Tag Archives: Internet

The Jersey Devil

Background: 

My informant, NK, is 19 years old and of South Korean descent from both her mother and father’s sides of the family. Her grandparents live close to her, so she spends a lot of time with them. She is very passionate about cooking. Even though she is majoring in biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley, she has always been, and remains to be, extremely interested in conspiracy theories. While she may not necessarily believe them, she enjoys hearing lore from across the world. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance:

NK: So, there’s this urban legend in New Jersey, called the Jersey Devil. I’ve heard about it from different like conspiracy shows or websites, and just word of mouth. Um, and it’s one of those things like Bigfoot. The myth goes that there’s a woman – there’s some variations obviously – but she had one kid or thirteen, depending on who you ask, and she had a pact with the devil or hooked up with him, or something. And so either that one kid or the youngest one was born deformed, so he had like wings and a beak and was human-like but also bat-like. He grew up to huge sizes, and then would be seen around New Jersey, I’m not sure which area. And then there’s been sightings, I’m not sure when the first one was, but there were a lot in the 20th century. I wanna say it’s similar to Mothman: big wings, red eyes, part human. 

SW: Do you know anything about the origins of the story?

NK: I’m not sure, but I think there were some sightings that were hard to explain, so people kind of made up the lore to explain them. 

Thoughts:

I love urban legends. As NK pointed out, like many urban legends, it’s safe to assume that the legend of the Jersey Devil developed in response to some unexplained sightings in an effort to make sense of them. There are a few different variations of the Jersey Devil legend. Most seem to identify the woman NK mentioned as Mother Leeds, as Leeds was one of the first settlers in New Jersey, and family with the name Leeds can still be found there today. There have been numerous accounts and sightings of the Jersey Devil, many of which can be found all across the internet. For more background on this urban legend and personal sightings of the Jersey Devil, see “The Jersey Devil.”

Annotation:

“The Jersey Devil.” Weird NJ, Weird NJ, 13 Jan. 2017, weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/.

The Ritual Game: One Man Hide-and-Seek

Interviewer: Okay so how do you play this game?

Informant: Well as the name suggests you have to do this alone, while everyone is out of the house, preferably. You take an old doll that you don’t like anymore, cut it open and remove all the stuffing. Then fill it up with white rice. Once the doll is totally full of rice, cut a hair from your head and poke it into the heart of the doll’s body. Then take a knife and prick a finger, doesn’t matter which one, and wipe the blood onto the rice protruding from the doll’s back. Once you’ve done that, take a bit of red string and sew up the back of the doll and cut it off with the same knife you used to prick your finger. Once it’s sewn up give it a name, and it has to be a name that no one you know has.

Interviewer: Sounds like you have to be very careful during all this prep work.

Informant: Oh yeah and we’re not even done yet. Actually playing the game is specific too. You then have to take the finished doll to a bathroom, run a shallow bath, and then place the doll in the water. Turn out all the lights in the house, finding a hiding spot and count to ten. You shouldn’t forget to take the knife with you when you go to hide. Say ‘ready or not here I come’ then go back to the doll. Repeat ‘I found you, I found you, I found you’ then ‘you’re the next it, you’re the next it, you’re the next it’ and tie the knife to the doll’s hand. Then go to hide again, it doesn’t have to be in the same place. If you make it to sunrise, you’ve won the game.

Interviewer: Do you get anything out of winning?

Informant: No, I don’t think so. You just get bragging rights.

Interviewer: What happens if you lose?

Informant: The doll kills you, supposedly. But if you need to stop the game, like if the doll finds you, it’s recommended that you always have a glass of salt water prepared to pour on the doll. When you pour the water, shout ‘I win, I win, I win’ then the game is over.

Background: One Man Hide and Seek was part of a film project that she was doing for school. She researched this game but does not remember which sites she learned it from or its origin.

Context: I was interviewing my informant for rituals that she learned about through research and hearsay from others. She was happy to tell me about this one since it resulted in one of her favorite movies that she made.

Thoughts: I severely doubt that the original reason for doing One Man Hide and Seek was just so one could have bragging rights, so it must have been a ritual for something else originally. I did a little digging online and found a site that suggests the ritual was originally posted on a ‘Japanese horror bulletin board.’

Please see “One-Man Hide and Seek / Hide and Seek Alone.” Know Your Meme Accessed March 20, 2020

Press F

Background: My informant is a friend of mine of Chinese heritage. He is active in the gaming and computer science communities, and is very knowledgeable about memes and internet culture.  The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. 

Context: This conversation was recorded on a zoom meeting that we had on a Wednesday afternoon. My informant is a friend of mine, and the conversation occurred in both of our rooms. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. During the call and in between our discussions of different folklore items, we talked socially about how his finals were going. Thus, this conversation relatively casual. The main piece is made up of a transcription of our call.

Main Piece: All right. Like, have you ever heard of people say like f in the chat or like Press F to pay respects.

Me: Oh yeah, that’s like pay respect right

Yeah, press have to pay respect, like that’s like from call of duty. But now, people just use it as a generic way to, like, say like oh I’m sad for you, like, That’s unlucky, whatever.

You do, you know, like how it started in Call of Duty, like how did that happen?

Someone posted like a picture and I don’t know, it was like a meme. So it started as like a picture someone posts that unlike other subreddit, or like some kind of forum. And people just kind of spread the image everywhere. It was like a while ago, but like, kind of like subtle asian traits (a popular Facebook group) y’know. 

Yeah, anyway, so, it was for Call fo Duty Advanced Warfare in that game. There was like a scene when you’re…when you’re playing on PC. Like you’re…you’re at a funeral, and you have to pay respects, so you press the F button that’s just what you do. 

And so like a youtuber actually he uploaded it. Like a video of the sequence about when you touch the like the casket to pay respects and then after that, like when the thing got posted. Conan O’Brien actually…He reviewed the game and criticize the gameplay especially like the Press F to pay respects part because it was like…O, it’s just such a stupid like a meaningless kind of action and then from then on, there were like videos like… so there were like videos called like intense respect playing.

And now…a lot of people just refer to, like, sad events or like if like you’re trying to empathize with someone. They just say F, like in the chat as much as specifically for like Twitch chat, I guess, but like a mutation on the meme.

Thoughts: I was at once really impressed and somewhat surprised about my informant’s knowledge of the meme and/or saying of Press F. My informant is generally the type of individual to be knowledgeable about these things, and the origin of this gaming folklore is relatively recent, so I cannot say I am totally surprised by his knowledge. Nevertheless, I think it’s fascinating how he plays the role of a folklorist as he analyzes and details how the saying and meme has evolved over time.

Slenderman

“The idea is that there is a man that lives in the woods, he is very tall and lanky, he wears a suit and has tentacles on his back but the biggest thing is that he doesn’t have a face, when you look at him it’s just a white head, a flat nothing. I honestly don’t remember how I first heard about- it was probably just through talking to other kids because it became such a big deal because Slenderman started as a creepy pasta where someone wrote a story and it just spread through the Internet. There’s a whole bunch of scary photos with a child next to him and the whole idea is that he would lure kids into the woods and kill them. One of the things that was scary about him was that the more you research the Slenderman, the more likely he is to get you. So like as you look stuff up, he’s like gonna put you on his list like this person looking too much into it. I don’t fully know how that started and it made it scarier because we can’t find anything about him.”

Background:

My informant is a 16-year old from Kansas City, Missouri. She is active on the Internet and has been on YouTube since early 2010. In the early days of the Internet, people invented short stories that would be spread throughout the Internet via copy and pasting, earning the name copy pastas. Eventually, this act of sharing stories transformed to fit the horror genre and this subculture was known as creepy pastas. These stories are shared in Internet circles as short and creepy stories and are subject to reinterpretation with each telling. My informant, being invested with the Internet, learned of several of these throughout the years and remembered this one in particular. 

Context:

My informant brought up this story during a walk around her neighborhood when I asked her about scary stories from her childhood. 

Thoughts:

This story is interesting as it represents several fears for a generation that is heavily present on the Internet. Firstly, the Slenderman takes from similar urban legends of the past featuring a man in the woods who seeks to hurt others. It should be noted though, that this specific story states he only seeks to hurt children, which is done to emphasize his cruelty and evil nature. Furthermore, it is tailored to fit those who would stumble upon the story, most of which would be younger children using the Internet. Being entirely on the Internet also changes how people could discuss the story, which features prominently in this telling of the story. The informant told me that she heard you could not look anything up about the creature, as it would make you his target. This is fascinating, as it plays into the fears of a generation with seemingly unlimited access to technology, which is a restriction of said content. If nothing else, the Slenderman also represents an entire shift in the methods by which stories are told. Whereas other classic horror stories are primarily told orally, the Slenderman’s origins are entirely on the Internet. This pushed the content of the piece to better fit this audience, and it adapted to address fears of this generation of kids on the Internet.

For an in-depth look at the history of this legend, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/movies/slender-man-timeline.html

“Ope”

Main Piece:

(The following has been transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.)

Interviewer: Describe to me the definition of Ope, if you can

Informant: Its kind of like like, excuse me but not in like a – aggressive way, more like a I’m sorry way.

Interviewer: It’s an apologetic “excuse me?”

Informant: Yeah.

Interviewer: Can you give me a situation in which you might use “ope?”

Informant: Umm, well recently I – at Trader Joe’s today I literally said it cuz i went too close to someone for the six feet distancing [this piece was collected during the Covid-19 outbreak of 2020], and I was like “Ope, sorry,” and turned back the other way – to not be so close to them.

Interviewer: Any other examples?

Informant: Or if I like do something to myself – I like drop my phone or something I say “ope.”

Interviewer: When you say it like that do you say it differently? Does the intonation change with the situation?

Informant: I say it like “ope.” [very clipped]

Interviewer: Every time no matter when you say it?

Informant: “Ope.” Yeah, it’s like one syllable.

Interviewer: Do you know when or where you learned this?

Informant: No but I was only made self-aware of doing it on – from twitter. I think I’ve always done it having grown up in the Midwest but I didn’t like, think about it, it was just something and then I went to California, and it – people didn’t do it… and that’s when I realized.

Interviewer: Do you know anything about where it comes from?

Informant: I always thought it started out just saying “oh,” but then it became like, I don’t know why people added “ope.” I don’t think you’d see it in, like, New York or anything. But it’s like, what is the boundary of the Midwest? It’s like – I don’t think about Nebraska and stuff as in – even South Dakota is Midwest but I don’t think of them as Midwest.

Interviewer: So what are the main states you think you’d see “ope” in?

Informant: Mmmmichigan? Ohio, Indiana, Illinois… Iowa? Maybe? I think it’s mostly, like states that I see as having like a bigger cit- like a bigger city in them. Wisconsin. It might just have to do with the fact that I grew up here [Illinois] so I feel like it doesn’t spread very far.

Background: My informant is Senior in College who grew up in Southern and then Northern Illinois. She comes from a family of middle-class background. She goes to UCLA, and therefore has adopted a mix of midwest and west coast slang.

Context: The informant is my sister, and she gave me this piece in a more research oriented setting, as she was the first person I collected from and I was determining the best way to go about the process still. She’s not very good at talking when asked to, according to herself, so I felt I had to do more prompting than I might with another informant.

Thoughts: “Ope” has become an incredibly well known, and so probably more widespread, piece of Midwestern slang/dialect. What is interesting is the informant’s discussion of where it may come from. I also use the word often and did not realize at all until recently thanks to it’s spread on the internet. I have no idea where it comes from, but I know many people think it can mean many things – one common belief is that it means “anything and everything” for example – and that is what makes it truly folkloric in my opinion.

Bottle Flipping – Find out if girls like you

Main text:

BR: At my old high school, we’d do this thing called bottle flipping…

MW: Oh yeah! We did that too. Was that just like a NorCal thing or…?

BR: I mean I don’t know, but we’d do it and kids would be flipping these dumb bottles everywhere and the goal was to flick a plastic bottle upwards and have it land on its bottom again. And they boys would be like, oh, if I flip it and it lands right it means she likes me…

MW: Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve never heard that version before…in my school we just did it to do it, you know? There’d be bottles, like, stuck in weird places because of it…

BR: haha. Yeah, all the band kids did it. It’s actually kinda funny because it’s actually kinda hard to get the bottle to land right, so it means, or like was implying, that girls weren’t liking guys back. Especially the band kids.

Background:

The informant, BR, was born and raised in the Bay Area, specifically El Cerrito (the East Bay). He remembers this tradition specifically because it was a fun bonding activity, and also a meme at the time. He looks back on this memory fondly. 

Context

This story was brought up in a FaceTime call. I asked the informant what traditions he remembered in high school, to see if we could cross compare since I went to high school not too far from where he did (San mateo).

Thoughts:

Upon further research, I believe that bottle flipping was done across America, maybe even more globally. It was perpetuated by the internet and made into one of the most popular memes of 2016. I think that BR’s school’s addition of having a girl like you back is really funny because it is so reminiscent of other children’s superstitious games. As we talked about in class, a lot of childrens’ superstition (especially girls’) revolves around who you will marry or relationships, etc. I think it’s just so fascinating that something as seemingly dumb as bottle flipping was able to work its way into that same pattern, probably just because it’s something the youth was doing. It’s also interesting to note that this phenomenon applied mostly to boys getting girls to like them back, as usually it’s a “girl’s game” that involves relationship fortune telling, as we talked about in class. 

(For an example of bottle flipping, please see this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp5QMSbf-a0

“Karen” as a folk term

Main Piece

Interviewer: What does “Karen” mean?

Informant: Karen is an internet slang word to describe a  very entitled, middle-class white woman. Or a boomer white woman. They are often blonde and they often have very short haircuts. They usually like to speak and the managers, and then proceed to yell at the entry-level employees who have no control over the matters. 

Interviewer:Where did you pick it up?

Informant: Maybe a year ago, scrolling through Twitter. 

Interviewer: do you use it frequently?

Informant: Yeah, especially when making jokes with friends or memes on the internet, haha.

Background

The informant is a good friend and housemate of mine, and is a junior at USC studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. He is originally from Manhattan Beach, CA and has been coding ever since highschool. He has had several internships with different computer science companies such as Microsoft and is very involved with different coding clubs on campus. 

Context

The group of individuals at my house tend to send each other a lot of memes and use internet lingo throughout the house as different jokes. “Karen” is one that this informant uses very frequently, so during our interview I asked him to describe it in his own terms. 

Analysis

This term of folk speech is a perfect example of how internet lingo and culture has permeated into everyday verbal communication. Many of these terms are associated with humor and generational differences, as seen with this one which is intended to poke fun at individuals from an older population. This shows the rift in values and morals between generations, and displays how everyday names can be transformed to carry much more weight and meaning.

Fancam Culture

An explanation of the origin and evolution of Fancam culture from the perspective of a k-pop fan.

Text:

Informant: Fancam culture at the moment is in its most evolved form on Twitter. In which, people will reply to viral tweets, even if they’re unrelated to kpop, with a video that’s focused on a certain figure/idol/celebrity that they like. It started in kpop ‘cause there’s this thing called a direct camera or the fan cam where there’s one camera that doesn’t move and shows the whole performance, but there’s another set of cameras and each of those follows one specific member of the group throughout the performance. That one is where the fancam originated. Basically these videos are available for download on websites like Naver– it’s like Korean Google. On lot’s of fan sites they’re made officially and for download vertically. Nowadays they’re largely vertical videos so it’s like hella advanced. You can download these, keep them, and save them. I actually have like four on my phone right now. Anyway, people started posting them on Twitter. As the kpop fanbase became more populated, getting a lot of views on your idol’s videos became an achievement you unlock as you go through the ranks of being a stan. People started replying to viral tweets with a fancam because if anyone sees it the views go up automatically. So if a tweet goes viral, and you tag it there the views will go up. That was the origin of the dancing fancam. Those are the videos where you just see people dancing. Then k-pop fans started making edits. Edits are videos of a celebrity set to a song or an aesthetic. They’re often set to American rap songs by like Nikki Minaj or Cardi B. They subsequently became a part of, and often take the place of, the traditional fancam. Those two separate but similar fan edits merged to the more overall idea of “fancams”. The goal of fancams are now just to get the views up on every single kind of k-pop video, and recently it’s started to stretch out into all other fandoms.

Context: I asked a friend to explain fancams to me.

Thoughts: I only began to be exposed to fancams once they began to be edited to American music, and I think they have taken on a largely ironic nature after that. I’ve seen people make fancams as absurd as possible for very niche celebrities. Like green M&M and Kermit the Frog.

Cottagecore

An informant explains a growing online lesbian subculture.

Text:

Informant: Cottagecore is this, typically lesbian, ideal aesthetic where you want to live like in cottage in the woods. It’s very fairy-esque. You bake bread and wear paisley skirts. There’s a lot of gardening, living off the land, being off the grid for the good of your soul and the planet. It’s very “I want a fairy wife” kind of belief. There’s a lot of mushrooms and forest animals. It’s this lesbian fantasy that you’ll run away and leave the world behind and live this perfect story-book life with your wife.

Context: A friend was explaining to another friend what Cottagecore is. The informant is a member of the wlw community.

Thoughts:

Cottagecore is very popular subgroup/theme on TikTok. I’ve seen it a lot, and it has recently begun to spread to other social media apps like Twitter. I feel as though it is growing in popularity, in both the lesbian culture and more mainstream internet users, because it rejects the stressful aspects of modern society such as capitalism and the nine-to-five work day.

USC Folklore: The Legend of Nikolay

M: There was this running joke at USC about this weird dude named Nikolay. No one knew who he really was and no one had proof that he even existed. But this became the focus of a lot of USC jokes on twitter and on this app called Herd. People would post random pictures from memes and be like “meet Nikolay”. There was this one time when Fluor Tower flooded and people on Herd would say Nikolay is to blame. I can assure you this man does NOT exist but it’s just funny to refer to him during any situation. His entire existence is just a meme.

Above is an example of a student referencing Nikolay on Herd. Herd is an anonymous social media app that was designed specifically for college students to speak their minds on any topic they choose. Many USC memes either emerged from this app or made its way onto the platform via Twitter or Facebook. The existence of Nikolay has not been proven nor disproven by any means which makes it more of a USC legend. Nikolay has been a central focus in USC meme culture. Only those who indulge in USC meme culture would be familiar with him. This is a way for USC students to pull each other’s legs. It also says something about youth culture and their humor. It’s apparent that the funniest jokes are the ones that make no sense at all.