USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘nicknames’
Customs
Folk speech

Naming Pets in Rural Mexico

“Actually, when we had little chicks, too, we didn’t like, like, you name your pets here, like ‘little Peter,’ or ‘Johnny,’ or ‘puppy,’ whatever you want to call them. There, we didn’t name our pets, you know. We just name them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. [laughs]

 

Not to feel bad when it was like time to slaughter them… ‘cause we grew pets for eating, you know? It was, it wasn’t like we were just playing with them, it was actual food on the line! [laughs]

 

Was that a common practice, did everyone name their pets something like that?

 

More or less, something like that. Very, very like, crazy names, like you know, like May, July, June, those. [laughs] Because they were going to slaughter them that month. [laughs]

 

There was a little rooster named father’s day [laughs] because they knew they were going to do that, ‘where’s father’s day, where’s father’s day,’ ‘donde esta dia del papa,’ you know, in Español, ‘oh you know he’s there, he’s there, and this and that,’ and sure enough, you know, time came and… cut some necks there. That was crazy.”

 

Analysis: This is a fairly straightforward but interesting and widespread folk practice in rural Mexico. Whereas pets are normally seen as members of a family in the United States, pets were instead viewed primarily as food sources in rural Mexico. As such, the cultural norms surrounding the animals are substantially different from what an American may expect. Naming animals after the date that they will presumably be slaughtered is a very efficient way of keeping the age of a pet on hand. It is worth nothing that the informant’s repeated use of the term “crazy” may be revelatory of a culture shift upon moving to the United States and owning two pets.

Folk speech
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Colchonero

“Back in 1969, I was 7 years old. Kids at that age, even today too, declare allegiance to a soccer club which usually is the one that represents your city. Every town, even small towns have a local soccer team that you root for. But you also have to be a fan of a team in ‘La Liga,’ the national league even if you live in a city which doesn’t have a team playing in ‘La Liga.’. The choice is usually by birthplace, if you were born in a big city that determines which professional team you become a fan of. But if you were not born in a big city or a city without a professional team in ‘La Liga’ then your choice is based off of other factors. For example, a family member like a dad, uncle or a cousin or even a classmate. It can also be based on geographical proximity to a team with a professional team in ‘La Liga.’ And in the big cities that have more than one professional team that is usually shaped by your family, neighborhood, part of town that you were born in, usually. Many kids also by default, in virtually any city, even cities that have professional teams, also follow one of these two teams, Real Madrid or Barcelona. So you can be a Sevilla fan or a Valencia fan but also either Real Madrid or Barcelona, which are the two most powerful clubs. So it’s like in the U.S. that the Lakers or Celtics have fans all over the country. In Spain, the country is always divided into two camps, the Real Madrid followers or Barcelona followers.

So when I was 7, so the American equivalent to second grade, there was a three way split since first grade that I remember. We would always play and talk soccer. So all my classmates were divided into three groups: Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Every kid was a fan of one of those three. In 1969 I saw one day, right after school that season the national championship had been won by Atlético de Madrid. So I saw a poster that featured them on a window of a bookstore. I was looking at that poster and recognized their faces from watching them on television; I knew somewhat the players. In that moment I decided to be a fan of them and no one else from the school was rooting for that team. I particularly liked the striker, Garate. I kind of wanted to, I liked the fact that no one else at the school was rooting for them and also because they had just won the championship I decided that was the team I was going to follow. So that day I became a ‘colchonero.’ That’s the nickname that the followers of that team are known by. The nickname ‘colchonero’ was born in 1913 when the team switched it’s original white and blue colors for red and white vertical stripes. Which up until today are the team colors. The nickname was born because the colors and vertical stripes reminded people of the design of mattress covers of the time. Mattresses of the time, early 20th century were striped and white and red. So it reminded people of mattresses or ‘colchones’ and from that point on the team and it’s followers were known as ‘colchoneros.’ The team has had, over it’s 100 year history some reasonable success, winning several national championships and European titles. However, it has not been as successful as Real Madrid, their neighbors, or Barcelona. And the team itself and it’s fans have given rise to a now nationally known spirit or attitude. The reason for this is that there had been intermittent, sprinkled success but usually the wait in between titles has been long. On a couple of occasions the team lost it’s standing in the first division, ‘La Liga’ and had to drop down to the second division, what would be the minor leagues in the U.S. Like for a big team like Atlético de Madrid to drop down like that is a big deal. The history of the team is alot of success mixed with hardship and disappointment. A few years back there was a spot on television that shows this attitude, issued by the team as a promotional campaign to increase the following and season passes for the club. Purposely this commercial reflects the ‘colchonero’ spirit of living through disappointment and hardship. So you are a fan of them because it’s almost like your own personality. They emphasize that it’s almost like being a masochist because you know you’re going to be disappointed. It showed scenes after past disappointments. And at the end the son asks the dad, “Papa porque somos del Atleti?” (Dad, why do we belong to Atlético de Madrid?) That is the question that all kids, in my days it was only boys but now it’s boys and girl, ask each other, “De quien eres?” (Who do you belong to?). Every boy had to “belong” to a team.  The spirit of my team kind of represents an alternative path or approach which manifests itself often in life. We have situations in society, in politics, in business, or art where people tend to gather around what seem to be the two majority options, paths, or schools of thought but that sometimes a third alternative or way may emerge. For example in the United States, most people would identify themselves as being either republican or democratic. And now in more recent years, the Independents have gained more momentum. Even in English we would use the question “who do you belong to?” more to describe your political inclination. While in Spain, your sports allegiance is a huge factor within your identity. Although it’s not perfect, it’s a stronger predictor of a persons general attitude, mindset or view of life than sports allegiance in the United States.  I’m trying to say that a person who follows Atlético de Madrid is in general, more likely to be more a third way person in politics and other things in life. It’s an important, popular statement or way to gauge or ascertain a persons general outlook. Also, people who follow Real Madrid or Barcelona have other generalizations.”

There are several interesting facets to this description of folklore:
Firstly, the group of fans that support the national teams all have nicknames. These nicknames however are not derived from the team name or a team mascot, like many of the teams in the United States. The nicknames are based on other factors or criteria. The participant gave the example of followers of Atlético de Madrid being nicknamed, “colchoneros.” Fans of FC Barcelona are known as ‘Culés’ and those of Real Madrid are called ‘Merengues.’ Merengues comes from a” Spanish dessert, usually white, made from whipped egg-whites and sugar, and served amongst the elites.” ‘Culés’ is “Catalan for asses. People passing by their old stadium, Les Corts, would sometimes see their buttocks hanging over the side of the benches, hence the nickname for the supporters.”
These two explanations were provided by: http://www.laligaweekly.com/2010/05/la-liga-nicknames.html. The site provides some of the other nicknames for the followers of teams in ‘La Liga’ and their descriptions.

Also interesting is that there are some stereotypes surrounding the individuals depending on the national team they support. Doing some more research I was able to figure out that fans of Real Madrid have the stereotype of being wealthy and elitist. I was unable to find a ‘stereotype’ regarding the followers of Barcelona, but the team has become a symbol of Catalan pride throughout their desire to break free from the rest of Spain. Atlético de Madrid is “the 3rd club of Spain in terms of fans, although far from Barça and Madrid. The image of the club is the story of the most “unlucky” team in Spain. Atlético is the club where everything can happen and it’s always lived by big passion, the good and the bad things. This history of “losers” and compared with their neighbors have made Atlético a special club. Atlético is considered the team of the people, the team of the artists, even sometimes linked to the left in politics. They say ‘it’s easy to be madridista, but being atlético is something that can’t be explained, you have it in the blood’.” A similar explanation of Atlético de Madrid’s reputation to that of my father’s is provided above by http://www.xtratime.org/forum/showthread.php?t=145703.

Additionally the language they use surrounding sports and especially soccer is indicative of how crucial it is to their national identity. In English we ask people who they are a fan of or who which team they root for. Usually it has something to do with your geographical proximity to a particular team but not always and/or can have something to do with your family culture. However, in Spanish the question that is asked is “To whom (what team) do you belong?” It is meant to ask for whom does a person root for but they type of language that is used implies a very strong connection with a persons being and identity. Also, since the country is much smaller than the United States the rivalry may be more augmented due to the fact that the teams and fans are confined to a smaller geographical space which creates more tension. This could be compared to the rivalries between Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in California or the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in California. Most rivalries are not cross-country, they are between teams of closer geographic proximity. But still, it seems that an individuals loyalty to one of the three national soccer teams in Spain is a much greater indicator of personality and/or political inclinations and an integral part of a citizens national identity than in any sport in the United States.

Childhood
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Humor

Urdu childhood rhyme

Context: The informant is a college-age male whose parents are both from Pakistan originally. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. He currently lives in Southern California in a joint family and has also visited Pakistan multiple times since he was very young. His extended family in Pakistan includes many young uncles and cousins who are closer to his age than his parents’. The informant recalls his older cousins would say to him, jokingly, when he was in trouble,

“___ ke bacche

daal daal kacche”

which literally means “___’s child, uncooked lentils”. He elaborates that this was meant as a warning, to scare him into an apology for some misbehavior, because it was always said a precursor to someone “tattling” on him to a parent.

Analysis: The informant explains that it is a saying that everyone, including himself now, says to children younger than oneself. He says that he has never thought about the meaning, and only remembered and said it regularly when teasing his younger cousins because it gave him a sense of authority over them (since only people older than you would say it to you, usually) and because it rhymed, so “it was easy to say and easy to remember”. He continues, “It was just, like a fun, teasing thing to say to the little kids, like you would joke with them but you wouldn’t actually get them into trouble.” From his own words, the informant seems to have recast the saying, not as the veiled threat his older relatives would use against him, but as something to relate to younger kids with.

From a more objective perspective, lentils are one of the staples in many Pakistani diets (i would venture to say, in many South Asian diets too). Uncooked lentils, however, are not very useful. So the rhyme could be commenting on the “bad boy”‘s or “bad girl”‘s lack of worth–no one wants you if you’re going to misbehave. Also, it could be a veiled warning that you’re about to be “cooked” or put “in hot water” or “raked over the coals”–that is, punished. The significance of not referring to the child by [his own name], but by “the child of [his own name]“, could be a reference to the fact that South Asian cultures are patriarchal and patrilineal, so knowing who the father is, is very important. Calling a child his/her own father may be a veiled way of saying they have no father and are therefore the object of shame.

Customs
general

Fishy and Trout

“If a drag queen is really pretty, and they look like a real female, instead of a man dressed in drag, then they call them ‘fishy’. And if they’re not ‘fishy’, then they’re trout. It’s like a diss, to call someone a trout.”

The informant introduced me to these drag-queen slang-terms during the middle of our interview. She used to work in a costume shop for drag queens, and she learned these terms from hanging out with several drag queens. She said that she enjoyed working in the costume shop because she met many people she wouldn’t have normally had the chance to. She seemed proud that she knew these slang words, because it gave her some authority in the world of drag queens. It made her connections with drag queens more real, because she could partake in their unique culture. Most occupational folklore works on this level. The more folklore one learns about a culture, the more accepted that person is as “one of them”. Even though the informant does not partake in dressing in drag herself, she still likes having ties to the culture.

I thought this piece of folklore was very interesting. It’s always cool to learn new words and their meanings, especially if they’re slang words from another culture.  I also thought it was interesting that both words, “fishy” and “trout”, connect to fish. I wonder what the connection between drag queens and fish is, if there is one. Maybe it’s because fish seem like a more gender-neutral animal, and drag queens like to walk the line between genders. Or it could be that fish terms are just more unique than the classic “pretty” and “ugly”, and drag queens like to be unique. Whatever the case, I feel that the words appropriately fit their meanings. “Trout” is more of a blunt, ugly word, while “fishy” sounds more delicate and similar to “pretty”. When a drag queen looks successfully like a real female, he is considered very pretty. I have seen many drag queens in the Mardi Gras festival in Provincetown, Rhode Island. There is a huge range in their female resemblance. I think it’s a very interesting culture, and I’m glad I know a little more about it now.

Adulthood
Folk speech
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Old age

お父さん and お母さん — Japanese Folk Speech

In Japan, married couples who have children often begin to call each other 「お父さん」(otousan) and 「お母さん」(okaasan) which translates to “father” and “mother.” The apparent strangeness of this phenomenon is illuminated only when one tries to apply it to American society, where parents generally still call each other by their names or pet-names. An American mother, for instance, although she may say to her child something like, “Look, your father is over there!” would never, when speaking alone with her husband, call him “father,” just as her husband would never refer to his wife as “mother.”

My informant, who has spent her entire life in the city of Naha-shi in Okinawa, Japan, was extremely surprised when I told her of the apparent strangeness of this folk speech. Her mother has always called her husband (and my informant’s father) “father,” and her father has always called his wife “mother.” It was always perfectly natural for my informant and for everybody else in Japanese society to hear parents talking to each other as if they were each other’s children. Though they refer to each other by their names occasionally, they very rarely stray from this folk speech, which seems to characterize the relationships between most parents in Japanese society.

Though Japan has a very low divorce rate, research has shown it to have one of the highest percentages of unhappily married couples in the world. This percentage, though partly a result of women lacking the economic independence to free themselves from an unhappy marriage, also arises from the prominence of children in Japanese married life. According to my informant, many a Japanese couple, after they have children, shift towards investing their entire life and love towards their children, becoming not man and woman but “father” and “mother,” defining themselves solely by their positions as their children’s caretakers.

When my informant came on an extended visit to America, she was perplexed to see, on some American TV show, an episode when the parents leave their kids with a baby-sitter and go off on a night of their own. The concept of a baby-sitter barely even exists in Japan, where usually women serve as housewives and are always home, and where the possibility of leaving the children behind to go on a date as man and woman feels like some kind of betrayal of the family system. 「結婚したらロマンスなくなるよね〜」was what my informant’s mother had said, which, roughly translated, means You can’t expect the romance to keep going after you get married and have kids.

That parents have–always, it seems–called each other 「お父さん」 and 「お母さん」referring to themselves only as “father” and “mother” in relation to their children, seems understandable then, in the context of Japanese society. Perhaps this folk speech derives itself from the very culture and sensibilities of the Japanese people. In Japan, perhaps, nurturing children and creating a cohesive family with clearly defined roles is seen as more important and easier, perhaps, than a passionate love between parents, hence the reason why so many people disregard their names (and subsequently, perhaps even their individual identities) to adopt the generic roles of mother, and of father.

 

 

[geolocation]