (and because they are more accurate and efficient). He mentioned that the Harry Potter saying: never put your wand in your pocket is a direct reference to this proverb

Humor in this instance is a good tool to help people remember safety information. Personally, I’m unaware of the workings of guns, but this proverb is helpful in reminding listeners of the mechanics of certain types of firearms.

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