USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Latin’
Customs
Folk medicine
Folk speech
general
Protection
Signs

Rubor, Dolor, and Calor — Signs of Infection

Text

The following piece was collected from a seventy-three year-old woman from Vail, Colorado. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: My mother had a very specific way of checking her children for infections. She would always say to us: Rubor, dolor, and calor. Signs of inflammation.”

Collector: “What do they mean?”

Informant: “They translate to mean redness, pain, and heat. Basically you would check a cut or some injury to see if it was was, if it was giving off heat, and if it was tender. If it did, you would know it was infected.”

Context

            The Informant learned this phrase from her Irish mother, she claims it is just something her mother always said to the children. The Informant believes it to be a simple procedure of people to check for infection and inflammation for people who are not well equipped to handle any ailments. She remembers it because of the frequency of which her mother would mutter it when looking over the Informant’s injuries when she was young.

Interpretation

I loved this new piece. I had never heard of this before, but I was familiar enough with the signs of infection. I was intrigued so I looked up the origin of the phrase. The original definition of inflammation, set forward by Roman encyclopedist Celus in the 1st century A.D. The original definition also included the fourth sign, tumor, meaning swelling. I found it interesting that even though the signs are taken as canon for inflammation, when they are repeated, they are still said in their original Latin. Keeping the phrase in Latin might preserve its credibility in the eyes of some, everything sounds more official when said in Latin.

Folk medicine
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

Latin Proverb – Postquam vinum, lac Fac testamento tuo

Content: Latin Proverb
“Postquam vinum, lac. Fac testamento tuo.”

Transliteration –
“After the wine, milk. Make your will.”

Translation –
“If after wine, you drink milk, make your last will and testament.”

Context:
Informant – “I heard it from my father. He was quite the linguist. I’ve never heard anyone else say it, but the idea is that if you drink wine then milk, the milk will curdle in your stomach and you’ll feel very sick.”

Analysis:
Wine will curdle milk, so the proverb is factual. The fact that informant’s father told him the proverb in Latin heightens the humor. It’s a pretty silly, intentionally humorous quote and Latin is usually a very ostentatious language.

Folk speech
Riddle

Octopodes

In the following, my informant details an interesting fact he has heard regarding the plural pronunciation of the word “Octopus.”

So in the English language, the most common form of, the plural form, of “Octopus,” is like “Octopi,” people say a lot, or like “Octopuses,” um, or like “Octopodes,” [Ahct- oh - podes]  is actually what people say all the time, but if you actually like linguistically study it, the word “Octopus” is a Greek word, and “Octopi” is a like Latin rooted term I guess, I don’t know I’m not a linguist, but so that doesn’t… it’s actually not correct: The actual form is “Octopodes” [Ahct- oh - podes] because that’s Greek, but if you really think about it, it’s not pronounced Octopodes, [Ahct- oh - podes] because it’s Greek it’s pronounced Octopodes, [Ahct - tahp - ode - eis] which is the coolest thing ever, so if you ever happen to see multiple Octopus, Octopodes, [Ahct - tahp - ode - eis] just bring it up to all your friends, because it is the best news they will ever hear.

My informant said that he heard this from a friend in his dance company, who in turn claimed to have read it on Facebook. Interestingly, the pronunciation of the plural form of Octopus, can be found in several places on line, such as http://www.infoplease.com/askeds/plural-octopus.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural_form_of_words_ending_in_-us and is interesting insofar as the linguistics behind the Greek word Octopus have become something of a limerick/riddle in english. 

Customs
Festival
Game
general
Gestures
Humor
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Journey to The Underworld” — JCL Initiation Rites

The “Journey to The Underworld” was an event organized by the JCL (Junior Classical League) at my informant’s high school, where the freshman Latin students were forced to undergo certain initiation rites to cement their entrance into the club. My informant went through this process as a freshman and later, as club vice-president and upperclassman, even organized the event.

The rites were, of course, heavily influenced by Latin mythology and pieces of Latin folklore.  The upperclassmen had somehow procured a toilet a few years earlier, and they filled this up with all manners of things (clam chowder, peppers, raw eggs, soy milk, cottage cheese, etc.), changing it up every year to make it as disgusting as possible. They then made blindfolded freshmen root around in the mess in search for a quarter that they always “forgot” to put in the toilet bowl–the quarter an obvious allusion to the coin needed to cross the River Styx in the Underworld. The upperclassmen would then draw on the freshmen with felt tip markers, saying, “Cerberus is licking you!” referring, of course, to the three-headed dog that guards Hades. Throughout the entire event, freshmen were to be remained blindfolded and upperclassmen led them around, oftentimes in circles, pointing out various spots in the “underworld” to dramatic music and sudden bursts of screams. Although the rites changed from year to year, they were generally light-hearted and humorous, and even the freshmen were happy to go through the experience, seeing it as a way to bond as a club and get to know the other members.

Afterwards, they would hold a banquet and a bonding movie session, where the newly initiated freshmen would sit as one and the same with the other members, and interact with them essentially as equals. The food at the banquet, my informant said, was usually store-bought or home-made by the upperclassmen, in this way allowing the freshmen the privilege of being served by the same people who had scared them not an hour prior. Perhaps in this way they restored balance, and brought cohesion to the club as a group.

These rites served the purpose of something like an initiation; all the non-freshmen had gone through that event at one point in their club career, and so the freshmen weren’t fully members until they had endured the same–the same mentality that pervades fraternity and sorority culture. It was also a way for freshman to bond with each other, through shared experiences, and with the upperclassmen, whose enjoyment in the teasing and scaring had more to do with the hopeful anticipation of the coming class more than anything else.

 

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