Author Archives: Ankita Mukherji

King’s Cup

Background Information: I came across the game King’s Cup at a party, and was immediately intrigued by how elaborate it was. I also noticed that different people were talking about different ways they had played it before, in different places or states, and this caught my attention. I interviewed Jack Runburg and Kevin Litman-Navarro, who are two college seniors. Jack learned to play the game during high school in Utah, where he grew up, while Kevin came across it at the beginning of college.

K: The game Kings cup is a game of skill and a game of luck… It requires a deck of cards, a group of people between four and eight, uh, a large… receptacle, in the middle of the table – a chalice, a goblet, whatever you’d like, and a beer for, uh, for each player. The game is played by fanning out the deck of cards around your goblets… your grail, if you’re into that… and they take turns pulling cards, and each card has a different rule assigned to it. So it’s like a bunch of mini-games within the larger game of King’s Cup

A: It has to be a beer?

K: It typically, if you wanna play the game properly, everyone has to be drinking the same thing, because at different points of the game you’re going to be pouring your drink into the large cup in the center, and drinking it all at the end.

A: Is it different playing it in high school and here? Since you’re from Utah, Jack?

J: Yeah generally like the first ten minutes of playing the game is trying to like, rectify, different people’s sets of rules, and choosing which ones to obey for that particular game.

A: Do you have any examples?

K: Jack, what was your typical rule for Queen?

J: Ok so, in high school I played Queen as Question Master, it’s different from the usual Question Master – it’s if, someone doesn’t speak in questions, meaning that if someone asks you a question and you don’t respond with a question, you lose.

K: Conversely in my version of Queen, it’s called Queen Mean, so when you pull Queen, everyone insults you.

A: Do you guys like the game?

J: It’s not really like a big party game, more of like a kickback… You need a small group, fewer than eight people… It’s fun because it’s dynamic, and not really repetitive.

A: Have you ever heard any stories or anything about where the game might have come from or something?

J: I have a sister who is ten years older than me, and I know that… well she grew up in San Diego and I grew up in Utah, and when I became of the age where I started to drink, she asked me, like ‘Oh, do you guys play King’s Cup?’ And I said yeah we do, and she said ‘What are your rules?’ And the only rules we differed on were Jacks and Aces, so it was cool that someone in like a completely different geographical area who was ten years older than me had like the same rules… I think it’s just been around for like really long.

Thoughts: I am very interested in how the game seems to transcend boundaries of both space and time within the US. Drinking games seem to serve an important function at parties, especially at college, where many might be seeing new faces or attempting to meet new friends. In these situations, games serve as a means of breaking the ice. King’s Cup adds another layer of complexity because of the variations, similar to the idea of oikotypes that we learned about in class – a piece of folklore having multiple regional and cultural variations. Playing King’s Cup perhaps adds a stimulus for conversation as well, as players discuss where they are from, and how or why their versions of the game might be different.

Maaderchod/motherfucker

Background Information: I noticed that there were commonalities between swear-words or phrases in different languages. In particular, vulgarities related to mothers and sex seemed to transcend linguistic barriers. I interviewed Tanuj Gupta about the word, “maaderchod”, which means “motherfucker”, in Hindi. Tanuj grew up in Lucknow, India, and came to USC for his graduate degree, and speaks primarily Hindi and English. He first heard and began using the word at school, in the fifth grade.

Original script: मादरचोद

Phonetic script: Maaderchoad

Transliteration: Mother-fuck

Full translation: Motherfucker

Thoughts: I find it interesting how vulgarities like this one have evolved to become a part of individuals’ everyday speech and vernacular. Tanuj uses the word frequently when he is speaking Hindi with his friends, as an expression of frustration, amazement, or just for general emphasis. As Tanuj said, he learned the word in school as a child, and has continued to use it frequently. I find it interesting that vulgarities like this one are used in specific domains. It is learned and used among friends and equals, rather than with superiors, as it seems to express a level of comfort and familiarity within the group it is used in. It would also be interesting to analyze the seemingly cross-cultural taboo of associating “mothers” with sex.     

Grandmother’s Superstitions

Background Information: Elyse is a Junior at college, and she grew up in San Francisco, CA. Her grandmother is Chinese, and has lived in the United States from her 20s or 30s, according to Elyse. I interviewed Elyse about some of the superstitions her grandmother has.

Elyse: So, my grandma tells me this thing like, every time I go around to see her, what she does is she asks me to put my fingers together, kind of like a paddle, and then, you hold it up to the light, and if you have a lot of light coming through it, like a lot of holes in your fingers, it means that you lose money fast. And if your fingers are really tight-knit, it means you save money. So like, I have some little cracks, so that means that some of my money is going to leave through those.

Ankita: And she does this every time you see her?

Elyse: She’s like, can I see your hands, because she likes to read my palms every time I visit her, so she’ll be like, “oh, good hands”, and then she’ll tell me to put my hands together to check this one.

Ankita: Does she do this for everyone she meets?

Elyse: Sort of, she doesn’t do it for everyone, just like family or whatever. Like, it’s definitely not an actual science, and she’s not a palmist or anything either, but yeah…

Thoughts: It seems, from talking to Elyse, that her grandmother has many such superstitions that guide her everyday life. Many seem to be related to luck, prosperity and wealth, and these seem to be important to hold on to in Chinese culture. It is also interesting that her grandmother chooses to read the palms of her family and ensure that they are living by these superstitions as well, perhaps as a way of showing her care and concern for them.

Family steamboat

Background Information: Amanda is a Chinese Singaporean in her 2nd year of college, and she and her family grew up in Singapore. Her family, for various reasons, and as a result do not spend as much time with each other as in the past. As such, eating together — and cooking steamboat together, in particular, serves as an important ritual. I interviewed Amanda about this ritual.

Amanda: Once in a while my grandma will get all of us together and cook steamboat, which is basically cooking soup with a ton of ingredients like prawns and leafy vegetables and all that good stuff in the middle of the table on a tabletop stove, so it was a very involved process because we all had to sit there and wait for the soup to boil and then dish out our own meals, and steamboat dinners end up taking maybe 2, slightly more than 2 hours because we’re all talking while eating. We don’t do them very often, but it’s definitely become a special thing now where if I head home to Singapore after a long time, we’ll probably kind of celebrate it or commemorate it with a steamboat dinner, and it’d be a big thing if I invited someone, like a really good friend, to join us. I don’t even know how it really started, or when, because my grandma just did it one day as a very informal thing when before, we really only had steamboats anytime extended family came over, so like for Chinese New Year or a birthday or something like that, but yeah I like that it’s become an ‘our-family’ sort of thing, like the way we like to set everything up, arrange the table, what we talk about over our food, how our conversation topics transition, and how we’ll always end up sitting at the table at least half an hour after all the food’s gone, and usually it ends up being my dad occupied by the TV so he’ll be at the sofa, and it would be one of the few times my mum’s in a joking kind of mood, so the rest of us will just talk to her and share gossip from our lives and stuff.   

Thoughts: Again, it is very interesting to me how food traditions have many important social functions. Here, not only is the mere act of eating steamboat important, but also the performance of sitting together at a table and cooking it before eating it. This act is a means of bonding for Amanda’s family. Not only that, but it also seems to function as a sort of rite of passage for whoever Amanda invites to join her family It began with her grandmother, and seeing as it holds value for Amanda, it is a tradition that will be continued.

4/20

Background Information: Sharif is a Junior at college, and he grew up in California. He uses marijuana regularly, and I interviewed him about the supposed “weed day”—April 20th, and how he celebrates it.

Ankita: Have you always celebrated 4/20?

Sharif: Yeah, I usually like, since the 11th grade, when I like, tried marijuana for the first time, uh, I’ve been celebrating it, but I think it’s more of like uh… I think it’s just an excuse to be around like, your social group or your friends, and to share experiences with them and things like that. Yeah. It’s kind of like… it’s never really a fun day? Like, you just get high and sit there, you don’t do much hahaha, but like… I think that like… I dunno, I think this like self-proclaimed holiday is pretty fun.  Because like it’s like, for the people that do celebrate it, it’s like this common knowledge… it’s like this thing you share with the other people whoa re celebrating it. It’s like celebrating being lazy, which is kind of fun.

A: It’s kind of like a low-key thing, right? I’ve mostly seen it as internet culture?

S: Well I think it’s been around… for a long time. Like from the 60s maybe. Maybe. I’m not sure. I know there’s something called like, 7/10… Like July 10th is when like, people who like to smoke like concentrates? So basically like hash or something like that, they do it on 7/10, because backward, 7/10 means oil. And oil is what they call those things.

A: Most people I talk to though, have told me that they celebrate 4/20 kind of ironically? Like not really as a serious thing. Is that true for you as well, or no?

S: Well to be honest with you, at least with my friend group, it’s a pretty serious thing. I mean… well like, the years that I’ve spent it with my friends that I grew up with, they… take it seriously in the way where it’s like, they’ll buy like, massive amounts of weed and like do things where like, on one hand you’re trying to be cautious and not be smoking everyday and stuff, but that day is a day to just splurge on it? And do things that are kind of ridiculous, like rolling a huge joint that’s like the size of your arm or something. It’s the day to like, do the dumbest thing you can and like, spend money on it. Also now that it’s more accepted, most places where you can buy medical marijuana, have extreme like, deals on that day. So I remember like a week ago, I bought… they just had like, $20 for an eighth of an ounce of weed, which is like half off, because usually it’d be like $40. It’s kind of like the Black Friday of buying weed. There’s literally like, lines outside of the places where you go.

A: Is it different celebrating it now that you’re not really with the friends you started smoking with? Like your high school friends?

S: Um, well… it definitely was more fun when you’re in high school. Like this year I didn’t smoke weed until like, 11pm? Because I had to work all day. But when I was younger, I remember specifically like, one 4/20, we—it was literally from like, 10am till the night time that we like woke up, and started, and were like very very high. I mean it’s really great. Like, I can’t really stop smoking weed… because I have some like, really amazing relationships that wouldn’t be as amazing without it.

Thoughts: The most interesting thing to me about this special day is how it seems to be common knowledge, especially among college students, without it having been officialized in any way. Most of the content about 4/20 is derived from internet culture, mostly consisting of memes and jokes. While smoking weed is an everyday activity, it is interesting how the community here as a whole, in an underground way, dedicates one day to glorifiying it, and doing things they would not normally do.