USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘splitting’
Folk Beliefs

Pole Splitting

What is being performed?
DA: Well, you know how two people that are walking together are never supposed to split a
AA: I’ve heard that.
DA: I almost split a pole yesterday. Dad went one way and I went the other when we got close
to the street sign outside the house.
AA: If you split the pole is it instant bad luck?
DA: Of course not, but it catches up with you the way karma works.You split a pole and you’ll
find yourself in bad luck eventually.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
AA: Where did you hear this?
DA: I’m pretty sure dad told me this when I was 10 years old.
AA: Where is dad from?
DA: He’s from Los Angeles but grew up around his family from Texas and Oklahoma.
AA: What does this mean to you?
DA: Now it’s kind of funny, but when I was really little it was a serious to me.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
Leila Atkins brings this up every time she’s walking with friends and they approach a pole. She
hardly performs this outside of the context. Most of the time she performs it as a warning to
people about to split a pole or right after they have done so. It is something I have also heard of
and still hear of in college.

This is something that I have encountered and actively avoid in my lifestyle. I mostly do so out
of kicks and not serious belief, but still recognize that it has a pretty good effect on my life.

Folk Beliefs

Splitting the Pair

The Main Piece
“I never gave another person shoes for any sort of present, then they’ll run away from you.” There is a common belief that by giving a person shoes it will later lead them to leave your life. Although this is simply a superstition, it has caused many people to second guess what kind of gift they want to give anyone who’s relationship they hold valuable. After all, it is a simple act to get the person another gift that could potentially save them from leaving your life.
Background Information
My informant is my roommate, Sarah Kwan, a current undergraduate student at USC. She had heard about this unspoken rule from her friends back in China. The word for pair in Chinese also means “the splitting of two,” this definition lead to the belief that if one was to give a person a “pair” of shoes, then it was as if they were splitting apart as well. She told me that at first she questioned this because people were technically giving the pair together, thereby not actually splitting the two, but as time went on she began to simply accept the superstition. “I didn’t want to chance anything, it wasn’t like the world was going to end if I never got my friends shoes. I could always get them something else.”
My informant is Sarah Kwan, my roommate and personal friend. Sarah gave me this piece of advice as we were shopping for my friends present. I thought shoes would be a great idea to give my friend because this way he could use it every day. She was shocked to hear that I had never heard this superstition before and strongly recommended that I also not chance anything with my friends.
Personal Thoughts
I personally am not too superstitious, but I can understand why obeying such a simple task is accepted and performed. Friendship is highly valued, not monetarily, but on an emotional level so why would anyone want to put something like that at risk. I thought the shoe superstition sounded unnecessary at first, but I can see where it highlights values such as friendship.