Author Archives: Antona Yost

Be the Pebble

The informant is a Junior at USC majoring in Choral music.  He is from Santa Cruz California and says that he loves using proverbs in his every day life.

 

“Be the pebble, let the water wash over you.  Don’t be the boulder”.

 

The informant first heard this proverb from his parents and said that he uses it frequently.

Analysis:

This proverb was collected in a natural performance.  The informant said this proverb to me when I was complaining about how stressed I was.  For him, it is advice to someone who is stressed, telling them to let it go and not let things worry them.  For the informant it also means that if you worry about things, it just makes everything worse.

This proverb’s use of the imagery of flowing water to symbolize letting things go, living life and not worrying has similarities to phrases such as “go with the flow” and saying something is “water under the bridge”.  Differently from these other phrases, this collected proverb also incorporates the idea that the water of life, so to say, will “wash” over you.  The use of this word implies that the process of struggle is a cleansing one from which people emerge smoother and better, much like the pebbles along beaches or in stream beds are polished by the flow of the water.

This proverb could also be used to advise someone to not stand in opposition to the way things are going, although when the informant used this proverb it did not have this meaning.  Boulders stand against the water and as a result are broken down.  In this aspect, this proverbs holds close ties to the proverb “go with the flow”, as both use water imagery to give advice against combating the current situation and letting things happen as they will.

Gray hair

Informant is a graduate student studying Vocal Arts/Opera at USC.  She is originally from New York City and just recently moved to Los Angeles.

“If you pluck a gray hair, three will grow back in its place.”

The informant first heard this proverb in New York City and says that, while living there, she heard it a lot.  She shared this proverb when one of our mutual friends was complaining about her gray hairs and wondering whether she should pull them out or not.  After sharing this proverb, several other of our friends (from various parts of the country) chimed in saying that it was bad to pull out gray hairs.  Perhaps this proverb has turned into a folk belief or vice versa.  More information would be necessary to determine this.

Analysis:

This proverb could mean several things: 1. Embrace your grayness, growing old isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  2. If you worry about getting old, you are worrying about things you have no control over instead of living your life 3. A warning against vanity  4. (best interpretation, in my opinion) Worrying about gray hairs causes you stress, connecting this proverb to the folk belief that stress causes gray hairs, therefore worrying about (ie. plucking) your gray hairs will cause more gray hairs to grow

“Hey Cow” game

Informant is a Pre-Med transfer student at USC who grew up in North Dakota.  He shared this game with me when we saw cows outside our windows on a bus going on tour with our choir. I later interviewed him again to get an accurate transcription of this game.

“I was in high school, I don’t know what year, and I went to Bible camp in North Dakota called Park River Bible camp.  And one of the games we would play on the bus, actually I think the only game we would play on the bus – I don’t remember – it was called “Hey, Cow”.

“Basically whenever you saw cows, the people on that side of the bus that the cows were on would yell “Hey Cow” out the window and would try to count how many cows looked at them.  This wasn’t a very strict game, obviously, I don’t think there were judges or anything.

“And then I guess whatever side of the bus had the most cows would win – I don’t know what they would win, they would just win the game. The game goes throughout the bus ride.  You would try to get everyone on your side to yell it so that you get the most volume so that you get the most cows [looking at you].”

 

The camp was for high school students and the informant says that a lot of people would play the game.  The informant enjoyed the game and thought it was fun but “not very seriously obviously because one side could have more cows than the other, therefore they have an unfair advantage.  It was like very casual competition.”

Analysis:

When asked to interpret why this game is played, the informant said “’cause there’s nothing else in North Dakota!”

While that is amusing, it is not completely true.  There are references online for this game being played all over America.  There is even a website claiming to have the “official “Hey Cow” rules”.  I think this game probably rose with the rise in long distance road trips.  When driving through the grain belt of America, the landscape can often start to feel repetitive and, especially for young kids in the car, might get boring.  Seeing a cow becomes an excitement (especially if you are a city kid) and being able to bother the cow in a casually competitive game could definitely help alleviate the boredom of long drives.

 

“Sadhu and the Shaak” – version 1

The informant is a 19 year old Occupational Therapy student at USC.  She was born in Calcutta, as were her parents.  She moved to California when she was young and has lived here ever since.  Her family is originally from Gujarat, an area in Western India, and she suspects that her family stories are from her Gujarati heritage. 

This version of the story is the one my informant told from her memory, before calling her mom to hear her mom’s version.  Her different version after talking to her mother can be found at this link:  http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=30235

“So there was this Sadhu who was a reincarnation of Mahavira who is one of the greatest Sadhus within the Jain religion. And so, how the Sadhus lived back in the day they lived a simple life, they didnt have any personal belongings or items to their name.  They would go house to house asking people for food and they would provide them with shelter and food.

“So one day the Sadhu was doing this and he came to a house and the lady made this shaak for him, and this shaak is a curry.  It was made of a vegetable that, if not cooked properly it becomes poisonous.  So she didn’t cook it properly and he noticed this but he still took it because it would be rude to say no.

“And instead of throwing it away because he didn’t want to throw it in the trash or throw it on the ground and have the ants eat it and have the ants die, because in the Jain religion the main core principle is Ahimsa which is non-violence to all living things, regardless of how big or small.  So even the killing of ants is not condoned.  So what this saint did, what this Sadhu did was he ate this poisonous shaak and he himself died in order to save the lives of these ants.

“So this is just a parable my mom used to tell me, and it just sort of conveys I guess the main core values of my religion which is just absolute non-violence to all living things and just self-sacrifice above all else, and above selfishness and above your own needs.”

 

Analysis:

 

 

Kario Mart drinking game

The informant is a 21 year old student at USC studying Vocal Arts.  He lives in a house with some friends and they have a copy of Mario Kart.  This game turns Mario Kart into a drinking game.

“Kario Mart is a drinking game.  You are playing Mario Kart but the objective is to finish an entire beer or your drink, whatever it may be, by the time you cross the finish line.  However, because you can not drive while drinking, if you want to drink your drink, you have to set your controller down and effectively stop driving to drink at all.  So you’ll have to start of drinking, or however you want to do it, set your controller down, finish your drink before you cross the finish line.  Otherwise you have to take a shot.”

“I feel like this game is fun for a few rounds until everyone is buzzed well enough that you  forget that you need to play the drinking game and you just play Mario Kart.

“One of my friends told me this game. I would play this game on a weekend evening just hanging out with a small group of friends. You know when you are like ‘what else are we going to do? We’re going to play Mario Kart”.  But you were going to drink anyway so why not incorporate the drinking into the game.”

Analysis:

This game incorporates several elements of modern 20-somethings’ culture.  One element is that there is a strong affinity towards and enjoyment of the games of their youth.  There is a lot of nostalgia in playing video games that you enjoyed when you were young.  This enjoyment is only amplified by a light buzz.

Another element that it incorporates is the understanding that driving while under the influence is dangerous.  It both acknowledges this, by having the rule of the game to be that you technically can’t “drink and drive”, and makes light of it, as one of the main points of the game is to be amused as players’ skill levels drop while they drink more.