USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘proverb’
Proverbs

“Can’t never did anything…”

BACKGROUND:

A family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania follows the strict proverb of, “Can’t never did anything…” The proverb would be uttered any time someone would claim that there was something “I can’t do.” If someone expressed their inability to do something, the family would respond with, “Can’t never did anything…” The intention of the proverb had the same basic concept, that nothing will get accomplished by simply giving up. The expression behind it, however, would frequently change. In some instances, the response was expressed in a kind, encouraging tone with the intentions of lifting spirits. Other times, the response was expressed in a stern, denial of their claim that they can’t do something, with the intention of strictly rejecting any approval of that answer.

MY THOUGHTS:

I find it very interesting how many contexts there are in which this saying can be used. My source described how the saying was typically used as a means of shaming someone for giving up easily. While this may have seemed like something that was beneficial to the recipient of this saying, I can’t help but feel like this was more of an unsympathetic way of saying, “Your best isn’t good enough”. The way in which this story was told to me (tone of voice and facial expressions) told me she felt the same way.

Proverbs

“Don’t drink milk with fish”

BACKGROUND:

A family from Bucks County, Pennsylvania passed down the tradition and ominous warning, “Don’t drink milk with fish”. This proverb was passed down for so many generations that the actual reason not to drink milk while eating fish. The family comes from a long line of traditional Mennonites branching off into the Pennsylvania dutch community. Being so dedicated to the traditions of their community and family, every descendant of this family has refused to drink milk with fish, despite not knowing the actual reason behind it.

INTERVIEW:

The interview with my source, A, is as follows:

A: My grandmother always told me, “Don’t drink milk with fish”. Because of that, I simply haven’t done it for as long as I can remember.

Me: Is there a reason she told you not to drink milk while eating fish?

A: I don’t know actually, the saying has been in my family for so many years that its reason was simply lost. Why don’t we drink milk with fish? Who knows. I’ve asked a many people if they know of its origin but nobody knows. Regardless, we still don’t do it.

MY THOUGHTS:

I find it extremely interesting that something such as not drinking milk while eating fish is so religiously followed. This family is so dedicated to this tradition of unknown origin, that it doesn’t even consider what the actual reason for this practice is. I think this blind faith is a testament to how certain peoples are affected by the way in which family and tradition is upheld.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Wise Quote about Business Leaders

Background information:

My dad, Anders, has been working in the realm of business since he was in his early twenties. He started working in Sweden at a tech company and then moved on to work at Hewlett-Packard when we moved to Silicon Valley in Palo Alto. Because he has been working for nearly thirty years in business, I consider him to be very experienced in corporate affairs, client interactions, and business endeavors, and know that he speaks from experience when he discusses business and management.

 

Main piece:

When I was talking to my dad, a saying that he often says truly caught my attention. Through working at various jobs throughout my life, my dad would always emphasize one saying in particular: “there is a difference between a manager and a leader—there are many managers but a few leaders”. This quote is applicable to anyone who is in the workforce as it clearly shows a divide between managers who are true leaders and are able to efficiently lead their employees and those managers that simply have the title of manager but are unable to lead. Through my dad’s experience working in various departments of business and interacting with numerous managers, as well as leading others himself, he perfectly sums up those with true management potential.

 

Personal thoughts:

Because I have seen my dad work very hard throughout my life, I know that he is extremely passionate about business and is very knowledgeable about the business world. When I was sharing my experiences with him about working various jobs, he constantly reiterated this saying, which I found a lot of comfort and sense in. I completely agree with this saying and feel that it amply sums up many frustrating experiences that individuals often face with their managers and coworkers in the workforce.

Proverbs

“Camaroón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente,” Mexico

This proverb was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. The proverb “camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente” translates into English literally as “a shrimp that falls asleep gets carried by the tide.” It is similar in meaning to the American saying “if you snooze, you lose.” It can be interpreted in terms of laziness, opportunity, or devotion, depending on the context it is used in, according to her.

 

My friend first related it to laziness. To her, the “tide” represented life since, it is always moving, and the shrimp represents lazy people who refuse to move with it. It is something that her mother always used to say to her and her siblings in order to motivate her to stay focused at school, and she thinks that it was very encouraging. As she grew up, she related it to opportunity when comparing the tide to an opportunity, and if you “sleep” on it you can miss it. It was her dad who gave it this meaning as he was encouraging her to apply to jobs and network as she got to college. When she had a bad experience with a close friend, another good friend said it to her comparing the tide to toxic people.

 

Even though I am from a Latin American country myself, I had never heard this before, but it is hardly surprising since Latin Americans have a reputation for being lazy so I could see why this would be popular. Like most proverbs, this one can be interpreted differently by different people depending on context, and I think it is really interesting how one person could use the experiences she was having at a certain time in her life to assign different meanings to a phrase she has been hearing since she was a child. It speaks to the universality and flexibility that some proverbs can have when looking at them from different perspectives.

Proverbs

“Más vale solo que mal acompañado,” Mexico

This proverb was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. The proverb “más vale solo que mal acompañado” translates into English literally as “it is better to be alone than in bad company.” It clearly comes from a place of experience, and it is about toxic people not being worth befriending just for the sake of having many friends.

 

Even though my friend had been hearing it all her life, specifically from her dad, she never really believed it. Like a lot of young kids, she believed that popularity was everything and surrounded herself with as many people as she could, even though some of them weren’t good for her. They were shallow and often mean, she says, which caused her to imitate that behavior as well just so she could “fit in.” However, when she left for college, all of those relationships immediately fell through. All her “friends” stopped talking to her, and it was hard for her to be alone at first, but her dad kept reminding her of that. She really got to know herself and learned to find peace on her own, and to be a better person. That saying has become really important to her, something that she constantly reminds herself, and she is very grateful to her dad for teaching her that lesson.

 

To me, this is also a very meaningful life lesson. I have also heard it since I was very young and I had very similar experiences to my friend’s. I think is a really powerful message that most of us forget as we let appearances and popularity define our behavior. Similarly to her, that reminder has gotten me through a lot and it has also made me learn to appreciate real friends, no matter how many of them I have.

Proverbs

“A quien madura Dios lo ayuda,” Mexico

This proverb was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico and is 21 years old. The proverb “a quien madruga Dios lo ayuda” translates into English literally as “God helps early risers.”

 

This is something her dad used to say to her to get her to wake up for school. She has noticed that it is often the older people tell to the young, like it also often happens with proverbs in general. She thinks it highlights the fact that Latin Americans are notorious for being lazy and need to be encouraged to break that habit.

 

I actually grew up hearing what seems to be this proverb’s opposite, “no por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.” It translates to “no matter how early you get up, you can’t make the sun rise any sooner.” I thought it sounded discouraging at first, but when I thought about it, I concluded that it spoke to a similar idea; it is saying that one should not make rushed decisions, to take the time to do things right.

Proverbs

“Ghar ka bedhi, lanka dhaaye,” India

This proverb was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. “Ghar ka bedhi, lanka dhaaye” translates into English literally as “the person who is a traitor to his/her own home can bring the entire house down,” and it is based on Hindu mythology.

 

The context is about the evilest king in Ramayan, who was brought down because his brother exposed the king’s only weakness to the king’s rival. If he hadn’t received that information, he would have never won.

 

I found Indian proverbs to be very metaphorical and symbolic in comparison to the American or Latin American proverbs that I’ve heard. My friend told me about some others that she had heard and I didn’t understand them at first, but when she gave me some context for them, I thought their messages were very deep and beautiful. They clearly come from experience and make interesting religious connections.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Russian Proverb about Beauty

Main Piece: Russian Proverb

“Красота требует жертв.”

Phonetic: Krasota trebuet zhertv.

Literal translation: Beauty requires sacrifice.

Actual translation:

Without pain/sacrifice, you will not achieve beauty.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

She was often told this proverb by her grandmother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

She takes this proverb fairly seriously, and actual believes that in order to appear beautiful, one has to do things that one may not enjoy / are unpleasant.

 

Context:

  • Where?

N/A

  • When?

When a person, usually a woman, is encouraging another person, also usually a woman, to do some sort of procedure that is unpleasant/painful in order to appear more attractive.

  • Why?

To provide encouragement for the person to do something unpleasant.

 

Personal Thoughts:

This proverb is essentially the same as “no pain, no gain” except it is usually used only for women and concerning the many different painful procedures that women have to do in order to appear “attractive” based on societal beauty standards. I personally do not believe this proverb in its literal sense, but I can find application for this proverb in other ways, such as applying it to studying and schoolwork, or exercise and health.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Russian Proverb about Carefullness

Main Piece: Russian Proverb

“Семь раз отмерь, один раз отрежь.”

Phonetic: Sem’ raz otmer’, odin raz otrezh’.

Literal translation: Seven times measure, one time cut.

Actual meaning: Measure something seven times before cutting it once.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was often told to him by his mother to encourage him to be more careful.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

Before cutting something, or doing a project such as a piece of furniture, he makes sure to plan it out and measure everything carefully so that he does not mess up the project.

 

Context:

  • Where?

Anywhere

  • When?

When someone is doing an important project

  • Why?

To encourage carefulness.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I have often heard this proverb growing up, and only ever realized how important it is to be careful and plan when doing things as I got older. Its very helpful when doing projects.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Proverbs

Proverb: Love is like a Tomato

Main Piece: Proverb

Original:

Прошла любовь, завяли помидоры.

Phonetic:

Proshla lyubov’, zavyali pomidory.

Literal translation:

Love has passed, tomatoes have withered.

Actual translation:

The love was a crush and it passed quickly.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her friends.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union.

  • What does it mean to them?

If she hears it, it means she had a silly crush and has quickly moved on.

Context:

This proverb is told to young people, usually young girls but can be boys, when they have a crush and quickly move on either from liking the person to hating them, or to another person.

Personal Thoughts:

I find this proverb to be very amusing, comparing a person’s feelings to a tomato that has withered, especially since tomatoes are not a food that is commonly associated with anything romantic. Usually when young people hear this proverb, they are insulted at first, because it seems to diminish the value of their feelings, but they find it funnier as they get older and realize those feelings were not nearly as important or significant as they seemed.

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