USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘paper’
Childhood
general

Hamburger/Hotdog Folding

My sister grew up in the United States, where most kids are introduced to arts and crafts at a very young age. As many know, there are two ways to fold a piece of paper: hamburger (narrow edge to narrow edge) or hotdog (wide edge to wide edge).

Allegra: “I was introduced to the folding pattern ‘hot dog versus hamburger style’ in first grade. We were fashioning tri-corner hats out of newspaper. The first step was to fold the newspaper down along a crease to maintain its width, rather than its length. This was referred to as “hamburger style.” If the first step had instead been to fold the newspaper vertically, longer than it was wide, the instruction would have been ‘hot dog style.'”

Me: Did you notice that other teachers referred to hamburger and hotdog folding in class?

Allegra: Oh totally. It was a commonly used instruction in art rooms and day care centers that I went to throughout my childhood. A teacher would say, ‘To make a paper fan, fold the materials hot dog style.’ or ‘To begin your fortune teller, fold the paper hamburger style.’

Analysis: If I could hazard a guess, I think the metaphor works because these sandwich fixings come out of the package with a natural crease. Buns fold along a perforation for easier separation. A hot dog bun opens but does not disintegrate, much like how many paper projects require the traces of former folds to last, so that they may be used later. Two American culinary staples, same dough, two different ways to enjoy them. Hot dogs and hamburgers are also quintessential components to the American child’s diet. Notoriously fussy eaters, the one or two lunch room items every kid likes are hot dogs and hamburgers. Its an easily relatable illustration for a strange new technique, like origami.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Curing “deadly” Colombian hiccups

Juliana remembered that if you get hiccups,  you should place a small piece of wet paper between your eyebrows in the middle of your forehead to stop the hiccups. She has no idea why but it will usually do the trick. However, if that does not work, then you are supposed to place the wet piece of paper inside on the roof of your mouth. If that fails, then get some “panela” (harden brown sugar) shave it into a thimble of hot brandy, lie on the bed with your head hanging off the bed, drinking it upside down. If all of that fails, then you run the risk of dying because she knows someone who had the hiccups for one week and died in their sleep. Spooky. I asked the other Colombians there at Easter dinner about the hiccups and they had a few other variations but all claimed to know someone different who had died of the hiccups. Colombians take hiccups seriously and will be on you to take measure to stop the hiccups as fast as possible because you can die.  They say that chewing your food slowly and eating slow is the key to not getting hiccups. Colombians already take their time eating on average twice to three times longer than most Americans. They seem to think that this was common knowledge and warned me against my ignorance because they did not want me to  die.

Analysis: Did not know hiccups were so dangerous. It is something most people will experience and an annoying nuisance and maybe because it is so common out of coincidence someone may die while having hiccups. But I have never heard of anyone in the US dying of hiccups and American mow their food at high velocity. Colombian eat much slower and yet it seems like everyone had heard of someone who has died of it in Colombia. I did Google it and someone on Grey’s Anatomy (TV show) died who had prolonged hiccups but her death was the result of infection from surgery to correct the acid reflux that was aggravating the hiccups. Also, we are talking about a fictional character.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hate Ritual

Informant Background: The informant is originally from Hong Kong. She now lives permanently in the United States but travels back once a year to visit her relatives in Hong Kong. She speaks both Cantonese and English. Her family practices many of the Chinese traditions, folk-beliefs, and superstitions. She celebrates many of the Chinese holidays through cooking of special “holiday food.”

 

This is something you do if you have someone you really really hate. You can draw a picture of that person, then write his/her name on the paper…The paper is the special kind that people use to burn during funerals…Then you can take that piece of paper to a tree and put it down above the root. Then take of your shoes and hit the paper on the drawing as hard as you can. Just hold the shoe in your hand and go ta-ta-ta-ta…Oh, and it has to be your shoes. Then you shout stuff you want to say to that person like: “go die,” “die,” “I hate you,” etc. Then hopefully the stuff you said would happen to the person you drew on the paper.

The informant said she learned about this while she was growing up in Hong Kong. She heard it from her classmates. It is something children would do when they dislike their classmates or friends.

 

I think this shows how while both Eastern and Western culture perceive children as a separate group from society where they are always represented as innocence beings. In contrary to many beliefs children has anger and hatred that adult does. Though many society tries to have a separate category for children where they are thought of as innocence creatures, children do understand the concept of hatred and violence. This ritual shows anger and repression of anger among children. This ritual shows that children can be violent and ill-meaning, the opposite of the ideal angelic image of children.

This ritual is an example of homeopathic magic where “like” creates   “like;” idea that the drawing of the person on the paper. It also has element of contagious magic through the use of one’s own shoes. It appears that this ritual is a metaphor how you will stomp the person you dislike into the ground with your own feet. Similar to sticking pins into voodoo dolls.

The use of funeral paper reflects how you wish bad thing for the person because funeral rituals and objects are reserved for that event, and not everyday life. Using funeral paper is to foreshadow the misfortune that individual. The chanting of bad omens while stomping the paper with your own shoes reflects the idea of homeopathic magic how you wish the words you said will translate into that person’s life. This is similar to the idea of the voodoo doll how the image of the target is created on an object and the rituals performed will reflect on the target.

This ritual not only shows anger as emotions but also as action. It is both violent in force and words through both the hitting of the paper and the shouting of ill-intention phrases.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Japanese New Year’s Eve Traditions

Informant Background: This individual was born and grew up in Hawaii. His family is of Japanese and Chinese descent. He speaks Japanese and English. His family still practice many Japanese traditions, also many Chinese traditions. They celebrate some of the Japanese holidays. Many of the folk-beliefs and superstitious are still practiced. His relatives who are Japanese lives in Hawaii as well. He currently lives in Los Angeles to attend college.

 

At New Year’s Eve, it is a Japanese tradition that you eat long strand of noodles which signifies a long and healthy life. Next, you have to eat the sticky rice, mochi, which represent how your family will stick together. Then, you go to the temple where you can make a wish and pick up different kinds of blessed paper which represents different things in your life such as: safe travel, good study, etc. You do these things with your family, relative, and close friends.

Though the informant’s family migrated to Hawaii two generations ago they still practice Japanese rituals and traditions during important holidays. It is not only important that these rituals have to be performed, but also importance that they are performed correctly to bring the individual a good coming next year.

 

 

I believe that almost everybody have some kind of New Year’s Even traditions depending on the culture. New Year’s Eve is also one of the main periods of liminality since it is the transition period of one of the longest life cycle measurement. The New Year also signifies the end of something as well as the beginning. This tradition shows how food and everyday activity is made special during the liminal period as a way to create foreshadow of events or even a positive self-fulfillment prophecy(making a wish at midnight, drinking champagne, etc).

According to the informant the food consumed during this time of year is made slightly different but from the same ingredients as the food eaten every day. The form of the food becomes metaphor to many valued aspect in that culture: long life and family ties. Similar to other culture holiday traditions, certain foods are exclusive to those events and those events only.

The blessed paper is to foresee and start the New Year with good luck and goals for the coming year. I’ve observed on my trip to Japan once that there are many type of these paper that one can purchased: good luck, good grades, good relationship, pass an exam, get into university, etc. This reflects the idea of a “life fulfillment prophecy” where the beliefs that you will get good luck can help bring you good luck.

In this Japanese tradition to do all the traditions is not only to foreshadow a good year but also foreshadow a good year with your family. The idea that these rituals are done with people close to you shows how the transition period is not only important to the individual, but the collective as well.

The performance of these traditions also shows how some individual is reinforcing his cultural identity from his geographical origin without being there.

Customs

Paper Shredder Mascot

Paper Shredder Mascot and Toilet  Paper Throwing

Tradition

 

When talking about silly mascots, my informant said his school’s nickname was the Papermarkers, since the town was built around a Georgia Pacific Paper mill in the 1930s. He claimed that their mascot was a ”big-ass shredder” and that students “throw toilet paper on the court/field/etc in order to celebrate rather than throwing confetti (since the mill makes paper, which is close enough to toilet paper). It is kind of odd, but definitely cool how a mill that is probably going to shut down in a few years defines our high school’s culture and pride as the ’Papermakers’. “

 

 

Thus, the mascot commemorates the town’s history. Moreover, the tradition of throwing toilet paper does the same in a way that students can get involved and revel in their towns past glory. Also, throwing toilet paper—which is often associated with fecal matter—when beating an opponent suggests that the school is cleaning up the opponents, comparing the other team to poop. Thus, the tradition of throwing toilet paper reinforces their history/their identity  as a community while celebrating their dominance over the opposing team.

Photo courtesy of: http://coachesaid.com/Content/ContentImages/Camas-mascot-25.jpg

Game
general
Humor

Paper Stretcher

The informant worked as a professional printer for over twenty years at several different shops in the Los Angeles area.

The Story:

Well, used to be, when I was printing, they, ya know, we’d get the new guys, and obviously, you know, we’d need to, to go get something or, ya know, we’d send them on errands here and there. And, uh, every once and a while, we’d we’d tell a guy to go get a paper stretcher. Ya know, and uh we’d tell ‘em “Oh, ya know, go check the sheet-fed department for a paper stretcher.” And they’d take off and twenty minutes later, they come back. “Ah I can’t find it. I’m looking for it ya know, all over the place.” And ya know, sometimes the other department would send them to another department to go get it and, usually we’d see how long they would go with it. But uh, obviously, ya know, he got the clue after a while, after he, ya know, couldn’t find it that uh, there was no such thing. [chuckles] And uh, paper does a lot of stuff but it doesn’t stretch.

The prank was fairly common at all of the shops the informant worked at.
They pulled the prank on new workers because “The older guys, they knew what was up.”

This is a perfect example of occupational folklore, and a liminal phase prank. It is assumed that once you can’t be fooled by the prank, you know what paper is capable of, therefore making you an experienced printer.

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