Author Archives: Andrew Hornblower

Hollywood Acting Lingo – Break Some Face

This was one of the coolest pieces of folklore that I collected for this project (in my opinion). After writing up my piece on the real estate finance industry’s saying “if the shoe fits, wear it”, I decided to ask my friend Derek if he had any similar sayings from the movie industry. Derek interns at Paramount Pictures, and has been on the set with tons of actors. Therefore, he has had ample opportunity to pick up some of the lingo.

He told me a few other sayings that are commonly thrown around before he got to this one. Apparently, depending on who is working on the movie set, the staff and actors will say “Break Some Face” to one another before shooting a scene. I immediately thought of the traditional saying that everyone knows, “break a leg”. Derek explained that this was of similar meaning, in that it is a phrase of encouragement. However, it has a slightly different origin.

Apparently during auditions for movie roles, it is not uncommon for the judge not to say a single word to the candidate. It is the responsibility of the candidate to “break” this stone face. Naturally, if the audition goes well, the judge will smile and/or speak to the candidate. When this has occurred, they have successfully “broken some face”.


Conspiracy Chant – “Because it Burned, we will Learn”

On a typical morning walking to campus, I came across a large group of around 50 people at the intersection of Jefferson and Hoover. Some were holding signs with “9/11 – MURDER” written across the fronts in bright red letters. Others were simply passing out pamphlets to the students crossing the street. One man had a megaphone pressed to his lips, and was shouting the same phrase again and again “Because it burned, we will learn”. This saying caught my attention; I had heard it before. While visiting my Dad in Aspen last Christmas, a group of 9/11 conspiracy protestors were demonstrating not much unlike the group that I came across on my way to class. There was also a man on a megaphone, shouting again and again, “Why they burned, you will learn!” Normally I would not have remembered this detail, but I am particularly interested in these types of conspiracies, and spent an hour talking to the demonstrators in Aspen. After hearing that same phrase again and again for that long, it’s hard to forget.

Although I was not able to get a release form for this piece of my collection, I really wanted to include it. This piece of folklore does more than simply illustrate how chants can mutate across geographical regions. It serves the purpose of uniting and mobilizing an entire movement of people.

Venice Beach – Trayvon Martin Spoken Word Performance

To supplement the pieces of Folklore that I have taken from my personal experiences and environment, I decided to head to Venice beach to pick up some performances from complete strangers. As you may know, Venice is home to hundreds of street performers, many of which have never taken a class to hone their specific skills.  I had a lot to choose from for this collection, so I decided to approach the performers whose performances would be most effectively transferred from reality to paper.

While dancers were everywhere, my phone camera did not have the capacity to effectively record their movements (upgrading to an iphone as soon as finances allow). I was, however, able to stand near a crowd of “spoken word” artists. There was a collection of 5-8 of them, standing on the pier with a crowd of nearly 30.

As I approached, I noticed that some of the performers were holding posters featuring the face of a teenage African American boy. The posters read “Justice for Trayvon”. After asking a few of the crowd members what was this gathering was all about, I learned that an African American 17 year old was shot and killed as part of an alleged hate crime.

I turned my attention to the spoken word performers on the pier. One of the most passionate speakers really grabbed my attention. He spoke from the heart about the evil nature of this and similar acts, and how there is simply not enough media coverage on these topics. I wrote down a brief portion of the passage he said, as pure, orally performed, folklore. I tried to get everything he said, but he was slurring a lot of his words and speaking with poor grammar. He might have been drunk, though what I have below should capture the jist of it.


We’re the people of this plain city.

We live we fight we sing so free.

How do we all sit by so comfortably

When boys die for a man’s hate?

What makes a good society?

Not us. Not this. This is dead.

Our connection is dead.

Our sensation of God’s love is dead.

Our community is dead.

The only way to bring it back

Is to see this boy be dead.


After he finished and another man began to speak, I walked up to him and told him about my assignment. He glady signed the release form, and asked that I title this post after Trayvon Martin in order to raise awareness for racially-backed murders.

This is without a doubt the most powerful piece of folklore that I collected for this assignment. To this point in my collecting process, I had not seen folklore truly move people at a deep emotional level. Oral spontaneous performances such as this one possess the unique quality of being completely from the heart of the performer.

Bullying Technique – Indian Rug Burn

While discussing childhood bullies with a group of my friends, a unique method of torture was brought up. As a child growing up, my friend experienced several types of physical bullying. Perhaps the most miserable of all, he told us was known as the “Indian Rug Burn”.

In case the reader is not familiar with this term, an Indian Rug Burn is inflicted as follows:

A bully grabs an unsuspecting shrimpy nerd by the arm, despite his desperate attempts to escape.

Said bully places both of his hands adjacent to one another on said nerd’s forearm.

When said bully has finished milking the pre-pain period, he tightens his grip, and twists each hand in opposite directions.

This causes immediate and terrible pain for said nerd.

While simple, Indian Rug Burns are effective in inflicting a large amount of pain on the victim in a very short period of time. From a folkloric perspective, it is interesting to consider two things:

  1. Why is this bullying technique called an “Indian Rug Burn”?
  2.  What makes this such a compelling method of torture?

To address these questions one at I time, I began by asking my friend from whom I originally collected the information. He replied that he was not sure where he first heard the term “Indian Rug Burn”, or when it was first done to him. He simply “Just knew what it was”. In response to the second question, he said that, as a former highly-bullied individual, the main reason for the popularity of Indian Rug Burns is that there is no accountability to the bully. It leaves no lasting marks on the victim, yet causes a great amount of pain. In addition, my friend said that it was a very common method of bullying, and therefore was difficult to trace back to a single source.

My personal take on the first question is perhaps a stretch, but possible nonetheless. We must consider the physical state of one’s forearm post-Indian Rug Burn. It is usually pretty red. Although 10 year-olds may not have known it, perhaps their actions reflected subjects (racism) that far exceeded their ages.  As we discussed in class, this is also found with the game of Bloody Mary and little girls. They do not yet have knowledge of their menstrual cycle, yet play a game that is directly tied to it.

Right of Passage – Rail Tradition

When I was in my early teenage years, I attended Camp Deerwood. This camp taught me a lot of life lessons. Being away from home for 7 weeks as a 12 year-old is never easy, but in retrospect it was completely worth it. One of my most valuable takeaways from my four summers there is the importance of recognizing seniority. At this camp, there were many traditions that imprinted this idea in my brain, but one stands out from the rest. Every Sunday night, one of the older counselors was given the opportunity to speak to the entire camp. When we were all packed together, this number was upwards of 100 individuals. We would sit on the back porch of the administration building, looking out over the lake. The speaker would face us, and impart his valuable experiences.

Whie this all sounds great now, at the time I could not BEAR to sit on the hard wooden floor without any support for my back for hours on end. It made the entire experience miserable. It was not until I was a “senior camper”, meaning I had attended the camp for 3 or more years, that I was granted the privilege of sitting on the railing that surrounds the porch. This railing had a comfortable back to it, and gave is occupants an elevated vantage point for the speech. Naturally, these spots were highly desired, but only an option for the “senior” campers. If a younger camper attempted to sit on the railings, the counselors would give the senior campers full license to push him off. This tradition, like many rights of passage, was never recorded or officially declared. Instead, its transfer was entirely achieved through the oral communication and imitation of the camp’s members. This speaks to the power of seniority in not only a “Lord of the Flies” scenario. There is something to be said about the power of precedent, and its ability to infiltrate the actions of even the most stubborn of people.