Author Archives: alwin

Counter Proverb to “An eye for an eye”

Text: “Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”


The informant learned this saying when he was 6, overhearing his father’s conversation with another adult. He later learned that the “eye for an eye” part came from the Hammurabi Code. To him the quote meant that retaliation against someone who’s wronged you doesn’t make your own situation any better. 


Proverbs are used to give advice, and this phrase is an example of that. It subverts the well-known saying “an eye for an eye”, which prioritizes absolute justice. This Proverb says that mentality and idea of how to respond to someone wronging you is ultimately harmful to everyone even if it makes things just in an individual instance. It uses the vernacular authority of the saying and expands its scope while presenting an opposite perspective and worldview.

Recess Game: Redondo Beach “kickball” War

Text: “Living in Redondo beach, we would play Kickball all the time but it’s not like ‘actual’ kickball where you go base to base – it was like kickball war. There would be a huge field and people would line up like a war, and everyone has a ball and they all drop kick it at each other. I used to picture it like the battles in the American revolution. It was like cannon fighting but they’d call it kickball. You could use any ball, basketball and footballs included, people were playing it every day.”

Context:  “It was a man’s game, the girls would usually play house. Mostly older kids played and there was respect given to the younger kids who could ‘hang’ with them.”

The game was intense and the informant said her participation ended in a concussion from being hit in the head with a basketball.

Analysis: Children’s games are often a way for them to experiment with the adult world. In this game, the kids are exploring the idea of warfare. The informant was reminded of the initial battles of the American Revolution, a style of war the elementary and middle-school kids would have been learning about in their classrooms; two lines opposing each other launching volleys with minimal ability to aim mirrors.

The game also expressed, or possibly played a part in determining some of the social roles between the students as well. Given the intensity of the game, being a consistent part of it signified who someone was, and for a girl or younger student it helped to align them with the toughest boys.

Southern Simile: “Sweating like a whore in church”

Text: “Sweating like a whore in church”


The informant heard this phrase used often in Mississippi, mostly by people referring to themselves when it was hot outside. The implication is that a sexually promiscuous person is disobeying the wishes or laws of God, and is anxious or scared while entering into His place of worship. 


Though the word “whore” elicits strong emotions in almost any context, this simile is generally used light-heartedly without much thought given to the word itself. This is at least in part because the person saying it is usually drawing a comparison between the “whore” and themselves, not another person. It could be used to refer to another person, but even then it doesn’t seem to be given as much weight as if it were said outside of the simile. 

This is because the simile utilizes humor. A whore in a church doesn’t really sweat profusely, but to imagine the scenario is funny to those who encounter the simile. The vast difference between the person saying the simile and the whore in the simile also adds to the humor. 

Although the simile is said lightheartedly and the audience is meant to focus on the comparison, it still indirectly reinforces Southern social norms. We don’t know anything about the person in the simile except that they are a whore, they are in church, and they are sweating. The nature of the simile means that they are sweating because of the two other qualities they have, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to bring them up. Therefore the whore has reason to sweat and be anxious or scared, and the audience should avoid finding themselves in that scenario.

Americanized Ecuadorian Custom: Mal de Ojo or “evil eye”

Text: “If someone compliments what you have, my nana told me you have to give it to them or you’ll get the evil eye on you: it’s a jealousy thing. A look of admiration could stem from jealousy and it may have evil intentions.”


The informant’s grandma (“nana”) is from Ecuador and brought this practice with her to Los Angeles. Many cultures have “evil eye” beliefs accompanied by practices and objects to ward them off. With this practice, it is believed that giving the complimenter the thing they admire will stop the jealousy before anything bad can come from it.


The complimenter’s reaction to this exchange plays a part in determining whether they are part of the “folk” or not. Someone familiar with the superstition will respond by turning down the offer and reassure the complimentee about their intentions but not explicitly. Though this signals awareness, it isn’t a bad thing if the person accepts the gift, since the offer is ultimately based on a genuine belief in its effects. 

Catholic Folkloric Warning to a Child: “The devil will pinch your toes off”

Text: “If you lie the devil is gonna come and pinch your toes off”


The informant’s mother would tell her this in order to get her to tell the truth. The informant said that it worked because she was raised Catholic and while she was younger, believed it. Once she was a little older and noticed that her mom would lie and still had her toes, she realized it wouldn’t actually happen. The mother had heard it from her own mother first.


In the institutional Catholic faith, the devil doesn’t personally physically attack children for their sins. However, the empty threat of that happening is dissuasive enough that it was used by a mother who had been fooled by it as a child. The devil in this threat could be substituted for a troll, or a witch, but for a Catholic in America, those creatures aren’t as convincing or as relevant.