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

Where’s the Four?

The Main Piece
The number four is an extremely unlucky number. Just as seven is said to be lucky, the number 4 is heeded with caution, especially in East Asia. In China it is common for buildings to skip making a button for the fourth floor button to be skipped and changed to five. The lore is that someone has either died on the floor, will die there, or a spirit will haunt it if marked with the number four. In most buildings, whether they are apartments or offices, one will not find the fourth floor. Although it does in fact exist, it is not a button in elevators because of superstitious reasons. Many workers find it better to keep on the safe side and preferably just skip the number.
Background Information
My informant is Demie Cuo, an undergraduate student at USC. This belief is common with many people of East Asian culture as they tend to associate words that sound similar with one another. The word for death sounds similar to the word for the number four. Therefore, they think of four as an unlucky number, bringing death to whatever it marks. Demie explained her shock when she came to the states and the fourth floor marking was present in elevators. It took her a while to get used to this oddity. Her parents would warn her of the number four, and even her friends knew about its superstition. She always felt best to abide by these warnings even though she was not truly scared of the number.
Context
I was told about this folk practice by my friend’s roommate, Demmie as we were going up in the elevator. We were discussing folklore previously and she was reminded of this practice as we were headed back to our rooms. She quickly discussed with me why the number four in elevators was extremely odd to her when she first came to the states.
Personal Thoughts
I found it extremely interesting to hear that a superstition has had that much power over a country. If anyone in America were to ever suggest something similar to that it would be quickly dismissed. This shows how much influence cultural beliefs have over the people all across East Asia and even various parts of the world. Although the superstition could be easily proven wrong with examples from any other country not abiding by the superstition, many companies and buildings still abide by this rule. It makes me wonder if there are any superstitions America abides by that go unnoticed simply because it is built into our own culture.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Magic
Protection

Don’t Write In Red

The Main Piece
In Korea it is commonly known that if you write someone’s name in red, then they will die. It does not have written in any particular way or on any particular object, but simply in red ink. The color represents the blood of the person as if one was smearing it across the canvass. She has heard several stories of incidents happening where a person has died coincidentally after their name was written in red. While the myth can not be proven to be true or not, these rumors ventilate throughout Korea, keeping people on edge and careful of what they write.
Background Information
My informant is Elizabeth Kim, a current first year undergraduate student and personal friend of mine at USC, she is also a full and third generation Korean. She states that it is because of her almost annual trips to Korea that she has heard of these various rumors, stories, and superstitions. She tells me about how she enjoys hearing these stories just as she enjoys hearing a scary story. There is the possibility that it could be real which keeps her excited. She hears it from her friends that live in Korea and sometimes even cousins or aunts members at family gatherings.
Context
I was interviewing Elizabeth towards the second semester of our freshman year outside of Parkside Apartment at USC. The setting was casual and conversation flowed easily as we discussed the folklore she knew of.
Personal Thoughts
Hearing this piece of folklore actually made me a little nervous at first. I can not count the amount of times I have written people’s names in red. In fact, I have written my own name in red hundreds of times. In elementary school teachers make you correct other students’ paperwork and write “Corrected By: ______.” However, this also makes me consider the fact that everyone dies at some point and one’s name is always being written down. So perhaps it only makes sense or perhaps just coincidence that one dies and their name is written in red.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Material

The Banba Doll

The Main Piece
The Banba Doll, the name the Tan family has given it, is said to have the power to “affect the way your day will go. It has seven sides, one for every day of the week and you’re supposed to change its side every day.” This folk practice and object has been performed and passed down for generations. If one forgets to turn the Banma Doll, then the “Banma Doll will forget to give you your blessings.” It is also a metaphor for being sure one has all their belongings and double checking one has done everything necessary before leaving the house. Since the person was so forgetful, repercussions will come. The object has different Chinese characters on each side, each representing one day of the week. Rachel went on to state the importance of turning it over on the right day. “I’m not exactly sure why we had to turn it over on the right day, my grandmother never explained that part to us, but I remember her specifically saying that if we didn’t turn it over on the right day, then we might as well have not turned it over at all.” This action represents the idea that if one is going to do something, then they should do it right.” This is both a folk object and practice as it has been passed down from generation to generation and is a practice done daily.
Background Information
My informant is Rachel Tan, a current undergraduate student at USC. Although she has left it in her home in Singapore while she is away at college, whenever she returns home she is sure to turn the doll over. She says it has become common practice for her ever since her mom gave it to her. “I’m not sure where it all started, I just know it’s been in my family for what seems like forever and no one can seem to get rid of it.”
Context
We were discussing traveling over the summer and she brought up the fact that in her room there is the Banba Doll. I had no idea what that was so she continued to tell me more about it and the significance it held in her family.
Personal Thoughts
I found it odd for families to uphold such tedious practices with a background they were unknowledgeable on. It shows the power folk objects such as the Banba Doll can have on people. I personally would not partake in this practice, but perhaps it is because of its age and ancestry that the practice continues and I am simply unable to relate.

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