“So I grew up in NJ, but not in the part of NJ that’s near new York. I grew up in the part of New Jersey near Philadelphia, and that’s considered South Jersey. In South Jersey, toward the Jersey Shore, there’s an area called the Pine Barrens, and the people who live there are referred to as Pineys. They’re described as not having running water or electricity. They live in a very primitive way, and live in shacks. Their families have lived in the Pine Barrens for generations. And there’s a legend that in the Pine Barrens lives a creature called the Jersey Devil, and if anything unexplained or violent or weird happened, it would be in South Jersey in the Pine Barrens. So people would say it had to do with these people who are not very sophisticated and live just among themselves and don’t mix with others combined with the evil that is the Jersey Devil. People in South Jersey really believe that there is this phantom Jersey Devil.”
Context: The informant was raised in Cherry Hill, South New Jersey.
Interpretation: It seems clear that the Pineys and the Jersey Devil are both used as a scapegoat for New Jerseyans’ anger and sadness in response to tragic and/or unexplained events. The Jersey Devil could also be viewed as the embodiment of New Jerseyans’ negative feelings toward Pineys. Instead of explicitly citing the elusive, exclusive Pineys as the root of evil, they can veil their hatred in a more fantastical being and dehumanize whoever is being blamed for such events. For another interpretation of the Jersey Devil, see the “Jersey Devil & Folklore” page of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance website.
So where my dad lives, el Espiritu Michoacan, there’s a big mountain with a large cross that is visible to the naked eye at the top. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but they say that religious groups took it there on horseback. The wood used was so big that they needed a lot of people and lot of horses to move it or transport it. There’s a story that after it was built, many people were at the top of the mountain and I guess praying or worshipping… and because it’s at the top of the mountain, they got dizzy when they were staring at the cross. They thought that the cross was falling or that the sky was falling and they began to run, and some people maybe got hurt and fell down because it’s steep. They also say that the people might have been partying, so they could have been drunk or intoxicated or something. You know, your depth perception isn’t great under those circumstances. So they were being punished by God.
Context: The informant’s father is from Michoacan, and he has visited the state almost yearly since his childhood. He heard this story from his father.
Interpretation: This story has a cautionary element that warns audiences not to mix worship with intoxication for fear of punishment. It also seems reminiscent of Judgment Day, where worshippers are evaluated as the world appears to end (i.e. the sky is falling). It also suggests the power of religion, both in that it brought people together to build and transport the cross and that it is powerful enough to send a large group of people falling down a mountain. The fact that this story is widely spread in the area shows that the people of el Espiritu Michoacan value religion and are dedicated to spreading the word of Christianity (more specifically, Catholicism).
I guess it’s a Jewish tradition to bring salt to somebody when they move somewhere new. When I moved into my first apartment, my mom brought a loaf of bread and salt. I think she said it’s supposed to be so you never go hungry, and then the salt brings flavor. She also sprinkled the salt on the floor because she said it protects against evil, and I couldn’t vacuum the salt for at least twenty-four hours. She said that her parents did the same thing when she moved into her first apartment, so she was passing that tradition on to me.
Context: The informant’s maternal grandparents are both Jewish, and the informant practiced Judaism throughout his childhood.
Interpretation: This is an act of love and concern from whoever brings the homeowner salt and bread. In this case, it also connects the informant to his grandparents by bringing their tradition into his home. Lastly, it is a religious practice that connects Jewish people to one another by practicing the same traditions.
“Skate for fun, not for fame.”
Context: The informant has been skateboarding since he was six-years-old, and has encountered many amateur and professional skateboarders.
Interpretation: There is a lot of backlash in the skateboarding community against skaters who “sell out” and skateboard for the sake of money and fame. It is well-known that a “true” skateboarder skates because they are passionate about improving and about the culture of skateboarding. This proverb encourages skateboarders to fully enjoy the activity rather than putting pressure on themselves to be of a certain skill level in order to pursue skateboarding professionally. It also shames skateboarders who see skateboarding as their greatest strength and opportunity for success, and makes it more difficult for skateboarding to progress as an industry.
“Av barn og fulle folk får ein høyre sanninga.”
“From children and drunk people we hear the truth.”
Context: The informant’s grandmother was a Norwegian immigrant with many peculiar sayings. This was his favorite, as it gave him a rare sense of power as a child.
Interpretation: Because sober adults often act in their own self-interest and mask their intentions with flattery and deceit, it has been said in more than one language that honesty is reserved for children who have not yet learned to lie and manipulate and drunk people who do not have the mental capacity to mask their feelings and intentions. This can be used, as is the case with my informant, to empower children and encourage them to maintain their honesty and forthrightness. It can also make adults more likely to share their true feelings because it indirectly shames their general dishonesty. Lastly, it makes people more receptive to the thoughts and feelings of children and drunk people, who are both often overlooked because they are seen as foolish and incapable of sharing knowledge.