USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘time’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Gift of Time Taboo

Barbara is a Chinese-American who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her parents are from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States, before giving birth to her in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles. She recently received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and is currently working at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles. Her hobbies are baking, exploring hipster cafes or restaurants, and reading thriller novels.

Original Script

Ok, and you don’t want to give your significant other a watch or a clock or anything that tells time ‘cause it kind of means that you’re telling them it’s time for them to go, like they’re gonna to either leave you or they’re gonna die or something.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first heard of this superstition from a friend she was eating with in high school. They were discussing what to give to a friend for her birthday, and the topic of a watch as a potential present came up in the conversation.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

This ancient Chinese superstition has endured time because of its meaning and its sound. The phrase for “giving a clock” is 送钟 (sòng zhōng), which sounds like “song jong.” The pronunciation is similar to that of the phrase for “attending a funeral ritual,” which is 送终 (song zhōng). Besides the sound, clocks and watches also represent running out of time. Thus, the Chinese have always generally considered shoes as taboo gifts.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I have never considered watches or any other objects that tell time as gifts that imply death or abandonment. When I heard about this Chinese superstition I was surprised, because I have both given and received watches as presents. I find this superstition somewhat funny, because the source of this belief is based on sounds and metaphors. I have also never had any near-death experiences or had the person leave me after giving me the present.

Digital
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Signs

“It’s 11:11, make a wish.”

The informant first heard this phrase at the end of his 8th grade year in school, year 2000, from his female cousin.  It was 11:11 A.M., although this phrase can be said at either 11:11 A.M. or 11:11 P.M., and his cousin told him that if you spontaneously look at the clock and it is 11:11 A.M. or P.M., then you can make a wish inside your mind and then it will come true.  “It’s 11:11,” she said, “make a wish.”  The informant remembers it clearly because he remembered thinking, “What is this? I’ve never heard it before.”  It remained in his mind and he likes to use it whenever he sees 11:11 on the clock because it helps to lighten the mood and he believes deep down that everyone like to make wishes, even though they might not believe that 2 times a day a person can close their eyes and make two wishes that will necessarily come true.

Though being Vietnamese does not really have much to do with the 11:11 saying, the theme of making a wish does seem transcend different cultures.  Similarly, it does show that everyone has a child within them.  Though hardly anyone would admit to believing that making a wish at 11:11 would actually result in the wish coming true, many people still say “make a wish” and silently make a wish themselves, for fun or sometimes just for the sake of seeing whether or not it will come true.  Also, typically this type of saying is between a boy and a girl, though it is not restricted.  Generally, however, girls are more likely to say it to their own sex than are boys.  As in the informant’s case, family relation has nothing to do with the saying, though in some cases this saying can be used flirtatiously between boys and girls, when they can wish that the boy or girl that they like will like them back and maybe ask them out or something similar.

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