USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’
general
Proverbs

Elders know best – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“A un novillo joven hay que enjuntarlo a un buey viejo para que surco salga derecho.”

Transliteration:

To a young bull, you have to bind it to an old bull so that furrows go straight.

Translation:

Elders know more, so in order for new generations to learn, they must learn from their elders.

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

 

Context and Analysis:

When I asked my informant, a 78-year-old male, to recount to me any proverbs he might know he mentioned this one. I asked him where he had heard it and what it meant. He said he heard it in his home town Autlan, Mexico when he would go to the countryside. Before he told me the meaning of the proverb he made me attempt to guess for myself. After a couple of failed guessed he revealed to me the meaning he interprets from this proverb. He said, “Hay jóvenes que se tragan el mundo y creen que la computadora te dice todo pero para aprender bien necesitas la experiencia de alguien que ya haya vivido. A mi me invitan a muchas conferencias donde les platico de mis fracasos.” Loosely translated to: ‘there are many young men that think they know everything and believe everything the computers tell them, but in order to learn you need the experience of someone who has lived. I get invited to lots of conferences where I tell them about my mistakes.’ My informant explained to me that he believes the best way to learn is through the experience of others. He says he loves going to conferences and teaching others about the mistakes he has made in his life because this will prevent them from being made again. My informant wants me to emphasize how much more useful life knowledge is than theories and techniques you can learn in a book. He says the most valuable people are the ones that can learn from both books and absorb what they can from other’s experiences. 

I agree with my informant on the importance of not just taking knowledge from books and published sources, but also taking advantage of older generations that are happy to share what they have lived through. My informant is a civil engineer and has done many public works and constructions people utilize every day. The stories he has to tell would teach anyone many qualities but especially other civil engineers considerably about, work ethic, problem-solving, and techniques. I also asked my informant if he would ever consider publishing a book to which he responded he enjoys sharing his experience one on one because it is too much to fit in a book and this makes it more personal. I believe there are many people like my informant that love sharing their experiences personally and there is a lot to learn from them.

It is apparent this proverb originates from the countryside for its reference to cattle and the technique of how to teach a young bull how to plow. These are agricultural references, so I would argue the proverb originates from an agricultural background.

 

 

 

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Wise Man Proverb

“Wise man seeks wisdom, mad man thinks he found it.”
The person who’s wise goes after something: they seek wisdom,  the mad man just talks and talks, he’s delusional, and he thinks he knows it all.  This is a very common idea that is shared by most cultures, it seeks to make people stay humble no matter the amount of knowledge they accrue.

Folk speech
Humor

Marriage

Form of Folklore:  Humor

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia until 1990, when she and her family moved to the United States (Glendale, California), at the age of thirty six.  Most of the folklore she has been exposed to is founded in Armenian culture.  Her social surroundings in Armenia and her father are her primary sources of folklore.

Context:  The interview was conducted in the dining room of informant’s house.

Item:  Armenian Transliteration – Mihat jahel hars ka vor shat mutahokvatsa amoosnanaloo masin.  Voroshuma vor gna ira tatiki mot vor hartser ta amoosnootsan masin.  Hartsnooma “Amoosnootsoonu vontsa?”  Tatiknel asooma iran, “Ari, nusti, bala, ameninch kasem.  Amoosnootsyan arachi tas tarin, dook amoosin yev kin k linek; myoos tas tarin, unkerner k linek; myoos tas tarin, koor oo akhper k linek, heto, yerkoo koor k linek, verchi tas tarin, k kirvek te ova mets kooru.”  Harsu asuma, “Bayts tati, du hitsoon tarits avel es amoosnatsats, ova mets kooru dzer mech.”  Tatiku juptooma oo asuma “oves kartsoom?”

English Translation – There’s a young bride who is very worried about getting married.  She decides to go to her grama to ask her about marriage.  She asks, “What’s it like to be married?”  Her grandma tells her, “Come, sit, my dear, I’ll tell you everything.  The first ten years of marriage, you will be husband and wife; the next, ten years, you will be best friends, the next ten years, you will be brother and sister, the next, you will be two sisters, and finally the next ten years, you will fight over who is the older sister.”  The girl says, “But grama, you’ve been married for more than fifty years, who’s the older sister.” The grama just smiles and says “Who do you think?”

Informant Comments:  The informant believes there is a lot of truth in this joke.  Being married for over thirty years, she thinks that the knowledge that the grandmother passed down to the young bride was very true.  She believes that, in marriage, the two people grow very close the way that two siblings would grow close.  Along with the closeness come more quarrels, hence, the fight over who is the big sister.  This folklore has become a humorous way of telling brides (in real life) about what marriage is truly like.

Analysis:  This folklore illustrates how marriage is viewed as a journey of two people who slowly evolve together and develop a close bond.  It is interesting to note that the husband is the one who becomes a sister, not the wife becoming a brother.  It seems that this is an indication that the female plays a dominant role in the relationship; especially considering how the grandmother smiles at the end of the joke and in doing so implies that she is “the big sister”.  The mild humor of what is said by the grandmother shows that even after more than fifty years of marriage, she is able to look upon her journey with her husband and find humor throughout each passing decade.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general

Thai Culture: Head and Feet

Transcribed Text:

“In Thai culture, the head is the most important part of your body, and the feet are considered dirty, cuz that’s on the ground all the time. So it’s very disrespectful if you point your feet at somebody’s head, or if you point your feet at somebody in general. And also, if you step over books, or like, put your feet on books, or put books on the ground, because books are considered knowledge from your head.”

This is a Thai folk belief about knowledge and dirt. The informant says that she learned this belief from her mom when she was a child. She says that she remembers pointing her feet towards the prayer room at Buddha in her house and she remembers her mom reprimanding her for doing so and explaining why it was wrong to do so. It makes sense that the feet are associated with dirt and the head is associated with knowledge, so this is a folk belief that is tied a lot with logic. Furthermore, books are also associated with the brain in Thai culture, because books contain the knowledge that people have in their heads. Therefore, stepping on books, or even stepping over books is considered offensive, as it is considered to be stepping on somebody’s knowledge. This also branches out to temples and houses as well. A person is not allowed to enter a temple or a house with shoes that one would wear in the outside world, because they are entering an area of holiness and family.

This folk belief is also an oicotype of the folk belief in India. In India, people are not allowed to wear their shoes into a temple or a home. Often times, it is even encouraged for people to wash their feet before they enter, to cleanse the dirt that they may have. Both Thai and Indian culture have such a similar folk belief because there was a lot of interaction between the two cultures over the past hundreds, if not thousands of years. It is extremely plausible that many pieces of folklore exchanged between the two countries and developed along in similar fashions.

 

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