USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘rumor’
Folk Beliefs
general

Don’t Swim After Eating

The belief:

“If go swimming after you eat, you’ll drown.”

 

The informant doesn’t remember where he heard this rumor, but he thinks it was probably from a friend’s mother during his childhood. He doesn’t think it’s true now, though. In my opinion, I think this is a popular statement told to children by their parents so that they let their food digest before they get back in the water to swim. Another popular belief is that you’ll get cramps if you swim right after eating, so maybe the parents who say this more extreme belief are just trying to protect their children from painful cramps.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Hot dogs

The belief:

“You can only eat 2 hotdogs per year, because they take a long time to digest.”

The informant is my sister, a sophomore in high school. She does not remember where she heard this, but she claims that she hasn’t eaten a hotdog since 2012. She told me, “I save my 2 hotdogs for 4th of July every year, but even then I don’t eat hotdogs.” When I told her that I ate a good amount of hotdogs last year, she jokingly responded that I should refrain from eating more hotdogs for another five years. I think this belief comes from apprehension of Genetically Modified Organisms and non-organic food in recent years. More and more people want to eat naturally grown meat and vegetables, and are starting to question what exactly is in their food. With hotdogs especially, it is hard to tell what type of meat (or meats) is in them. Whether or not this belief is true, it is understandable for people to think twice before ingesting something they can’t identify.

Childhood
Narrative

Overnight Resident in Campus Shack

Item:

“There was no way we were going to see what made the sound, we were way to scared.”

The informant went to an elementary school that had a wooden structure in the middle of the playground that held all of the playground equipment. The structure was a bit ominous looking, with a pointed roof and fencing over the windows when it was closed down. The kids would sign up for shift to man the shack, and it was their job to hand out things like balls or jump ropes when other kids would request them. At the end of the day, it was the child’s job to get everything back and put things where they should be. The shack was then closed by fences being pulled over the windows and the door being shut.

There was a rumor among the students that someone would break into the shack and live in it overnight. This was reinforced by their own reports of things being moved around by the next morning after closing it up. The person who supposedly lived in the shack was homeless and came and went when nobody was around. On one occasion, when the informant stayed late for daycare, he and his friends apparently heard a crash sound come from the shack, although they opted to not investigate.

 

Context:

According to the informant, the rumor of the man in the playground hut originated some time around when he was there, so it wasn’t terribly old. But it lasted through his entire time there and didn’t really lose believability among children, even into middle school. The instance of him hearing a noise come from it at night was, he admitted, likely just something falling over, but it was more than enough confirmation as a child for him.

 

Analysis:

The most interesting part of this story is the fact that the rumor didn’t fade as the children got older. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that the story itself isn’t so farfetched that middle schoolers would rule it out as impossible. Something like an axe murderer or magical being living in the shack would lose realism as children got older and rationalized things, but the possibility of someone sneaking onto campus and taking up temporary residence in an unlocked hut is there. It’s easy to say the stuff got moved around just naturally, or someone cleans up the shack at night from the school, but the fact that nothing in the story is “out of this world” makes it even more haunting to a certain extent.

Legends
Narrative

The Formaldehyde Bucket

Item:

“So in my town, Montclair, New Jersey, we have a street called Mission street, and it is broadly known as the ‘crime street’ in town. So, I’ve never actually been down this street. I know that there’s crime there (I read police reports about it), someone got shot there last year, he died. So anyways the story is, this person is at the corner of Mission and Bloomfield, the cross street. And there’s this man standing there with a bucket. So the person, whoever was the originator of this story, goes over to the man with the bucket and said ‘what’s in the bucket?’ And the man with the bucket explains that it’s formaldehyde and that for five dollars the guy can dip his cigarette into the formaldehyde and smoke it.”

Context:

This anecdote is a rumor that the informant overheard at his high school.

Analysis:

This story a great example of a wacky, neighborhood urban legend. Regardless of where you are from, everyone knows little anecdotes like this that may or may not be true, but are remembered and passed down because of their originality and tie to the specific area that they circulate within.

 

Legends
Narrative

A Cow in Old Main

My informant is a student at Macalester College, and on campus, there is a story that everyone knows. Around 1900, the president of Macalester had a son who attended the school. His son didn’t like to go to class, but instead liked to play pranks on everyone: his classmates, his professors, and especially his father, driving him crazy. There used to be a conference room on the fourth floor of the building known as Old Main, where the president would hold his important meetings.One day he was in a meeting when a cow wandered into the boardroom. The President immediately knew it was his son’s doing. So when his son’s GPA fell below a 2.8, his father kicked him out of Macalester, as a way of getting revenge. That rule (you’ll be expelled if your GPA falls below a 2.8) has been in place at Macalester ever since.

My informant is a tour guide at Macalester, and always tells this story to prospective freshman. “I first heard it during orientation right before freshman year,” he tells me. “It’s a funny story and I think it gives people on my tours a break from all the info for something cheesy. I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s just a device I’m using to poke fun at the school, but I also think it helps people realize that not all admissions offices see themselves as the gatekeepers in every single sense. I think it’s good to recognize we don’t take ourselves that seriously, and it helps build a relationship with prospective students.”


Folk Beliefs
general
Narrative

Ancestry Story

Ancestry Rumor

“There has always been a rumor that the LeCates family ancestors were seafaring pirates.  Another rumor is that we come from a band of thieves in France.”

These amusing rumors about our ancestry are said to have started a very long time ago.  It is obviously quite unclear as to whether there is actually any truth to the rumors, but they have provided amusement to the family for years.  We bring it up a lot at family events and holidays that many of us gather for, especially Christmas and Thanksgiving.  My family generally has a great sense of humor, so we enjoy talking about anything that could provide humor.

I believe this rumor started because of our last name, LeCates.  We are of French decent, though many generations ago.  We don’t really consider ourselves French, but every once in a while if something amusing comes up we’ll associate ourselves as a joke.  The particular rumor about being a band of thieves in France most likely came up because we also happen to be a troublemaking family (to some extent, not necessarily in a serious way.)  We tend to enjoying fooling around pulling pranks, etc.  Sometimes we really do get into trouble with the law for tickets or driving and whatnot, and that specifically is when the rumors come out and start getting repeated.  When these situations are combined with out good sense of humor, this creates a perfect environment to stir up old rumors.

The “seafaring pirates” rumor is very similar in that it comes up when any member of our family gets into any kind of trouble.  This rumor in particular comes up when my siblings or I talk about our spending money.  If we had gone out a lot recently or had done a lot of shopping and realize the next day that we’re starting to run low on cash, we joke around that our seafaring ancestors took it.  We say the same thing if money somehow goes missing, as well.  This rumor tends to provide a lot of humor because it can be interpreted, shared, and repeated in a variety of ways.

Family ancestry rumors tend to be very common because they involve a sense of pride.  Even if it seems to be a somewhat negative rumor, like this one, it is still a way of recognizing and identifying a family.  This makes the members of the family feel proud for their heritage, gives them something to talk about, and helps them feel even more connected with each other to have something to peculiar in common.

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