USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘trick’

Parents Trick to Get their Son to Eat Brussell Sprouts

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.



“So I hated eating brussel sprouts when I was a little guy, I would throw them at my parents and stuff. So my parents told them they were just baby cabbages so I would eat em’. I like cabbage, but I didn’t like Brussel sprouts.

Me: Did it work?

M: Oh yeah.

Me: You actually thought you were eating baby cabbage for awhile?

M: Oh yeah, they’re like exactly the same, I didn’t have any idea there was something to differentiate them. I still think they might be baby cabbage (laughs jokingly)

Me: When did you start to catch on?

M: Probably when I was about 7 or 8, but I ended up liking brussel sprouts anyways.

Me: So your parents actually tricked you into liking brussel sprouts? That’s pretty elaborate.

M: Well, maybe. I don’t know…. if they hadn’t told me they were baby cabbages, and I just waited until I was seven or eight and tried them again, If I’d still like them. ”



As “M” was pretty well aware, being told that brussel sprouts were baby cabbage forced  him into a sort of cognitive dissonance where he changed him preferences to accommodate his liking of cabbage. As he was not able to identify that his parents were doing it at the time, he ate them. Though he isn’t sure about it, “M” does entertain the possibility that his preference to brussel sprouts may be a result of this trick earlier in his childhood.



“Knock Knock, Who’s there?………..”

This is another seemingly popular “knock knock joke provided me by my informant:

Informant: say “knock, knock”

Me: knock, knock

Informant: Who’s there?

[a long pause followed by laughter]

Informant: Yep, that’s the joke!


In this joke, the teller attempts to invert the knock knock sequence, by attempting the get the other party to tell him a joke without having a joke in mind, thus being rendered dumbstruck. It adds an interesting twist of deception to the otherwise predictable “knock knock” pattern.

Folk Beliefs

If you tap the top of a dropped soda can, it will not fizz out of the can when opened.

As a child, my source first heard this superstition because he was rather clumsy and would always drop his soda cans.  He first instance he can remember where he practiced this superstition was with his teammates from his little league baseball team.  All of his teammates would tap on the tops of their soda cans under any condition, just to be sure to limit the fizz.  My source suggested that this could have been a popular trend shared by his teammates or the result of several players being chewed out by their parents for spilling soda on their uniforms.

My source doesn’t quite understand how the superstition works, but is assured that it’s effective.  After tapping the top of his soda cans he has rarely ever had a spill.  If he had to guess, he supposes that when the can is tapped, carbonation bubbles stuck to the side of the can are nudged to the top of the can, and when the can is opened, the gas is released without dragging any liquid out with it.  My source has also heard of a ‘three-tap method,’ where the can needs to be tapped only three times, but he is not sure where he heard this.

Scientifically, when a can is dropped, the carbon dioxide that carbonates the soda is forced out of the liquid and into a gas form which builds pressure in the can.   If the can is opened soon after, the pressure will be released and the gas will rush out, dragging the soda with it.  If somebody taps on a soda can, that’s an added disturbance, which would likely cause more of the carbon dioxide to be freed from the liquid, so the superstition should not work.  What does work is waiting for the pressure to be reduced. After a drop, given time, the carbon dioxide will assimilate back into the liquid, reducing the pressure and fizz when the can is opened.  Also, because of the built up pressure, the rate at which one opens a can is significant because it regulates the speed any carbon dioxide is released.  Finally, there is a theory that if you tap a can with a metal rod, it will create a vibration in the aluminum can that will cause all of the gas to move to the top of the can, reducing potential fizz, but this method isn’t proven.

From my own personal experience, I have experienced good results after I’ve tapped the top of my dropped soda can, but I cannot attribute it to the superstition.  I believe that by tapping the top of the soda can, you’re spending more time not opening the can.  As long as you’re tapping, the soda can isn’t opened, and this gives the carbon dioxide more time to be pushed back into the liquid.




Annotation: A variant of this superstition is featured in episode 513 (My Five Stages) of Bill Lawrence’s NBC sitcom Scrubs as the “John Dorian three-tap method.  Three taps and the foam goes bye-bye.”  The character, JD, then opens the can, and after a pause, all hell breaks loose and foam flies everywhere.


Fork Bending Trick

This folk item is a folk trick where the performer manipulates a fork to make it seem as if he or she bent a fork. Two people perform the trick in the video. The first person is my original informant. He then taught the second person how to do it. Watch the following video: Fork Trick

After my informant (the one in the green stripes) performed the trick, I interviewed him on the trick (my informant is a Caucasian American who grew up in Los Altos, California):

“Collector: So, who taught you that?

Informant: My grandpa.

Collector: When and how did he teach you?

Informant: When I was like eight, at a restarant, he did it to me and I was scared and I was wondering how he did it and he showed me.

Collector: Why were you scared?

Informant: ‘Cause I thought he was a magician. beat [laughter]

Collector: When do you usually perform this trick?

Informant: When I’m bored during dinner.

Collector: Have you seen others perform this trick?

Informant: My uncle…’cause he learned it from my Grandpa when he was younger too. My uncle was scared that my Grandpa was a magician too. [laughter]“

While at first glance, this seems just like a simple folk trick performed to entertain others at dinner, there seems to be a certain quality of coming of age. My informant learned this trick from his Grandpa when he was eight. He states that he was scared at first because he thought his Grandpa was a magician. After learning the trick himself, which was shortly after, he calmed down. Furthermore, his uncle who learned the trick in the same way was scared by my informant’s Grandpa too. In a way, this trick dispels a belief in magic and what is supernatural– the trick relies on a childlike belief in magic, but revealing the trick, which seems to be part of the folk trick (as my informant immediately taught us how to do the trick after), dispels that belief in magic. Hence, I consider this a sort of coming of age trick.

This trick is quite communal–one learns it from the active bearer immediately after he or she performs it.

Searching “bending fork trick” on google gives 1,020,000 results. And also the following video result:

The video shows variations on the fork bending trick and similarly, the “magician” reveals his trick right after.