USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Turkish’
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Cin – Turkish Demons

Piece: We have these things Cin, pronounced jin, uhm and like plural you would say cinler, because there are plenty, and they’re like these little demons, uhm I’m like hella fucking scared of these, these little shits, parents and grandparents can use these to scare little kids out of doing literally anything, and the biggest one being staying out until dark. Uhm the main one was my grandmother would say that after the sunset prayer, because in Turkey a mosque prays 5 times a day, and so like the equivalent of a preacher, at the top of the mosque sings a prayer 5 times a day, the one that represents sunset, if you stay past that prayer, these things would come out and eat you or haunt you.  You can actually release these on people, like a curse, we had a few like old women in my village who had a very powerful third eye and if they said a bad prayer towards you, they could curse you with these like “I release the cins on you” or something like that. So some people if they were cursed I remember hearing, uhm they could not sleep for days, they would wake up from their sleep because they see these in their dreams. But it seems like a dream even though it’s actually real, they are there, its just once they disappear, like the people who are cursed they think they are sleeping, but they are actually awake when they see theses creatures, it’s just that when they’re terrorized enough, they think they have woken  up from a dream, or a nightmare.

Background information: The informant is a USC student. Originally from a small village in Turkey, she relocated at the age of 10 to the United States.

Context: Apparently these demons were introduced to kids at a very young age. They are used to keep kids in line whenever they want to act rebellious. The informant remembers these so vividly because they used to scare the living daylight out of her as a kid.

Personal Analysis: A trend that I have noticed among interviewees is that most of their parents use some sort of story to control their kids. It’s almost as if “fear” is the only way parents can assert dominance over their children. This collection is another example of just that: Parents using fear tactics to control their kids.

For another version of this myth, see Ilargia.franceserv.eu. (2019). OLD FEARS IN TURKISH CULTURE. [online] Available at: http://ilargia.franceserv.eu/index.php/articles-posts/etudes-studies/42-old-fears-in-turkish-culture [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019].

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Turkish Barking Dog Proverb

Informant:

D, a 23-year-old, Turkish male who grew up in Turkey until he turned 8 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Boise, Idaho, but spent a lot of time with his mother, who only spoke Turkish until D was 16.

Background info:

D’s first language was Turkish. He and his mother would converse this way, despite him being fluent in English. His mother would tell him stories and folklore from Turkey, as she was very proud of her heritage. This is one of the Turkish proverbs in their household. D’s mother would use this phrase with her children to console them if they were fighting online or getting cyber-bullied.

Context:

This is a Turkish phrase that D’s parents would say to their children when they would get into arguments or fights with their peers. D quoted this phrase to me when I came to him for advice. The following is the context for which it was said.

Me: “I want to be the bigger man and just brush it off, but there has just been so much piling on top of me lately. They just keep going on and on, even after I took a break from social media. I hate that I am even angry about this, it’s so petty.”

D: “My mother used to tell me ‘havlayan köpek ısırmaz’, which means that people will talk and talk but nothing ever comes from it. People just like to think they are on top, even if that means making a fool of themselves by talking a big game and not acting on it.”

Main piece:

Turkish: “havlayan köpek ısırmaz”

English Translation: “A barking dog does not bite”

Thoughts:

When I initially asked D what this meant, he related it to the common phrase, “You’re all bark and no bite!” When asked how it relates, his reply was that when people use this phrase, it generally implies that the other person will only talk about action, not pursue it. He says the Turkish phrase also represents that. Practically, the saying does not make the most sense. Barking in dogs is effectively a warning, like growling, before they bite. However, in humans, I think it makes more sense. People who do a lot of talking typically only do that – talk. It also ties into the popular saying of “You can talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?” People question the seriousness of people who talk a lot instead of acting on their words.

Folk speech
Life cycle
Proverbs

Turkish Maturity/Repetition Proverb

Informant:

D, a 23-year-old, Turkish male who grew up in Turkey until he turned 8 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Boise, Idaho, but spent a lot of time with his mother, who only spoke Turkish until Devran was 16.

Background info:

D’s first language was Turkish. He and his mother would converse this way, despite him being fluent in English. His mother would tell him stories and folklore from Turkey, as she was very proud of her heritage. This is one of the Turkish proverbs in their household.

Context:

This is a Turkish phrase that D’s parents would say around the house when he was younger. He would also repeat this to his younger siblings when they would act up to try to show them that they are misbehaving. The following is the context for which it was said.

Me: “Are there any other phrases or sayings that your parents would say to you? Or Turkish phrases you would hear them say to themselves?”

D: “Um… Well, my brother, sister, and I were always misbehaving. When we would act out, my mother would not punish us with the traditional spanking… Instead, she would try to show us what we were doing wrong and ask us whether or not we would want to be doing this when we were old and gray. One of the phrases in Turkish that she would use was ‘İnsan yedisinde ne ise yetmişinde de odur’, which means that people who repeat bad actions at a young age, without realizing that they are bad, will continue them for the rest of their life.

Main piece:

Turkish: “İnsan yedisinde ne ise yetmişinde de odur”

English Translation: “What a man is at seven, he is at seventy”

Thoughts:

I later asked him if he could relate this phrase to any other common phrases he knew. He could not think of any, but it got me thinking about why this phrase existed. It speaks of childish behavior in a negative light, and almost ties it directly to immaturity, which I understand for the most part, but feel it is a bit overextending. Not all childish behavior is bad, and I think that is why his parents would use this phrase sparingly, to not discourage the good behavior. I think that this phrase is important in their family dynamic and in Turkish culture because they seem to value self-improvement over discipline. Showing someone their actions are wrong seems more important than punishing them for it. I have heard the American phrase “remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence,” and I think it follows their family values as well.

 

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Turkish Tree Branch Proverb

Informant:

D, a 23-year-old, Turkish male who grew up in Turkey until he turned 8 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Boise, Idaho, but spent a lot of time with his mother, who only spoke Turkish until D was 16.

Background info:

D’s first language was Turkish. He and his mother would converse this way, despite him being fluent in English. His mother would tell him stories and folklore from Turkey, as she was very proud of her heritage. This is one of the Turkish proverbs in their household.

Context:

This is a Turkish phrase that D’s parents would say around the house when he was younger. He would also repeat this to his younger siblings when they would act up to try to show them that they are misbehaving. The following is the context for which it was said.

Me: “Are there any other phrases or sayings that your parents would say to you? Or Turkish phrases you would hear them say to themselves?”

D: “Um… Well, my brother, sister, and I were always misbehaving. When we would act out, my mother would not punish us with the traditional spanking… Instead, she would try to show us what we were doing wrong and ask us whether or not we would want to be doing this when we were old and gray. One of the phrases in Turkish that she would use was ‘Ağaç yaş iken eğilir’, which means that people should learn the best way to behave as soon as possible because older people tend to be stuck in their ways.

Main piece:

Turkish: “Ağaç yaş iken eğilir”

English Translation: “The tree branch should be bent when it is young”

Thoughts:

I asked him if he could relate this phrase to any other Turkish phrases, as this is a fairly common saying. He could not think of any. Though not exactly this phrase, there are variants in all cultures. For example, in English, we say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” which essentially has the same meaning. Things should be taught young, otherwise people will struggle to learn it. This is a common theme in a lot of proverbs and folk stories. This phrase can be applied in American culture, but it is also important to D’s family dynamic. The Turkish culture stresses teaching manners and polite etiquette early in life, and despite growing up in the United States, it’s interesting that the values carried over from his mother. Manners are something that was lacking in the American culture I saw growing up. Families focused more on punishing bad behavior to prevent it rather than show the children what is right.

 

 

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Turkish Proverb about Hurtful Sayings

Informant:

The informant (D), a 23-year-old, Turkish male who grew up in Turkey until he turned 8 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Boise, Idaho, but spent a lot of time with his mother, who only spoke Turkish until D was 16.

Background info:

D’s first language was Turkish. He and his mother would converse this way, despite him being fluent in English. His mother would tell him stories and folklore from Turkey, as she was very proud of her heritage. This is one of the Turkish proverbs in their household.

Context:

This is a Turkish phrase that D’s parents would say around the house when he was younger. He would also repeat this to his younger siblings when they would act up to try to show them that they are misbehaving. The following is the context for which it was said.

Me: “Are there any other phrases or sayings that your parents would say to you? Or Turkish phrases you would hear them say to themselves?”

D: “Because we were young and fought a lot, my mom would often repeat wisdom to us… One of the phrases in Turkish that she would use was ‘Bıçak yarası geçer, dil yarası geçmez’, which means that people could hurt you like… physically, but you will heal from those. But when people try to hurt one another with like words or insults, it will stick with them. People will feel the pain for a very long time, and they will think a lot about it. My mom would tell us she would rather pick us up from school for fighting than to hear that we were calling someone names or trying to insult someone like… personally.”

Main piece:

Turkish: “Bıçak yarası geçer, dil yarası geçmez”

English Translation: “A knife wound will heal, but a tongue wound festers”

Thoughts:

As D explained what this Turkish saying was, I kept thinking back to an English phrase that I heard a lot as a child. I would always be told that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will/should never hurt you.” I find the difference in cultures very interesting, as his parents would almost encourage physical violence over emotional or verbal insults – almost saying that an attack on one’s character is one of the worst things. It makes sense that this would be taught young, as children are the most impressionable both in terms of learning right from wrong and being negatively affected by insults. Growing up in American schools, I witnessed teachers trying to prevent physical fighting more aggressively than verbal or emotional insults, but D’s family would rather let the kids fight physically (reasonably, of course) than have them call each other names or insult them. The Turkish culture stresses teaching manners and polite etiquette early in life, and despite growing up in the United States, it’s interesting that these values carried over from his mother.

 

Legends
Narrative

Nasreddin Hoca: Turkish Legend

Who is Nasreddin Hoca?

P.N. – “He’s a man we get all of our idioms and fables from essentially.  I don’t know if this guy is real; I’ve been told that he was real, but I don’t know to what extent that’s the case; it’s super old.”

You’ve been told by whom?

P.N. – “Family members, teachers, Turkish people, we would watch movies and make animations of this guy.  He’s been portrayed by everyone, but I can’t say if he’s actually real.”

“‘Hoca’ means teacher; and he is a short, chubby man, with a really really big turban.  A comically large turban.  He has a white beard, and he rides around on his donkey.  He always has a little pack on him. He is the source of most fables, all folklore comes back to him essentially.”

“I remember one story – he comes into the village, and there’s a blind man begging on the street.  He comes over and offers him money, but the blind man refuses.  He leaves the next day.  Comes back, tries to offer him money again, but again the blind man refuses.  And then, the third day he comes back and he offers him a job, and the blind man agrees.  And it kinda teaches you – give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever.”

“To me, Nasreddin Hoca symbolizes the fact that there are so many ways to help people.  A lot of it is: live your life with simplicity, be independent, grow your own food, very much just help people and accept help as well.”

Would you say that you’ve taken this mystery man’s advice into account throughout your own life?

“Without noticing, definitely.  It’s been ingrained in my head.  Not necessarily because ‘oh, Nasreddin Hoca said this,’ but more just like ‘oh, my mother said this, and she got it from this guy, who got it from Nasreddin Hoca!'”

The tale that this person told me, with the blind beggar, reminds me of how many tales are told.  Immediately, I thought of the rules of a folk tale, and how – seemingly – every rule was checked off, making it a perfect story.  This Nasreddin Hoca character was someone I’d never heard of, but he also made me think about my own interpretations of folk tales.  Do I consider all tales told to me from the perspective of one man, going through life, learning lessons?  I just might; and that thought is jarring for me.   In the same way that I may or may not think everything with one voice, I may or may not relate all folklore to one character.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Turkish Superstition: the Evil Eye

evil eye

What is the Evil Eye?

P.N. – “So, the evil eye protects you, your family, your household, from evil.  And this is a myth, and also a glass object.  Every [Turkish] family has an evil eye in their house . . . My family thinks that if you tell somebody something good that’s happened to you, there’s gonna be envy there.  And they’re gonna somehow will nature to get rid of that opportunity for you.  The evil eye is meant to protect you from that.  So we have evil eye’s in different parts; like, for instance, we have one in our car to prevent a car crash.”

“We have an evil eye in front of our house.  You’re supposed to have an evil eye on top of the doorway to prevent bad things from entering.  One day, during the time when I was applying for colleges, it BROKE.  I remember, because my mom thought that that was a good thing.  “It’s done it’s job,” she said.  And so she put a new one up, and I got accepted into USC!”

“Another example was this: I was wearing my first ‘sexy dress’ in high school to this New Years ball.  I had a hair piece, everything. I looked good.  I was showing some cleavage.  My aunt put an evil eye in my jacket, and said it would protect me from the boys.  I still have it there in my pocket.”

What does the Evil Eye mean to you?

“The Evil Eye reminds me of my parents, because I have always considered them to be the most superstitious people.  And I guess when I think about other types of ‘evil eyes’ in other cultures, it feels like it brings me closer to those people as well.  There’s definitely a sense of identity with everything I’ve said here.”

Immediately, this made me think of the Jewish Mezuzah, which is a similar concept to the Turkish Evil Eye.  The Mezuzah, a small piece of parchment scribbled with specific verses from the Torah, is put on a family’s doorway to prevent any bad luck from entering the home.  When I brought up the Mezuzah to this person, she smiled, and informed me that she knew of the Mezuzah already.  The evil eye is definitely something that reflects one’s culture, one’s traditions, and one’s superstitions.  It’s for this reason that I am such a fan of the Mezuzah, as well as the evil eye now; it’s because I, as well as countless other people from a number of different cultures, can relate very strongly to it.  How different can two peoples really be, when they’re unified by so many aspects of life? 

Customs
general

If He Loves You, He Will Drink Your Turkish Coffee

About the Informant(s): Informant A and her husband (Informant B) are both from Turkey. They met in college, got married, and then came to the US for graduate school. They are both currently teaching assistants for math.

The Interview:

Informant A: Before engagement, [to ask] for her hand…the [two] families get together and…

Me: They talk about getting engaged?

Informant A: Yeah. It’s like these two young people have seen each other; they like each other. So what should we do about this?

Me: The parents [meet]?

Informant B: No, the parents and the kids. The future bride makes coffee for the groom’s family.

Informant A: It’s a special kind of coffee. Turkish coffee. It looks like espresso. The bride puts salt in the coffee. The groom’s coffee. If the groom drinks it without any complaints, then the bride’s side says: ‘ooh, our groom is very nice. He didn’t say anything even though the coffee is not the best.’ But I didn’t do it…

Informant B: She was afraid that I would just spit it out.

Informant A (slightly sad): I didn’t do it.

[...]

Informant B: I heard a story but I am not sure if it is correct or not. A groom was…

Informant A: Dead! It is rumored that the bride put pepper, salt, eggs, many spices…

Informant B: Many spices, and the groom drank it and like, there was news that he…just died.

Informant A: He died!

Me: From drinking coffee?

Informant B: But they put several things inside the coffee.

Me: Like poison?

Informant A: I think they overdid it extremely. I don’t know. I just heard of it. I think it was food poisoning.

Me: So is it like a legend? No one knows if it’s actually true?

Informant B: It could be. I’m not sure.

Background Information/Context: I asked this couple about some Turkish wedding traditions, and the conversation went to how an engagement happens. Although Informant A didn’t follow tradition and give her current husband salty coffee, they both knew about it. It seems that brides normally put salt in, but they might add a variety of other things like spices in the coffee as well. Soon, the conversation turned to a legend about this fateful cup of coffee (that has to be Turkish coffee). Although the legend is about dead groom, we still laughed about it because of how extreme and ironic it sounded. I got the impression that the couple thought that this tradition was quite unnecessary and laughable, yet Informant A still seemed a bit disappointed that she did not put her husband to the test.

My thoughts: It seems that this tradition came about as a way for the bride’s family to see how fitting the groom is for the bride and how much he loves her. If the groom is willing to go through this kind of pain, then he can endure any kind of hardship in the future as well. This would explain why Informant A might have been disappointed because she did not place that trust in her husband back when they got engaged (even though they are a great couple today). The fact that a legend exists because of this tradition also shows how some people do not approve of this kind of test, since after all, someone could die from it. This legend acts as a cautionary tale for people thinking about getting married (telling the bride to go easy on the groom). It also acts as a way for people to deal with the fear of the engagement meeting not going as well as expected–even if the groom doesn’t spit it out, he could still die. Perhaps, for Informant A, it is a way for her to deal with the regret of not putting salt in Informant B’s coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foodways

Turkish coffee

My informant, a friend from Turkey, fed our group of friends some Turkish coffee in special, tiny mugs. She told us that when we were finished drinking our coffee, to hand the cup to her so she could read our coffee lines. She read the coffee grind/water sludge that stuck to the bottom of our cups and judged for us the luck/goodness of our immediate futures, or lack thereof. According to her, the more white lines there are (the mug was white on the bottom), the more happiness is ahead of you.

The informant learned this from her surroundings, just by growing up in the culture of Turkey. She enjoys sharing it because it is something unique to her culture.

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