Author Archives: Miriam Bedrin

Irish Proverb

Context:

The informant and I were having a conversation in my apartment, and the topic of our families was brought up. I asked him if his parents or relatives had shared any interesting stories or sayings with him, and he shared this proverb with me.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: I mean, this is just… uh, like a saying, so it’s quite short. Um, but one Irish uh… okay, one Irish saying that I really like is: “The mouth often is what breaks the nose.” Should I maybe explain some of it?

Collector: Yes.

Informant: The idea is that, uh, the reason why someone might get into a fight and then have their nose broken is because of running their mouth. Um, actually, it’s kind of interesting that a lot of Irish proverbs have to do with this kind of loose speaking, like, maybe from drinking. Uh… being careful about that.

Me: So who did you hear this from?

Informant: I think from my… Well… My mother is less aware of these things than my grandmother. Yeah, um… She often… Um… We’d see her during different holidays. Things like that. She would also have like, you know, writing cards for us and write some poetry, and she would have like a little thing that she would say. And it would be just a little funny thing.

Analysis:

This proverb espouses the idea that one should think carefully before speaking, so as to avoid saying something regrettable or angering somebody. The informant’s explanation of the proverb’s meaning plays off of the stereotype that Irish people drink a lot of alcohol and therefore need to be cautioned against behaving recklessly while drunk.

Singles Day

Context: My informant first told me about Singles Day while we were walking home together after an outing with anime club that took place close to Black Friday. He introduced Singles Day, which takes place on November 11th (11/11), as both the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday and an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration for single people. I interviewed the informant about the holiday at an anime club meeting to obtain a transcript for collection purposes.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: Okay. So… What exactly do you want to know from the Singles Day?

Me: Well like… The way that it’s celebrated. How it came to be. What it means. Stuff like that.

Informant: Okay. So first of all, it’s called “Singles Day” only because the eleventh of November is all “ones,” and it’s single. It actually started probably like two or three years ago. Like there was a guy in a Chinese website. It was just on the Internet, and he made fun of this day. And he was the Amazon of China. It was called Taobao. And they found that this… That they can actually make money from this. Make it some kind of festival. And so they just decided to call it “Singles Day.” And for Singles Day they made it the Black Friday of China.

Me: What type of stuff do people buy?

Informant: Just everything!

Me: Like off the Internet? Or in stores?

Informant: No. Just mainly on the Internet. But… But one thing that’s pretty interesting about it is that the Chinese government doesn’t actually like the term “Singles Day.” So they banned websites who use that name. So now when… We still call it “Singles Day,” but all those Chinese websites and stores, when they are celebrating it, they have to use the term “Double 11.” And so they call it “Double 11 Shopping Festival.” But it’s mainly only like selling things. Last year it went really crazy. Like it even has some, like, some stores are even giving like free mailing between nations. Like because, like they are just earning that much from that single day. And, yeah. It’s pretty crazy.

Me: Um, like who usually participates?

Informant: Well, ironically… Most of them are, um, people in relationships. Like they… Well, basically just everybody, mainly young people. And though it’s called “Singles Day,” there are actually a lot of couples just buy things online, because, you know, discounts. Great discounts.

Analysis:

Singles Day is an example of a holiday that came into existence to mock another holiday. It is popular among the citizens of China despite its being censored by the government. Its celebration is also heavily dependent on Internet usage, as most of the shopping done on this day takes place online. The holiday has become so popular that, ironically, even people in relationships participate in it. The use of the term “Double 11” after websites got banned from using the term “Singles Day” is an example of a people’s continuing to observe a tradition despite interference from authorities.

Trojan Marching Band Legend

Context: My informant and I were sitting and talking in a cafe, and he shared this legend he heard during his time with the Trojan Marching Band with me.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: I’m sure this is public information. I can share this. So the Trojan Marching Band, uh, we had some beef with the Bruins across town. Uh, just a little bit. I think it was during one UCLA/USC game where it was at their stadium. It was the Rose Bowl. We decided… to march our pre-game, which is the show before the actual football game, where we end up in a line, I think it spells either “Trojans” or “USC,” and we had strategically made it so everyone had like a bag of either sand… or of poop, or of some sort. I’m pretty sure it was sand. Um. And so we would march throughout the show, and not like make a big deal out of it. And then once we get into the formation of “USC” or “Trojans,” we would drop, we would drop our bags  in the spot that we’re in. And then we would run off the field. So essentially what happens is you leave like this huge like, spelling of “USC” or “Trojans” on the field, and obviously I’m sure they were reprimanded for it. Um, and that’s the story that we tell. I think it actually happened, but I’m not sure.

Me: Do most people regard it has happening, or is it like, a split opinion?

Informant: I think most people regard it as happening. I think it’s like, on a website somewhere. That it actually happened.

Me: And like, when do you usually tell this story to people?

Information: Um, when do we tell this story? I definitely learned about it on probably, like, a… a trip we were on. Because like, we like to reminisce about the history of the marching band, and we always joke about, there’s this perception that the year before was always better than the current year. And better in the sense that they were always a little like, rowdier, more aggressive, more spirited, and a lot courser than the current year. Each year is discerned as a little more refined, a little more politically correct, um, and that’s something that is looked down upon for reasons I don’t quite understand. Um, but yeah. So obviously, to do that again, I don’t think that would ever happen. Um, so that’s why we revere, and we speak of the legend that is old band.

Me: Do you ever hear differences in the way that it’s told, or the story consistent?

Informant: I think the story’s pretty consistent.

Me: Except for like, the sand versus poop thing?

Informant: Probably yeah.

Me: Have you heard that told both ways?

Informant: I think so! I think part of me is like, I probably read it as sand, on the website, or like heard about it as sand, but like, the whole purpose of the story is to like, elevate how rough and tough they were. So like, elevating it to be like, “Oh, there was poop in the bag.” That’s not… outrageous in the slightest.

Analysis:

This legend is an example of a story told within a specific group of people as a source of group pride and unity. The legend can be referenced as inspiration for future group actions and can be looked upon fondly as an example of a noteworthy accomplishment. It also feeds off of the rivalry between the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). USC’s campus has a strong football culture, and victories over UCLA, both in football and in other matters, are viewed very favorably.

Cold Remedy

Context: My informant first told me this remedy when I was sick with bronchitis. For collection purposes, I asked her about the remedy again and recorded the interview.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: When I was little and I got sick, and I had a runny nose, my grandpa would give me a bowl of brown stuff with ginger in it, and he goes, “Drink this. It’s boiled cola with ginger, and it’ll make you feel better.” And I’d drink it, and he’d tell me to eat all the ginger, and I do, it’s really spicy, and then a couple days later my nose isn’t runny anymore.

Me: Do you think that the remedy helps you?

Informant: Sure. It also tastes pretty good.

Me: It does. How old were you when your grandpa told you about it?

Informant: Three or five?

Me: And was this something that, um, runs in the family? Or did he learn it as a cultural thing?

Informant: Most Chinese people know it.

Me: What type of person would you normally share this with? Anybody, family members, friends?

Informant: People who don’t think I’m crazy.

Me: Do people usually react badly when you tell them about it?

Informant: Hmm… See, I haven’t tried it with anyone who might think I’m crazy.

Me: I see. So it’s more of a self selecting type thing?

Informant: Sure.

Me: How do you think it compares to other cold remedies?

Informant: It tastes better. And I don’t have to swallow any pills.

Analysis:

This remedy is meant to be both enjoyable and healing. Ginger flavored cola is more pleasant to drink than cough syrup, and my informant commented on its good taste. Hot liquids, such as tea and soup, are also commonly consumed by people with sore throats and coughs. This recipe also makes use of the spiciness of ginger to open one’s sinuses. According to the informant, the recipe is most often known by those of Chinese heritage and is commonly used by people within that demographic. My informant commented that she does not share this remedy with those she believes would react skeptically to it. The remedy has not yet gained prominence within Western medicine.

Soda Prank

Context: A friend from high school and I were talking over Skype, and during that conversation she told me about some pranks she had pulled on her college friends during the school year.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: There’s one that I do on my friend, where I… he’s obsessed with Dr. Pepper, so I took Sprite, and I poured soy sauce in it, and I gave it to him, and he got very upset, and it was hilarious.

Me: That’s brilliant. Where did you get that idea?

Informant: I got it from like, a website.

Me: Which website?

Informant: I don’t know. You could find it. Then like, another time, we took worcestershire sauce and, um, we filled the bottle half way with Dr. Pepper, and put worcestershire sauce in it, and soy sauce, and some other sauce, and we tried to get him to drink it, but on accident, someone else drank it.

[Laughter]

Analysis:

This prank provides an example of a practical joke that students play on their friends. This informant performs the prank on people she is already close with rather than as a hazing ritual. The prank is also simple and does not cause harm to the target beyond annoyance. It gets its appeal from tricking the target into thinking they are accepting a gift when in reality they are receiving something disgusting.