USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘saying’
Folk speech
Humor

“Dark in Here!”

Context & Analysis

The subject is a BFA in USC’s School of Dramatic Arts Acting program, which is extremely competitive. I asked him if he knew of any theater traditions or sayings specific to USC’s theater program. I included the full dialogue of our conversation below for clarity.

Main Piece

Subject: ‘Dark in here’ is a big one for the BFA’s. Any time the lights turn off someone just has to go ‘Dark in here!”

Me: What’s the context of that?
Subject: It was a line in a scene and we—Mary Jo probably made them do that line for an hour straight.

Me: Who’s Mary Jo?

Subject: Mary Jo Negro is the head of undergraduate acting at USC, she’s our acting professor, she’s the one that cuts us [laughs]

Me: So what play was it taken from?

Subject: It’s a 10-minute play called ‘Tape’. It’s very bad. [laughs]

Me: So why did it become a saying within the BFA’s?

Subject: Uh, because we’re the ones that had to run through it for an hour—it was just that line. And so then every time the lights turn off we’d have to go ‘Dark in here!’—so the lights turn off and he [the main character] goes ‘Dark in here” and so now any time any professor ever turns the lights off somebody goes “Dark in here” and I hate it [laughs].

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

“Worms in Your Stomach”

Context & Analysis

The subject used to swim competitively in high school and often had to deal with having wet hair. Her mother used to tell her the belief below to frighten her into keeping her hair down. Even though she recognizes that it is a folk belief, the thought of getting worms in her stomach was a deterrent to tying up her hair (and potentially damaging it). The subject stated that her mother most likely learned the saying from her grandmother, and she is uncertain if it is a belief that is shared by anyone outside of her family. I find it interesting that she continues to heed her mother’s warning despite not believing it herself.

Main Piece

“So my mom tells us that we’re going to get worms in our stomach if we tie our wet hair—not joking. Not joking. Yea. So when I was younger and started swimming I used to see all of the older girls in the locker room tie up their hair in really tight buns after swimming because obviously you don’t like the feeling of wet dripping hair on your back cuz it’s really gross. So I started doing it and my mom was like ‘[Subject’s Name] not only is this going to damage your hair, ‘cuz you’re going to rip it out—’cuz wet hair is weak hair or whatever— but you’re also going to get worms in your stomach’ and I didn’t believe her. But when my grandma was in town she started saying the same thing, and I thought ‘If this old lady is saying something, chances are she knows even more than my mom, so I probably shouldn’t tie it up anymore’ and I’ve never tied it up when it was wet since.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Nature Organizes Best”

Context & Analysis

The subject is a good friend of mine who has been going through some difficult times recently; I believe this is a very grounding (and likely comforting phrase) for her to remember. It has a similar tone to ‘Whatever’s meant to be will be’. I also think it is interesting that the phrase is not necessarily religious—and the subject is not religious herself—yet she still mentions spiritual ideas like God in her description of the proverb.

Main Piece

“My parents say this thing in which, it’s like,  “Nature organizes best”, which just means that a god—not necessarily god, I don’t know, in which, like, the way of the universe is working out that everything is supposed to be the way it’s meant to be—kind of like karma almost, but a little more to it than that. Like whatever’s happening in your life in the moment is supposed to happen because nature is organizing for you to learn and to grow and to become the best version of yourself which is something that my parents have always said to me when bad things are happening or when good things are happening. That things aren’t necessarily in your control and that, like, there’s something else out there and it’s not just you and that the world is working in your favor.”

Folk speech

Get Yourself Together

Original: Ponte las pilas

Phonetic: ˈpõn̪.te las ˈpi.las

Translation: Get some batteries

Full Translation: This piece of folk speech is telling whoever it is directed at that they are”out of batteries” or out of energy or work ethic, and that they need to refill or else they won’t be able to functional. It boils down directly to “don’t be lazy”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This proverb was recited in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.

Background: My informant can’t remember exactly who he heard this saying from, but is relatively certain it was in a familial setting. To him, it’s simply a natural way of telling someone that they’re being lazy, and that they should consider putting more effort or attention into whatever they’re doing. To him personally, he sees it as a harsher way of telling someone to get more motivated. He’s only used it friends and family, and considers it as almost borderline rude.

Analysis: This example is perhaps unique amongst the folk speech that I have recorded. Many phrases are hard to assign to a single period due to the general difficulty of tracing word-of-mouth materials. However, this example appears to have contemporary origins. Since its referring to batteries specifically, it must have originated sometime in the past fifty to one hundred years, making it a relatively recent piece of folk speech. In terms of the phrase itself, I think that its short length – three words – makes it an easily repeatable phrase, which makes it hard to forget as a result. This could potentially explain its widespread use in Mexico, despite its seemingly recent origins.

Folk speech

¡Que Viva La Marihuana!

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

KM: There’s this thing, like it’s related to Zozobra… (laughs) That’s all I can think of right now. It’s like um… So, what we do is like… Basically, there’s like this call and response type of thing that we do. So, it’s in Spanish, but it’s like “Que viva la fiestas,” Or like, “Long live the fiestas.” And we respond like, “Que viva.” But, we’ve kind of co-opted it to mean anything. So like, one time we were just like smoking weed (laughs) and my friend was like, “¡Que viva la marihuana! ¡Que viva!” Long live the weed. (laughs) So, I mean we do that a lot. Like… I mean, but not with weed (laughs) Sorry. We could do like um… What would we… So, we would be like, um… I don’t know, “Que viva…” I hate to say this, but like the baseball team in Albuquerque is the Isotopes. So like, “Que viva la Isotopes.”

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture. Zozobra is a New Mexican festival composed of multiple fiestas.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Analysis: Although the phrase is in Spanish, the usage suggests a lack of knowledge of the Spanish language because the article is continuously left in the singular form even when the nouns are plural.

 

 

 

Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

“Well, then it must have been a lie.”

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. I have never heard this saying before nor has anybody I’ve asked.

This saying always comes after somebody has just forgotten what they were going to say— lost train of thought. Reenacted by her and her granddaughter, this is how it goes:

 

Granddaughter: “Hey Bubbe, guess what?”

Bubbe: “What?”

Granddaughter: “Actually, I forget.”

Bubbe: “Well then it must have been a lie!”

 

You’re supposed to say that anytime somebody forgets their train of thought. It’s a pretty cute thought and people in the room laughed when they heard it. I think it also highlights one of my grandmother’s core values which is honesty. The joke is funny because it discounts whatever one was trying to say, but forgot.

“Doesn’t matter, it must have been a lie! You’d remember it if it were true” Bubbe tells me.

Digital
Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

Context: My roommate discovered this meme one day, and it prompted a discussion about the various levels of depth it reached.

Background: My roommate is a self-described “conveyor of fine memes” and has a hobby of collecting, creating, and sharing Internet memes.

The Meme: The meme (attached to this post) is a play on the phrase “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” The phrased is reworked in a text explanation that laments the fact that things are not “easy peasy lemon squeezy” as once believed, but are in fact “difficult difficult lemon difficult.” This explanation is accompanied by the image of a middle-aged woman furiously gripping a laptop in both hands and biting into it.

Analysis: This became a folklore discussion as a surprise, as the further my roommate and I discussed it, the more it seemed to work as a piece of folk speech. “Difficult difficult lemon difficult” is definitely an evolution of the saying “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” which itself has an origin that feels meaningless in the context the phrase has since gained. The specific discovery of the newly-changed saying also has the context of being in meme form, memes being one of the more common areas of unauthored expression in the 21st century.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Fatherly Advice

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: A piece of advice in the form of a proverb my friend’s dad taught him to live by.

Phrase: The most important thing is to think. The second most important thing is let other people think.

Analysis: The piece is simple, really just some advice that’s important for parents to give to their kids. My friend specified this was something his father told him every time he “did something stupid,” but I appreciate that the proverb refers to the world beyond yourself and stresses the importance of respecting other peoples’ minds.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

“When you know a thing, allow that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, allow that you do not know it. This is knowledge.”

 

“So in other words, knowledge– know it alls are kind of… stupid and the fact that they think they know it all.  Really knowledgeable and smart people are those that are open– they open their mind to learning… all the time.  And so if you don’t know something then you say, “Oh, tell me about that!” you know?  You don’t just act like you know it already.”

 

Conclusion:

 

This was told to me by my Dad’s friend, Evan.  He says his mother used to tell him little sayings like this all the time.  He says that this one stuck with him more because he’s found it to be the most applicable in the different stages of his life.  He explains that the jist of this saying is that you have to accept your lack of knowledge on a subject before you can really start learning about it.

 

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

“Lift your feet up when you drive over a bridge.”

This little saying was told to me by one of my buddy’s older brothers, Emilio.  Their family grew up in Irvine, CA and to get to school everyday, they had to drive over a bridge.  Everyday, throughout elementary and middle school, their mother would tell them to lift their feet up when they drove over the bridge.  He recalls his mom telling him pick up his feet and look out the window because they were ‘flying’.  Unfortunately, Emilio’s mother passed away a few years ago.  He says when he drives over a bridge now and lifts up his feet, it gives him a fond memory of his mother.

 

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