USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘phrase’
Folk speech
Proverbs

“Every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner.”

Subject: Yoruba (Nigerian Proverb

Phonetic Script: “Kwa ụbọchị bụ maka ohi, otu ụbọchị dị ka onye nwe.”

Translation:” Every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner.”

Interpretation: You can lie, cheat, and steal, but one day, you will be caught.

Analysis: This proverb shows the values of the Igbo people. Virtue is better that self-interest.

 

 

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

“Send it!”

“Okay, so in the snowboarding world, when, um, you’re about to, like—‘cause I was a competitive snowboarder, you know, and so we would hit, like, really big jumps or something and then, or like if the pipe was like really big that day, um, so usually it’s used with jumps that are like over like 25 feet, so no like it doesn’t have to be big [laughs of disbelief from other people in room], but usually they’ll be like 90 feet when people use this saying and it’s not like, it’s like a, um, we would be like, ‘Oh, like fucking send it!’ That means like ‘huck yourself,’ like ‘do like what you got’ or yeah, like spin whatever, do flips and so it’s like just like ‘give it your all’ type of deal and so yeah we would just use ‘sending it.’ ‘Cause then it’s like ain’t nothing comin’ back, ‘cause you’re sending it and you’re giving it your all and you’re gonna kill it.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who grew up in competitive snowboarding and has dabbled in CrossFit and other workout programs. She has been in a prominent sorority on campus since coming to USC and goes out every night of the weekend, as well as some nights of the week. I live with the informant and the interview took place in my room during one of the lengthy conversations we often have. The informant has been known to use aspects of her athletic and workout life in social interactions and “Send it!” is no different. She went on to tell me that “So now I’ve started to integrate that into the Greek life culture and so if someone’s in a drinking game I’m like, ‘Dude, fucking send this game!’ and they’re like, ‘I’m gonna send it.’ (Interviewer says: “It’s not coming back!”) And then they drink a lot. Yeah, it’s not coming back. So then they just like drink a lot.”

 

This piece of folk speech was interesting to me because of the meaning behind something like “Send it!” The other people in the room and I got hooked on the idea that you would say it because “it wasn’t coming back.” In addition to this being about “giving it your all,” it seems like it’s about taking opportunities when you have them. It would make sense, then, that the informant would translate this phrase into other areas of her life, like the Greek life culture. It is easier to do wild things at a party when you have someone telling you it is the moment to do them. It is also interesting that it is primarily a way of encouraging someone else to do something. While it could come across as pretty aggressive to the uninitiated, those inside of snowboarding culture would know that it is a way of supporting one another and pushing each other to get better and try new things.

Folk speech
Humor

Drink Your Windex

This saying was said by my informant’s father to her whenever she stood in front of the television. He would say “you didn’t drink your Windex this morning”, and my informant now says this whenever she finds herself in a similar situation.

Windex is a window and mirror cleaner, and so presumably this saying means that you are not clear enough to see through (and you would be if you had ingested Windex). It could only have come into existence after 1933, when Windex was first produced. It also indicates the commonality of the product and the issue, as there is a saying incorporating a brand name product in a situation that became more and more prevalent as televisions began to enter homes.

Folk speech

“Girl with the look”

The informant is a friend from high school. He originally created the expression “girl with the look” on one of the first days of senior year when he saw a girl he was very attracted to. He didn’t know her name so he just called her the girl with the look. The expression quickly became a kind of inside joke within our friend group and rather than ask each other who we were interested in at school, we might ask who each other’s girl with the look was. The expression expanded out a little and other people at our school started using it, too. Another variant is “girl with a look” meaning simply a girl you’re attracted to, whereas “girl with the look” implies infatuation at first sight almost. For girls and gay guys, “guy with the look” also became a thing, though it was never used as much.

My informant liked the expression because it was a way to refer to someone without using a name, which kept it kind of secret and exclusive to those that knew what was being talked about. It kept the discussion within the friend group and also bonded us together by having our own phrase. I like it for the same reasons. Because it started out in one group, it created a sense of community and exclusivity within the group. And even though it’s a new piece of folklore, it did grow to have multiplicity and variation.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

「三日坊主」– Japanese Idiomatic Phrase

「三日坊主」is a phrase in Japan that, translated literally, means “three days monk,” or “a monk for three days.” It is used in everyday speech to indicate someone that gives up at the first sight of difficulty, or gets so easily bored with something that they are always hopping around one thing or another. For instance, someone that can never keep a journal for longer than a few days is said to be a 三日坊主, as well as people who pick up a new hobby every month.

My informant spent most of her life in Tokyo, Japan, being exposed to all kinds of regional Japanese dialects. She cannot remember the first time she heard this, but thinks, because of its widespread use in Japanese society, that it must have been when she was a child living in Okinawa. 「何かいつも知ってたような気がする」She said, which, roughly translated means, “I feel like I’ve kind of always known to say that to describe someone.” This concept of “I think I’ve always known,” I feel, is always the most significant indicator that a phrase is very engrained in that particular society. My informant’s mother would often tell her that she was a 三日坊主 because she could not keep up the same sport for a very long time. She did not like to lose, and always wanted to move on to another sport as soon as she felt that she would have to work very hard to get better than the people on her team. She wanted, she said, to find a sport that would fit her in some way naturally (which she now knows is impossible) so that she would not have to try so hard to maintain her position within it. And so she hopped around, quitting soccer when when the team started incorporating two-mile runs in their warm-ups, quitting tennis after a newcomer toppled her from her position as the best player on the team. This was not, however, the only time the phrase was used–my informant said that she often fired back at her mother for being a 三日坊主 as well, for never being able to sustain attendance at her cooking classes. “One day she’d be obsessed with Indian food and there’d be curry and naan everywhere, and then two days later she’d say she was done with it and start trying to make pizza dough from scratch, and then there was this one time when she went through a Chinese food phase and said that she was going to be a Chinese food chef, which obviously never worked out, because she kept messing up and getting frustrated and quitting.”

When my informant asked me whether there was an American phrase that corresponded with 三日坊主, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t give her a set answer. The closest phrase I could come up with, “easily bored” doesn’t have that same sense of giving up at the first sign of difficulty, the sense of wanting everything to be easy, that 三日坊主 implies. 三日坊主 is a phrase with mostly negative connotations, yet many people use it to describe themselves, oftentimes saying jokingly something like, “Oh, I quit needlework classes a long time ago. I’m such a 三日坊主!” Using a phrase like “three days monk,” perhaps, has a humorous aspect to it that makes it okay to joke about what could otherwise be seen as a character flaw. This way, in fact, they don’t need to discuss and talk about the reasons behind why they are so keen on giving up–labeling oneself as a 三日坊主 seems to be enough explanation by itself, and probably the reason why people find so much comfort in the phrase. The fact that the phrase exists gives a sense of camaraderie to all those who are described such, making them feel part of a pre-packaged group.

The phrase 三日坊主 originates from the concept of “being a monk for just three days.” Becoming a monk is something that can be very character-building and spiritually rewarding, if only one possesses strong character and true intentions. It is something that takes a life-time of work, and a life-time of dedication to its society’s rules. Being a monk for just three days is someone who is keen on receiving the rewards immediately, who cannot see that hard work leads to improvement and betterment of the self, or of a certain skill. I thought my informant described it best when she said: “三日坊主 is someone that wants that money tree, but gives up once he hears that he needs to cultivate it himself, from the seed on, and that it takes years and years to grow. A 三日坊主 is someone that for the most part lives in the present, and will go searching and searching for a money tree, but will perhaps never find it, because he doesn’t realize that the money tree will only give him money if he gives himself over, and nurtures it himself.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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