USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘hard work’
Folk speech

“It’s Worth Doing Well”

Context & Analysis

The subject, my mother, and I were getting coffee for breakfast and I asked her if she could tell me some stories about her childhood. The subject’s father (who has recently passed away) was a history professor in the Midwest. The family moved frequently because of this, which made it difficult for them to settle in a single area for too long. The subject’s mother was a stay-at-home mother; she also has four other siblings. The subject’s parents were both the children of Norwegian immigrants and emphasized the value of hard work and wise spending habits. I think that this proverb especially reflects the down-to-earth and hard-working nature of the subject’s parents. I’ve heard similar renditions of this proverb (i.e. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”) from other sources throughout my life.

Main Piece

“My mom would always say “if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well” so, like that means don’t do a sloppy job or half-heartedly do something.



Han får gå lenge barfot som venter på å arve en annen mann’s sko

My informant is a friend and sophomore student at USC from Norway. She lived for the majority of her life in Norway before moving and living in Thailand, Dubai, and Namibia until she attended college. Having lived for over a decade in Norway, Norwegian is her primary language.


“And uh, there’s one more that I like—Han får gå lenge barfot som venter på å arve en annen mann’s sko that translates to ‘you’re going to have to walk barefoot for a long time if you’re waiting for someone to pass you down their old shoes.’ This basically means that eh…you won’t get any—anything for free in life and that you have to work for what you want.”


This particular proverb seems like one that would ring true with many American ideals. It essentially states that you have to work for anything that you really want in life, otherwise you’re just going to end up waiting for something that may never come. This particular saying was one that my informant hears frequently throughout her life and instilled the belief that you cant just be passive and wait on life to drop opportunity on your doorstep, you actually have to put in conscious effort and work for the things that you truly want most.


Rise and Shine

The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head. 

“Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe”


“Something my parents expressed to me when I was a kid goes:

Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe meaning: The early bird gets the worm.

I can apply this to most every aspect of my life, so it has really  helped me mature as I’ve grown. To me, well you can have your own interpretation of it but to me, it means literally the one who rises early will have the most success. I translate this into meaning that if you work hard, and out work everyone and anyone you will be rewarded and be just fine in life. I use this with my school work, with football, with almost about anything. I believe that everything takes hard work and nothing good is going to be easy to get hence, Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe. ”


The statement “The early bird gets the worm” is nothing new for our culture. This statement I have heard by my parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, you name it almost anyone (old enough to know its meaning) has heard this proverb before. It essentially means to most people the person who arrives to any location, event, opportunity first has the best chance for success in that area. The informant meant in his translation that he makes she he works the hardest so he can essentially “arrive first” and have the best chance for success.

It is interesting that a very common proverb in America would be used in another culture as well. As says, “The early bird gets the worm” originates from the Latin phrase Carpe diem which means “seize the day”. Both of these proverbs are advice on how to attack our days and make the most of our lives by working hard.