USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘teasing’
Game
general

Burlap Jump Rope- Colombia

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”.

 

Transcript:

“M:  We had a game that, I don’t know como se dice en ingles, it’s with the rope. Rope?

S: Yeah, like a jump rope?

M: Yeah. We played at recess every single day when I was in third grade, yeah. I remember very specific.

S: What sort of rules did the game have?

M: The rules is that you jump, and when you jump if you get stuck in the rope, you are out.

S: Did they use two ropes or one rope, was there a song that you sang?

M: You only used one rope, there was one person on one side, and someone on another, and you was moving the rope around.

S: You didn’t sing anything?

M: We count, either the person that was in the middle had to count, even if it made them tired.

M: Yeah the person who can jump for the more long time would win. But sometimes we moved the rope very fast, it was one way we made the person lose, because there was no way the person in the middle could jump that fast. But Colombia we used a specific rope, not the plastics or synthetics. It’s made with wheat, what is the name of that plant, the thing that they make of those bags that they store coffee. Very famous in Colombia. Let me look….

(Uses search engine to find name)

M: Burlap, that used to hurt a lot when it hit your legs. YEAH, it was very painful. Burns and it gave you marks in the legs, because we had a school uniform, skirts, and they hit you in the legs.

S: Just one more question, was the person in the middle usually a girl or guy, or both?

M: Doesn’t matter boy or girl, it was a mix, a mixed game.“

 

Analysis:

The game seems like a very standard version of jump rope, similar to ‘Double-Dutch’ played in the United States. The use of Burlap was emphasized by  ‘M’ because of how painful it had made the game, resulting in pain when the jumper lost, possibility attaching an extra ‘cost’ to losing the game. The moving the rope ‘extra fast’ combined with the pain generated by the sort of rope may have acted as a form of teasing among students.

The use of burlap is very common in Colombia, notably used on coffee bags (as the speaker noted), which is a hallmark of Colombian identity.

Childhood
general

“If you watch too much TV, your eyes will turn to squares”

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

 

Transcript:

“Me: You were saying something about ‘eyes turning into squares’…

M: Yes. When [son] would watch the television to much I would tell him to be careful or his eye would turn into squares.

(Makes impression of squares around eyes, with eyes turning from round into square)

Me: So it would happen slowly to him if he watched to much TV, not like ‘all of a sudden’?

M: Yes.

Me: Was it to stop him from watching to much TV?

M: No really (laughs), it was for fun, como el Mano Peludo. ”

 

Analysis: El ‘mano peludo’ is a myth involving a hairy hand that would attack children in their sleep, sometimes associated with children that misbehaved. In reference to M explaining that it was similar to el mano peludo, she is explaining that it is used by adults to often tease children, it is not necessarily tied to any sort of moral lesson.

In regards to the ‘eyes turning into squares’ piece of Folklore, there appears to be many references to it on the internet:

http://athome.readinghorizons.com/blog/why-sitting-too-close-to-the-television-makes-your-eyes-go-square

The Mystery of the Mad Science Teacher by Marty Chan, 2008, pg, 171.

https://sarahgalvin.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/dont-watch-too-much-tv-or-your-eyes-will-turn-square/

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/british/square-eyed

 

The myth itself appears to be addressed directly by many of the above authors as something heard during their childhood. This particular piece of Folklore thus appears to be used quite a lot in recent times, as the television as a fairly recent invention, this isn’t surprising. Though M did not use this particular piece of Folklore moralistically,  it appears to be quite available for such usage. Her use of it rather, may be closer to the use of the Boogeyman, a way to tease children via their trust in adults.

Folk speech

Don’t be such a nudge!

The informant is a 22 year old college graduate that is now working at a software company in Madison, WI. He grew up in Upton, Massachusetts until he left Upton to go to college in Los Angeles, California. . Upton is a small (population 7,542) town about 45 minutes south-west of Boston. He grew up in a loosely Catholic household with both of his parents and two younger sisters (3 years younger and 7 years younger). His maternal grandmother alternated between living in Massachusetts and living in Florida throughout his childhood (and continues to do so now). She grew up in Massachusetts.

When the informant was a child, he often spent time with his maternal grandmother. He is not the oldest or the youngest of her grandchildren, but is outnumbered by girls 4 to 2 when he was growing up. When he was being obnoxious, his grandmother would call him a “nudge.” Though she was not malicious when saying this, the informant stated that she only said this when she was “trying not to be angry” at whatever small-child antics the informant was involved in. Though he cannot remember exactly when she started doing this, she only did so rarely.  She no longer seriously calls him this.

Though the informant has no children as of now, he sometimes teasingly calls his girlfriend a nudge when she asks for something that is particularly reminiscent of a child’s want, like a juice box or other similar rather un-adult food item like grilled cheese. I think his frame of mind is slightly different than when his grandmother was originally using the term, as he is rarely actually getting annoyed with the girlfriend when he calls her this. He does not call anyone but his girlfriend this, as it could come off as rude or strange to someone who does not know the story behind it.

Using somewhat silly names like nudge seem to diffuse tension. Small children, especially those with a somewhat stubborn streak like my informant, can be quite irritating to others and create tension within someone who is “supposed” to be nice and motherly towards a child, as a grandmother is. Using a silly but slightly negative name helps relieve this tension between having to be kind and being irritated out of one’s mind. This does not apply when the informant is using the term with his girlfriend. In that case, it is simply to tease her for wanting childish things by calling her a name that refers to a child.

Childhood
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Humor

Urdu childhood rhyme

Context: The informant is a college-age male whose parents are both from Pakistan originally. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. He currently lives in Southern California in a joint family and has also visited Pakistan multiple times since he was very young. His extended family in Pakistan includes many young uncles and cousins who are closer to his age than his parents’. The informant recalls his older cousins would say to him, jokingly, when he was in trouble,

“___ ke bacche

daal daal kacche”

which literally means “___’s child, uncooked lentils”. He elaborates that this was meant as a warning, to scare him into an apology for some misbehavior, because it was always said a precursor to someone “tattling” on him to a parent.

Analysis: The informant explains that it is a saying that everyone, including himself now, says to children younger than oneself. He says that he has never thought about the meaning, and only remembered and said it regularly when teasing his younger cousins because it gave him a sense of authority over them (since only people older than you would say it to you, usually) and because it rhymed, so “it was easy to say and easy to remember”. He continues, “It was just, like a fun, teasing thing to say to the little kids, like you would joke with them but you wouldn’t actually get them into trouble.” From his own words, the informant seems to have recast the saying, not as the veiled threat his older relatives would use against him, but as something to relate to younger kids with.

From a more objective perspective, lentils are one of the staples in many Pakistani diets (i would venture to say, in many South Asian diets too). Uncooked lentils, however, are not very useful. So the rhyme could be commenting on the “bad boy”‘s or “bad girl”‘s lack of worth–no one wants you if you’re going to misbehave. Also, it could be a veiled warning that you’re about to be “cooked” or put “in hot water” or “raked over the coals”–that is, punished. The significance of not referring to the child by [his own name], but by “the child of [his own name]“, could be a reference to the fact that South Asian cultures are patriarchal and patrilineal, so knowing who the father is, is very important. Calling a child his/her own father may be a veiled way of saying they have no father and are therefore the object of shame.

Folk speech
Game
Humor
Proverbs

“Last one there is a rotten egg!”

The informant first heard this when he was in elementary school, about age six or seven, while attending the after school day care with twenty or so other students.  After school the students would be walking when one of them would spot the babysitter’s car and would yell, “Last one there is a rotten egg!”  All of the students then sprint to the car and upon reaching it, touch a doorknob or any part of the car.  The last student to touch the car is the “rotten egg” and is labeled the “rotten egg” for that round.  Nothing in particular happens to the rotten egg, but the student is singled out as the slowest one.  This is similar to the game “Duck, duck, goose” where there is a mushpot where the students who are too slow to catch their goose have to sit until someone can replace them.  The informant no longer plays this game, but believes it to be a good form of entertainment for kids.

Though it is a game played among children, it is often the parents or guardians who first introduce the game to their kids.  However, it is very rare that you can find a parent playing this game with their child, since the advantages of being an adult are obvious and the game would be unfair.  The informant is good with children and often uses this game to bring children together to play, and to keep them attracted to a focal point so that they will stay together in one group and not cause too much trouble by becoming out of hand.  This is also a useful tactic for babysitters and day care personnel as well.  The idea of a rotten egg probably came from the idea that nobody wants to be something smelly like a rotten egg, so they want to win the game.

Game
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Humor
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Happy Flaw” Game

“There’s something called your “happy flaw.” It’s a Gaelic thing. There’s a word for it in Gaelic and it loosely translates to “happy flaw.” It’s a game you play when babies are born. Sometimes you do it at the baby shower but you’re not really supposed to do it before the birth. You do it either at the birth or at a big gathering. You’re supposed to do it when you’ve met the baby. Modern people do it at baby showers, which sort of defeats the point.   

When the baby is born, they have a party. Um, it’s really soon after where everyone comes and everyone gets to interact with the baby for a second. At the end you all guess what the baby’s happy flaw is going to be. It’s a characteristic that is going to make the person successful but also make it unhappy. For example, mine is curiosity. I mean, everyone guesses something different, but that’s what my Gran guessed for me. And let me tell you, she is the champion of it. She maintains to this day that she was right. It’s a compliment but it also gets you into trouble. And, um, yea, so basically you all guess and it’s a matter of pride if people think you are right. It isn’t something you can actually win. It’s something you tease people about later in life because people like to tease the fuck out of you in Ireland.

I’ve been to them and I’ve done it. I’ve never been right so far. It’s a reason, like, for example, people can bring it up to remind you or remind everyone else that they’re right. My Gran will always say this phrase that means “curious until death and even then,” which is a Gaelic phrase. It’s sort of teasing. It means even if it kills you, you’re not going to change. It’s endearing but it’s also kind of offensive. It’s a little at everyone’s expense when you’re older because everyone will always be right and then bring it up.”

 

This game sounds like a wonderful idea and much more meaningful than many of the traditional American baby-related games that I have heard of or partaken in. The game clearly stems for the well-known Irish sense of humor; the point of the game is simultaneously kind and cruel. It also serves the purpose of helping family members and friends to form a connection with a child from the outset. By guessing a child’s happy flaw, you are forming a bond with the child and saying that you will watch the child grow up. The happy flaw is something that you can bring up in conversation with the child as he or she grows up. It’s a way to keep you close to a family member or a friend’s kid, even if you don’t get to see them that often.

I also found it interesting that the informant told me that modern, Americanized versions of this game are often played at baby showers, before the child is born. She was very dismissive of this variation of the game because it doesn’t make sense to her, since the point of the game is to interact with the baby before you choose a happy flaw. This variation shows how folk traditions can change as they are blended into other cultures (in this case, incorporating the rather American practice of a baby shower with the Irish happy flaw game) and the informant’s opinion of this variation shows how there can be resistance to such cultural conflations.

 

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