Author Archives: Camille Saucier

Scratch your nose, you’ll kiss a fool

Informant: “Scratch your nose, you’ll kiss a fool”

 

The informant is a Caucasian male from northern California. He is currently a freshman at USC studying business administration. He is also a member of a fraternity.

The informant said he learned this saying from his mother when he was a young boy. The informant explained that the saying meant that “if you got an itchy nose the next person that you kissed was a fool.”

This saying was meaningful to the informant because he had fond memories surrounding the lore. He stated that “I always remember that when I was a kid like I would get an itchy nose and my mom would always say it to me and then give me a kiss on the cheek, or when she got an itchy nose she would do it to me.” Thus, the lore would serve as a way to establish rapport between the informant and his mother through gentle teasing.

This saying is somewhat common as it can be easily found on the internet on numerous websites, and there are many other variants about scratching your nose. Some are quite similar and others are not. The more similar variants state that if your nose itches you are going to “shake hands with a fool,” or “meet a fool.” Others not so similar versions maintain that if your nose itches it means “someone is thinking of you,” “someone loves you,” you are going to “have a quarrel with someone,” “you’re confused about something,” or “a visitor is coming.”

Biker Bell

Informant: “Among bikers that is just something you don’t do and also it is popular to get a little iron bell. They’re like these tiny little bells that you just attach to the front of your bike and normally other people buy them for you and you just put them on there before you ride otherwise its not as safe I guess. Its just weird little things in the biker culture I guess.”

 

The informant is from Beaumont, California and lives in a family where motorcycles are very common, “everybody in my family, especially my dad and my grandfather, are bikers.” Moreover, the informant said, “I like grew up in a garage pretty much. That’s what my dad does and my dads dad. My dad, he’s a welder, and he builds and rides his own bikes and he has a lot. I don’t know how many he has. He does old ones though, like the ones from the 30s and 40s and then my grandpa was the leader of the Vagos when biker gangs were huge.”

The informant said that she first learned about this lore when she was a young girl because putting a bell on a motorbike is family tradition, “whenever my dad would get a new bike he would get a bell for it.” However, the informant said that you need to get a bell as a gift; you cannot go buy one on your own. The bell should be low to the ground and is usually attached with leather, though people use different things like zip ties etc. When put on a motorcycle, the folk belief states that the bell will ensure a safe ride. As someone who comes from a family of bikers, she is aware that many things can happen to bikers if they are going to go on a ride for an extended period of time. Thus, there is an incentive to have the loved one return safely, so you give them a bell. Furthermore, the informant and her family do believe in the paranormal so she figures putting a bell on the bike can’t hurt.

After doing some research online, I found these bells can be called, Ride Bells, Karma Bells, Gremlin Bells, and Guardian (Angel) bells, among others. The most popular names were the Karma and Gremlin Bell.

The practice of putting a bell on a motorcycle comes from an old legend regarding road gremlins or evil road spirits. The bell will scare away these creatures, and it prevents them from causing harm to you and your bike. The gremlin’s are said to cause many different problems such as mechanical problems like causing turn signals to malfunction, the battery to die etc, as well as small items in the road and problems caused by other motorcyclists.

Apparently, some people who do not believe in the tradition still give bells as a gesture of good will, and others find the bell represents that “someone cares about you.” Thus, it seems that the tradition has moved from just chasing away road spirits to a gesture of concern and kindness for a loved one.

Lastly, there are actually a few companies based around the sale of Gremlin bells, so the practice seems to be quite common.

Below are some images of Biker Bells

           

Summer Camp Customs and Lore: The Announcements Song

Informant: “So I went to camp cedars every summer. The weekend after fathers day since the time I was about eleven until um… maybe about fifteen or so was the year I decided that I should be a camp counselor at camp cedars. Great time. I spent the whole summer out there, I was actually going to go to a camp-out one week, uh when the rest of my troop was, but I decided it would be more fun just working again for that week. It was a very enjoyable time. One of the… I guess, every day for every meal of the day, there would be a couple of announcements that um the staff would have to share with all of the campers, but they couldn’t say that. ‘Announcements’ was a bad word at camp cedars. It’s been a bad word as long as anyone has known. It’s such a bad word that the moment anyone says the word announcement no matter who it is or what context, they are immediately surrounded by all of the staff members in the area and this happened about once a week, sometimes more, um one time three days in a row the same guy uttered it while giving the announcements. So, uh when someone said announcements they were ridiculed for the next five minutes or so and um everyone else sang the announcements song. Which um I don’t remember all of the verses but it started something like:

(to the tune of the farmer in the dell)

Announcements, announcements, annoouuuncements!

A wonderful way to die, a wonderful way to die

A wonderful way to start the day, a wonderful way to die!

Announcements, announcements, annoouuncements!

 

(unknown)

We sold our cow

We sold our cow

We have no use

For your bull now.

 

(to the tune of the more we get together)

Have you ever seen a windbag, a windbag, a windbag?

Have you ever seen a windbag? well there’s one right now.

Blows this way and that way and this way and that way

Have you ever seen a windbag? well there’s one right now.

 

(To the tune of London bridge is falling down)

Words of wisdom, words of wisdom,

Here they come, here they come:

More words of wisdom, more words of wisdom:

Dumb dumb dumb, dumb dumb dumb

 

The informant, a Caucasian male, was born in Spokane, Washington and then moved to Omaha. He is currently a student at USC and studies computer science.

The informant learned the song when he was about eleven years old “the first time we went to camp cedars so the very first summer.”Camp Cedars is a Boy Scout summer camp. The informant attended the camp for about five or six years and was a counselor for one year. As a camper, he didn’t really worry about saying the taboo word because it was usually just the staff that ended up saying it when giving announcements. In addition, the informant “was never really giving announcements, so I never had to worry about saying the word.” Because announcements were a daily thing, they usually had to be referred to as A-words or some other euphemism.

The informant felt that the traditions were around to raise morale, keep the counselors from getting bored, and build a rapport between all of the members of the camp. The informant said that there were “many, many, many traditions” at this camp. Additionally, these traditions were just a fun thing.

He first learned the words of the song from watching the counselors perform the song; he especially recalls this song because he thought, “it was ridiculous and it happened all the time.” The informant said “I encountered it probably over a dozen times being a camper plus the summer when I worked there maybe another dozen or two times, so very repeated and it’s a lot of fun too – being the staffer and being the one who is singing the song, making fun of whoever happened to inadvertently say the word or intentionally… like I’m sure the guy who said it three times in a row was not entirely accidental”

In a way, this song and folk tradition appears to be a parody of tabooistic discourse because the camp tradition turned an ordinary word into something taboo, forcing camp members to find euphemisms for an otherwise innocuous word.

Ghost Story: Smoking in the Boiler Room

Informant: “Millard North High school in Omaha, Nebraska is haunted with the spirit of a kid who was smoking one day in the boiler room. Now, I didn’t even know we had a boiler room but apparently it’s over by the wood shop. Uh, in that hallway. So, this kid was smoking in the boiler room and um a custodian started to walk down the hallway and frightened the kid uh turned around and tried to run away tripped and stumbled down the stairs, hit is head a few too many times and now when you walk past that hallway or walk into the basement, which again I didn’t really know we had a basement, but you can hear the kid’s raspy voice telling you to beware.”

The informant, a Caucasian male, was born in Spokane,Washington and then moved to Omaha. He is currently a student at USC and studies computer science.

The informant heard the story from someone at his high school. He remembers this story because he feels that “ghost stories are always more fun when they have some sort of significance to you, like you have ties to that school, for example, or if it’s in your home town.” According to the informant, the story is not “too frequently passed around,” and he is not sure if anyone at the school truly believes it, or just repeats the story as a joke.

The informant does not believe in ghosts personally, he thinks the story is kind of silly. In fact, the informant stated, “honestly, I’m not even sure if we have a basement.” The informant said that some kids at the school “fall for all of the ghost stories,” but “in many schools there will be some kids who believe that sort of thing.” The informant referred to one friend in particular who believes in ghosts about whom the informant said “I mess with him a lot and he thinks I am entirely serious.” It is possible that this story is circulated as a joke and to “mess with” students who may believe it, but the informant does not think so.

The informant says that “the moral was no smoking in the basement,” and I agree with the informant. Although the story may be used to jest about the paranormal, it ultimately discusses the illegal consumption of marijuana at a school, and the result is death. The student who broke the law is now forced to haunt the hall and warn other students not to make the same mistake. Like other legends, this tale reflects social fears and concerns about the consequences of consuming illegal drugs, breaking the law, and breaking the law on school property.

Popular Haunted House Hang Out

Interview Clip

Informant: “There is like this oak tree that everybody goes to party at and then there is this burnt down house next to it and it is just these steps and I think the legend goes that this lady just like went crazy and burned the house down and killed her husband”

Interviewer: “Do you know who she was?”

Informant: “I don’t know, its just this circulating legend.”

 

The informant comes from a very small town in California. The informant states that “there is nothing to do there, it is just a small town and the biggest thing we have is a Walmart.” She said that because the town is small “everybody knows each other, and we kind of grew up together.”

The informant has lived in this town since childhood. The informant says she may have heard of this legend in elementary school and that this legend is widely known throughout the town, “everybody in out town knows it. Young people circulate the story, I don’t know if older people do or not.”

The informant stated that visiting this house is a relatively popular event. Adolescents sometimes “have parties there,” and go there to hang out. Personally, the informant has only been there a few times just to check it out, but “I know people that actually go up there and actually drink and whatnot and smoke because there is not really much to do.”

The informant thinks the house is considered to be haunted by the other people in town, and the informant does believe in ghosts. When asked, the informant recalled her personal experience with a ghost saying that “the house I grew up in until I was seven was definitely haunted, I saw his ghosts multiple times, and it wasn’t just me, my parents saw him. We would go to bed with all of the windows and doors shut and we would wake up and they would all be wide open, you would hear banging on the pipes and whatnot. We found out that the person who lived there before us died in the house. So the ghost was of the guy that died there.” Thus, ghosts are very real to the informant.

For the informant and others who visit the house, the house serves as a kind of legend quest to visit a site that is considered to be haunted. During the interview, the informant stressed that she felt the town she came from was very small so people were looking for things to do and places to hang out. This house has been adopted to fill that role.