Author Archives: Benjamin White

Chinese Zodiac

A long time ago, 13 animals lived in harmony. The 13 animals were the rat, cat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The king organized a race, telling the animals that they must compete in the race. In this race, the animals had to cross a fast flowing river and get to the other side to receive their prize, but there were only 12 prizes available. The rat and cat were really good friends, but were worried that they would not finish the race because they were both poor swimmers. The two came up with a plan. They went to the ox and admired the ox’s strength, asking if the ox would be kind enough to let them ride on its back across the river. The ox agreed. The race began and the ox quickly took the lead with the rat and cat sitting on his shoulders. When the ox neared the bank of the river, the rat pushed the cat into the river. The cat struggled to swim but was washed away by the currents. Then, the rat decided to jump off the shoulder of the ox, taking first place. The king gave the rat its reward, which was that the first year of the zodiac would be named after it. The ox received second place and got the second year of the zodiac named after him. Then the tiger crossed the bank and got the third year named after it. Then the rabbit appeared and got the fourth year named after it. Then the dragon appeared and got the fifth year named after it. Then the snake appeared and got the sixth year named after it. Then the horse appeared and got the seventh year named after it. Then the goat appeared and got the eighth year named after it. Then the monkey appeared and got the ninth year named after it. Then the rooster appeared and got the tenth year named after it. Then the dog appeared and got the eleventh year named after it. And then, in last place the pig appeared, slowly trudging along, and got the twelfth year named after it. Crawling out of the water, the cat appeared, but did not receive a prize. Since then, cats and rats have always been enemies. And that is how the animals of the Chinese Zodiac came to be.

My informant first heard this myth from his parents around Chinese New Year. That time of year lends itself to this story as it serves as an explanation for the ordering of the years in the Chinese Zodiac and is the basis for the personality profiles of people born in the different years.. This myth is fairly wide spread and has a number of different forms. Here I have included my informants favorite version, but there are others that include why the dragon. This myth emphasizes intelligence and cunning over brute strength, as the meek rat is ultimately triumphant. It also seems to condone betrayal, as the rat is rewarded despite his actions.

Killing Spiders

Killing Spiders is bad luck.

My informant first heard this from his girlfriend a few years ago. He described his girlfriend as being “really superstitious,” and seemed to disregard most of her other beliefs. Perhaps his belief in this is related to his arachnophobia.

This folk belief can also be found in The Adventures of HuckleBerry Finn

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of HuckleBerry Finn. p 171

http://books.google.com/books?id=n2FA-nwz7GYC&lpg=PA171&ots=Zpmm96UjrP&dq=tom%20sawyer%20spider%20kill&pg=PA171#v=onepage&q&f=false

Bugs

In programming, a bug is unintentional/unwanted behavior of a program or algorithm.

The story goes that back when computers were being developed in the 1940’s, computers occupied huge, refrigerated rooms. One day while one of these computers was running, it began to behave sporadically. Perplexed, the engineers began going through all of the hardware to see if they could find a problem. They searched for hours until eventually, they found a bug had been stuck in one of the cable jacks. After removing the bug the computer behaved normally. Ever since, these sporadic errors have been called bugs, and the process of removing them has been called debugging.

 

Its interesting to note that this process has transferred from its supposed origins as a piece of hardware terminology and is now used primarily for problems with software. My informant also told me that there is some controversy over the origin of this story, however despite this he still strongly believes that this is the true version of the tale. He does not recall where he first heard this story, but I have also been told this exact narrative by my father when I first started studying computer science.

Bird poop = good luck

Being pooped on by a bird gives you good luck.

My informant was first told this by his parents after a passing seagull had relieved itself on his person. At the time it had cheered him up as he claims he was very distraught at the time. Looking back however, he is pretty sure his mom was just trying to make him feel better rather than conveying something that she actually believes.

Bunny Ears

Normally this would be done in a casual restaurant with cloth napkins, however we didn’t have any cloth napkins available when I collected this, so I took pictures using a washcloth. My father learned it from his father and has now passed this knowledge on to me. Normally you make bunny ears to either make a child laugh or to try and embarrass the people you are eating with. My informant is definitely a kid at heart, so he really enjoys pulling pranks and acting mischievously. This coupled with the fact that his wife and oldest son are embarrassed whenever he makes the bunny ears has led to their continued creation