USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘warning’
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Getting too caught up with yourself can cause confusion – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“No te subas al ladrillo que te mareas”

Transliteration:

Don’t get on the brick because you will get dizzy 

Translation:

Getting too caught up with yourself can cause confusion

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

I asked my informant, a 17-year-old female when she first heard this saying. She said it used to be a phrase her dad would say to her to make sure she did not let her privilege make her feel superior to others. She said her father would tell her this saying when she was acting bratty or snobby. She says she comes from a privileged family and her father sometimes worries that she is not working hard enough for the things she has. My informant says it is easy to fall victim to the rewards of things and to act like she deserves everything she has when in reality she did not earn it herself. She says she also believes this saying is meant to prevent people from thinking they know everything and from showcasing knowledge they are feigning. The informant says her father has tried to instill in her the value of admitting not knowing something and learning it as opposed to making it up and falling out of people’s trust and favor. 

I agree with the informant about the meaning of this proverb. Getting on a brick signifies elevating yourself from others. By getting on a brick the person becomes taller and people have to look up to them. This can be interpreted as representative of status. Having more and being of higher status can make it easy for people to overindulge and think they can have everything or deserve everything because of what they have or the title they hold. Once a person begins feeling deserving or above others it is easy for them to fall out of favor and lose what they have. As the proverb describes getting dizzy or caught up in everything one has. Getting dizzy and losing balance on an elevated surface can result in falling. This proverb is meant to warn people from the dangers of falling if one gets too caught up with what they have and who they think they are. This proverb can also signify losing sight of oneself by getting too caught up in material things or a reputation.

 

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear – American Drinking Proverb

Main Piece:

“Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear, beer before liquor never been sicker.”

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 19-year-old male. The informant claims he first heard this proverb when he was in ninth grade. It was one of the first times he was consuming alcohol and was not paying attention to the type of alcohol he was consuming. He was alternating between drinking beer and simultaneously taking shots of vodka. When one of his friends said to him the proverb. He disregarded the advice as it was too late, and continued to drink. The informant says he did not end the night feeling very well; however, he does not live by the proverb for in other situations when he has followed the proverb’s advice the night has still ended badly.

I have also heard this proverb before and know many people that do live by it. On many occasions, I have even heard it is bad to mix any type of alcohol. Often I do not hear this while I’m in a setting where alcohol is being consumed, but after. Most often it is during the day or after a night of alcohol consumption when someone will make a reference to the proverb, and claim the person who had a bad night was at fault because they did not follow the proverb’s advice. After looking further into this proverb, I found many sources claiming it was a myth. One of the most reputable sources I found was by CBS News, they claim “hangovers are more dependent on the total amount of alcohol consumed, rather than the order of drinking.” The rhyme of the proverb makes it catchy and easy to remember. I believe this is a significant factor in what makes this proverb so popular. Keeping in mind my informant’s age I also believe it is a proverb most often found in younger circles where there is less exposure to alcohol. Most teens are still in the experimental phase of alcohol consumption in their lives, and therefore are more susceptible to catchy phrases such as these that are not true.

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/14-facts-about-drinking-are-you-misinformed/8/

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Protection
Proverbs
Signs

Don’t look for problems – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“No le busquen chichis a las culebras”

Transliteration:

Don’t look for boobs in the snakes

Translation:

Don’t look for problems where there are none

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 71-year-old female. When I asked her if she knew of any common sayings of phrases of wisdom she giggled a little and responded, “No le busquen chichis a las culebras.” I asked where she recalled this saying from, and she claims to have heard it at a rural town where her family owned a countryside home, El Rancho Platanar. The town is called Plan de Barrancas in Jalisco, Mexico.   She says the proverb stook with her because of the humorous language employed. Her family was accustomed to driving up from the city they lived in, Guadalajara, to the house and spent weeklong holidays there when she was a young girl. When they were staying at the house she would visit the local town with her siblings and that is where she first heard the saying. My informant does not recall the context the proverb was used in, but she explained to me the meaning of the proverb. My informant belives the proverb is used to deter people from looking for problems when they don’t have problems.  The informant claims the phase means this because snakes do not have boobs, so if you look for the boobs in a snake not only will you not find any but you will anger the snake which is a problem. 

The phrase utilizes colloquial and crude language which I believe is the reason my informant has remembered it since such a young age. As a young girl, from a wealthy family, she was not exposed to this type of language making it exciting and new. The phrase employes the use of animals, in particular, a snake. This gives the audience a clue as to where it came from, the countryside, but also the connotations associated with snakes. Snakes have a reputation for being evil, bad, and sneaky. An example of this is the role the snake plays in the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible( the snake is the bad influence that convinced Eve to pick the apple). The snake in this proverb is representative of a problem. I believe the reference to boobs in the proverb is in association to the dangers of messing with a woman, for there is a bias, especially in Mexico, that angry women are fiercer than men. One would not want to mess with a snake, but if it is a female snake, then one would certainly not want to mess with it. The proverb is warning its audience not to look for problems where there are one because snakes do not have boobs, and angering a female snake by searching for its boobs is not only pointless but also dangerous.

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Game
general
Myths
Protection
Signs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

American Street Crack Superstition

Main Piece:

“Step on a crack and break your mom’s back”

Context and Analysis:

The informant claims the superstition is common knowledge. When asked when she first heard it she insisted not knowing when she picked it up, she just assumed it was common knowledge, “Everyone knows that when you are walking, you are not supposed to step on a crack it’s just what everyone says.” The informant does not know where the superstition originates from. The informant does not believe this superstition is true and therefore she does not apply it to her daily life. The informant states, “I know it is not true because I have stepped on a lot of cracks and nothing has happened.”

Like most superstitions, this one uses the threat of something valuable to encourage people to follow it. If something valuable is at stakes many times even if people do not believe in the superstition they will follow it to avoid any potential curse. This superstition emphasizes the dangers of stepping on a crack which can lead to breaking your mother’s back.

It is interesting to note the informant’s belief that this superstition is known worldwide. Often when someone does not know the origin of where something comes from or if they heard it at an early enough age, they assume everyone is familiar with the same things they are. Due to the understanding my informant has of the superstition I want to infer she heard it when she was in her early childhood years.

I also think it is important to note my informants reasoning as to what makes this superstition relevant. She states ‘everyone’ knows this. By emphasizing the use of a lot of people following a tradition or employing a saying, this gives any work reliability and validation.

There also seems to be a correlation with how difficult the superstition is to follow and how many people follow it. Many people follow superstitions when it does not inconvenience them. Therefore, when you have a superstition like this where it takes a lot of effort to avoid cracks everywhere one goes, it is less likely people will follow it.  Among children, this superstition can act as a game where a child will aim to avoid the cracks on the pavement and if he fails the punishment is the belief that his or her mom’s back will be broken.

Legends
Protection

Clubbing and Needles Urban Legend

Informant: “From what I was told is that at clubs or music events there are some really crappy people who make it their mission to infect people with HIV with syringes that have the blood of an infected person. So, like, you are dancing and someone comes up to you and stabs you with a needle and boom, you are infected. I don’t know if this ever happened, but it seems possible I guess, and because it’s possible I don’t mess around with any sketchy clubs.”

Context: The informant is the brother of the collector and spoke about this legend during a discussion about parties. The informant said that they first heard of this legend from their girlfriend at the time in high school at an LMFAO concert at the Orpheum.

Informant Analysis: When he analyzed what this legend means, he said that it is most likely some warning of “sketchy clubs” and that people shouldn’t take drugs from people they do not know. He noted that even though he does not necessarily believe this legend is true, it is entertaining and scary enough to have made him tell others about it.

Collector Analysis: While I believe this legend may be some sort of protection warning to any person attending music festivals or clubs while also serving as an entertaining horror story, it also may stand for other fears young people may have at party events. In particular, when we are speaking of needles and partying, it is possibly that this legend is in reference to certain hard drugs that can be shared at these events. In any situation where needles are involved or being shared, there is great fear of contracting something from someone. This fear may have inspired the legend. It may also be analyzed from the angle of the danger of being unaware in a party atmosphere where people let their guard down and are preyed upon unexpectedly. We can also analyze why the legend refers to HIV in particular and not some other disease or drug. This legend may serve as a warning to young people having intercourse with people they do not know who may have HIV. We can see that there is an insidious perpetrator who infects a victim while the victim is enjoying themselves, which may closely relate to a warning of having many unknown sexual partners. Lastly, it should be noted that in clubs or music events there is a large grouping of unknown people who are, while at the event, in a sort of forced community and friendship. The fear of being hurt by an unknown person who is supposed to be a friend is a great use of the idea of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

Folk speech
general
Life cycle
Proverbs

Waking up earlier will not make the sun rise sooner – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.”

 Transliteration: 

Not much early rises earlier.

Translation:

Waking up earlier will not make the sun rise sooner.

 Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

Context and Analysis:

The informant is a 78-year-old male. I asked the informant if he had any sayings, legends, or superstitions he would like to share. The informant smiled and simply said, “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.” I asked him what this proverb means to him and if he knew where he had first heard it. The informant went on to tell me about his first assignment as a newly graduated civil engineer on his first solo project. He was so eager to impress his boss that he told his second in command to meet him at the construction site at 5:00 am. Despite multiple attempts his partner made to try to convince him otherwise, my informant claims not to have listened and reprimanded him for being lazy. The next morning when they arrived at 5:00 am the sun had not risen and there was no light. They had to wait two more hours until they could begin working. As they waited my informant’s partner said to him, “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.” 

This proverb speaks to the importance of timing. It is often understood that by getting to a particular place early or rising earlier it will lead to more efficiency. A popular proverb representative of this is, ‘the early bird gets the worm’. However, not enough is said to finding the right time. As my informant claims it is important to pay attention to one’s surroundings and gain context before making a decision as opposed to blindly following what one thinks is right. One cannot control every variable in life; sometimes it is more valuable to let nature take its course and adapt to the situation. By doing this, a person is more effective than if they are trying to fight the flow of life wasting energy by attempting to control every variable.

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Jasy Jatere

My friend grew up in Paraguay and has a lot of myths and legends that stem from the Guarani tradition.

Friend: “The Jasy Jatere is the God of the siesta. I heard about him from my grandmother. Apparently he would steal kids who snuck off during the siesta, which is a nap most people take during the day. I think the story was told to keep kids from leaving their houses while their parents were sleeping. Like don’t go away or the Jasy Jatere will get you!”

Me: What did he look like?

Friend: “He was supposed to look like a kid. He has blonde hair and is pretty small-framed. But he’s actually a full-grown man. Kids are supposed to think he’s their friend, he plays with them and feeds them fruit and honey, and then, according to my grandmother, he imprisons the kids and pokes out their eyes so that they cannot see to find their way home.”

Me:Did it scare you into napping during the siesta?

Friend: “Yeah I was pretty freaked out by Jasy Jatere. I definitely thought he would come and get me if I wasn’t napping. He’s sort of like the boogeyman of Paraguay.”

Analysis:The Jasy Jatere being a “Paraguyayan Boogeyman” is interesting. In some ways, it is creepy that parents would try to scare their children into staying at home and trying to sleep. Most of the time, these fears dissolve without much consequence. A child grows up and learns not to fear the Jatere, or the Boogeyman. Another connection that could be made to the Jasy Jatere is Peter Pan. It is the same archetype: a boyish creature who seems to be immortal, coming when children are without their parents, to take them away to a far off place– usually never to return home. Many cultures have these types of stories, and I think they play into our fear (and curiosity) of being taken from a loving home  with one of our kind who has learned to survive without the support of parents. transcoder

Folk speech
Proverbs

The Rice Grain Warning

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.

 

My parents told me that if you do not finish every single rice grain on your plate you have to count how many you have left…Then you have to jump into the river, and every time you jump you have to make a splash sound…So it actually means you take each rice grain individually and then jump into the river again and again until your plate is empty. And every time you jump into the river you have to make a really loud splash sound. Nobody actually does this….they end up just finishing their rice. I mean the adults don’t really expect you to do it…it’s more like a threat so you finish your food.

According to the informant this proverb is more common among older generation. She grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. Though Bangkok is a metropolitan area she heard this from her parents.  It was usually for parents to say to their children when the children do not finish their food. She has heard it from some of her friend also. She said some family has variations of threat when their kids have leftover food on their plate but this is the most common one she has heard. She mentioned that the origin of the splash come from the fact that before cars were highly used it was very common in Thailand for people to live in a house near water (canals, river, and lake) where boat was their main transportation. Many of those houses near the water are farms and gardens where they value their harvests. That is what the informant believes this saying generated from.

She also said that rice is the main part of the diet in Thai food. One of Thailand main export is also rice. In a meal each individual is given a plate of rice. Protein and vegetable are then in the middle of the table as shared dishes. It is then more evident if the individual has rice leftovers on his/her plate.

 

I believe this saying is a warning to teach children to value the food that they eat and the importance to every little rice grain. It is easier to finish the small rice grain on the plate than having to take each grain to the river and jump. As the informant mentioned, Thailand is mainly an agricultural society with majority of crops grown being rice, this is to teach children that every little grains of rice is highly valued. To tell the children that they have to jump into water as many times as the rice on their plate is a reflection of the hardship a farmer would endure to grow the crops.

The informant said she also heard this phrase not from my family but from many movies and TV shows. The characters would usually say it in older movies or movies that are set in older times. Sometimes she said her teacher will say something similar in the lunchroom if students have leftover food. I agree with the informant that this is said as a threat rather as a dare. From her personal experience she has yet to hear that anybody actually jump into water instead of finishing some rice grains.

Digital
general
Narrative

Internet Predator

“…Just remember there are a lot of fucking sickos and psychos and rapists and other terrible people that will say and do whatever they can to get you to meet up with them to hook up or do bad things to you or whatever. It worries me that you spend so much time on the internet. I heard just the other day from a guy at work that some guy was found dead in his apartment after he got some kid he had met through the internet to come over, and it just goes to show that you can’t trust anybody you meet like that. Not even if they aren’t old.”

My informant for this piece is a concerned father lecturing his daughter on the dangers of the internet. There are many tales circulating, many of them quite true, about internet predators that meet people throught the internet and do terrible things to them. This particular warning stands out in that it’s the younger party that’s the actual attacker. This may be a sort of comment on how it’s the younger generation who have a firm grip on today’s technology and maybe a subconcious fear of the young taking advantage of the old in a reverse of the usual “elderly man takes advantage of a young teen” story.

It’s certainly a vague story, but there is something threatening about the open-endedness of it.

Annotation: This particular story, though vague in detail, is brought to life in a chilling horror movie by the name of Hard Candy (2005), in which a 14 year old girl (Ellen Page, leading actress of Juno) turns the tables on a pedophile she met through the internet.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Signs

Red Sky

Red Sky At Night, Sailors Delight, Red Sky In The Morn, Sailors Be Warned”

My informant for this folk saying served in the US Navy over two decades ago, and now owns a sailboat in the Los Angeles area. My informant said that he first heard the saying in passing in training for the navy. When he asked what the phrase meant, he was informed that it was a centuries old phrase that described weather patterns in the sea.

Typically, he was told, a red sky at night means calm weather and smooth sailing. On the contrary, he was told that typically when sailors see a red sky in the morning hours, it is connected to weather patterns that call for rain, winds, and storms. My informant stated that he had done more research on this quote, and found that indeed, it does have a scientific backing.  The red color in the sky is due to suspended particles and reflections of clouds, he says, which is good at night and bad in the morning.

My informant tells me that throughout his experience at sea as a Capitan in the navy, as well as sailing his own boat, this phrase has held true “for the most part”. It’s a good way to gauge what’s to come, it’s a good predictor just so you have an idea what’s coming, he says. He says it’s never been the opposite, and that he would trust this saying over anybody else’s word.

I believe that this saying likely originated centuries ago as a warning or useful tip passed from one sailor to another. Perhaps older sailors would pass it on to their children or those new to the sea. Making it into a rhyme, and thus turning this fact into folklore, likely had to do with giving it a ring, and making it easier for sailors to remember the term. Night must rhyme with delight, so the sailors don’t get confused and think that it is the other way around. It seems that it was created as a practical rhyme to help sailors remember the general laws of the ocean at sea.

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