Author Archives: ChristinaTran

“Black and white, black and white, black and white”

The informant first heard of this game in the third grade when she was about eight years old.  She was at her cousin’s house and they planned to play hide-and-go-seek-in-the-dark but everyone wanted to hide.  Nobody wanted to be the seeker.  Therefore her cousin told her a game that you can play to pick who has to be “it.”  All the players start with their hands behind their backs.  Then they are supposed to chant “black and white, black and white, black and white” while flipping one hand in the center of the circle.  For example, at the call of “black” one’s hand might be facing palm up, so at the call of “white” the palm must be facing down.  However, you can start in either position you want, palm up or down.  At the call of the third “white” the players with their hands in the minority position have to replay the game.  The majority doesn’t have to be “it.”  When the player number reaches three, whoever has the single odd hand has to be the seeker.  After the informant learned of this handy game, she used it for every game when no one wanted to be seeker.  She thinks it is a quick and easy way to pick fairly.

Though this game is originally Vietnamese, the informant’s cousin taught her in English.  The Vietnamese translation would be “đen và trắng,” but those words aren’t used as much.  This game is commonly played among children, even when they aren’t playing a game with a seeker.  Sometimes they will play just to see who the last person is and that person will be the winner instead of the loser who has to be “it.”  This game is spread by the children who love to play it and the game is a useful way of passing down the tradition of Vietnamese games.  Also I think because it is such a simple game, it arose from the children from Vietnam who are poor so they don’t have material games to play.  Therefore they come up with games they can play just with their hands or minds, so that they can still have fun and enjoy their youth.

“If you eat a double cherry when you’re pregnant, you’ll have twins.”

The informant, then twelve years old, first heard this phrase from her uncle, whose wife was pregnant at the time.  Her uncle and aunt were gathered with the family and announced their pregnancy.  Later after dinner, the family was eating cherries together and was discussing whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, when the topic of twins came up.  The informant’s uncle saw her aunt eating a double cherry and said, “Did you know that if you eat a double cherry while you’re pregnant, you’re going to have twins?”  My informant doesn’t really believe that this is true because she does not believe in superstitions, although it is a superstition that everyone in her family likes to joke about, because it also happened to come true.  Her aunt ended up giving birth to twin girls six months later.  This is why the informant likes to retell the tale, because it makes the superstition much more mysterious and believable when it actually comes true.

I believe this superstition is highly unlikely to be true because the events are completely separate, and that the informant’s story just happened by coincidence.  However, superstitions are always driven by the chance occurrences that happen to confirm them, making some people believe that they’re true while they may completely be random happenings.  I believe the informant tells the story only to joke around, poking fun when pregnant women are around.  The superstition is so seemingly arbitrary that people tend to believe that nobody could possibly create such a fantastical story up, so it must have some sort of truth behind it.  This is how the superstition of double cherries is spread and dispersed.

“There’s plenty of other fish in the sea.”

The informant first heard this proverb when she found out that her crush had just gotten a steady girlfriend in the seventh grade.  Her best friend realized how sad she was because she had been silently moody all day long.  When she found out the reason why she tried to explain to the informant that “there are plenty of other fish in the sea,” meaning that there are many different types of guys in the world.  If you don’t catch one, there is always another one that you might want more, and maybe if you didn’t catch this one this time, next time it will be even better when you do manage to catch it.  The informant believes that this saying is just for immediate comfort, for the best thing that any good friend can do is listen and think of ways to help their friend feel better about themselves.  She retells the proverb because she has been through that experience before and it always feels better to help someone through something that you overcame in the past.

It is true that there are always plenty of other fish in the sea.  However, this saying doesn’t always work, since emotions are hard to control.  The saying very much reflects the optimism of our society though.  The United States is a very future-oriented society, where we are always looking toward the future, saying “forget the past, think of all the possibilities for the future!”  I think people say this to their depressed friends because it helps motivate them to look toward the brighter and better future, where they are in control of what happens in their lives and they are the only ones who can choose when and where they will be sad or happy and they won’t let any single guy prove them wrong.

There is in interesting cartoon by J. Hitchcock and Zahn related to this proverb at .

Fun Guy/Fungi Joke

Q:  Why did the girl mushroom like the boy mushroom?

A:  Because he was a Fun-Guy (Fungi).

The informant first heard this joke when she was a Freshman in high school during one of her intense study sessions for Biology class.  She first heard it from her teacher, who was a laid back, down-to-earth, person with a great sense of humor.  It was during an after school session, when the students were all preparing for the lab practicum at the end of the year that would have a large impact on their grade when the teacher suddenly rose and said to the students, “Hey guys, lighten up. Let me tell you a joke.  Why did the girl mushroom like the boy mushroom?  Because he was a Fun-Guy.”  What made the joke more funny was the fact that the teacher was red in the face when she was telling it.  Though it is an intellectual joke only understood by those who have the elementary understanding that mushrooms are a type of fungi, she remembered it well because she thought it was a cute joke.  She retold it because she liked to use jokes to “break the ice” or make people laugh.


“Gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang”

“gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang”

Literal translation: “close to ink then black, near by light then bright”

The informant learned of this Vietnamese proverb when he was in third grade of Vietnamese school, while studying for a test.  Again he heard it from his grandmother also, which is when he began to remember it clearly.  His grandmother would tell him this proverb whenever she talked about his studies and friends at school.  She would say, “gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang,” which implies that you are what your friends make of you.  If you hang out with bad friends (ink), you will become bad (black).  If you have good friends (light), they will influence you to become good (bright).  The informant believes this piece of wisdom because he sees it come true in his cousins’ lives.  One was really wild and rebellious and when she found a boyfriend who was very religious and good, she began to change into her old, nice self.  The informant likes to retell this to his friends who are Vietnamese, often making them laugh because normally one would not randomly quote a proverb out of the blue, but he likes to lighten the mood with quirky sayings.

This is a fairly common Vietnamese proverb, often used to teach younger kids to have good friends and be influenced by good people, opposed to bad friends.  The original proverb is actually a play on words as well as a useful saying about choosing your friends wisely.  It is slightly repetitive yet different, it also uses “đen” for black and “đèn” for light, in order to emphasize the similarities between the two phrases for increased memorability.  This creates the most unique phrase that is easy to learn and easy to say.  Usually it is the older generation teaching the younger generation, as it is in the informant’s case.  However, the younger generation can also spread it to others.  I believe they spread the knowledge because somewhere deep down they have an appreciation for the Vietnamese language and because that proverb is so true and the play on words is so easy to memorize, it remains in one’s memory, even from childhood.