Author Archives: Frank Musoke

Proverb – USA

“If you cannot stand the heat, stay out the kitchen”

Anthony told me that he learned this proverb while camping with a friend who lived in Van Nuys. He said he was around 8years old when he first heard it. My first time hearing it, Anthony said, I literally thought they were telling someone to get out the kitchen because we were around the cooking area. However, he went on, I heard Mike use the phrase in situations where it had nothing to do with the kitchen or heat. He said that he asked Mike to explain what he meant and Mike had this to say: – “Basically the phase means that if you cannot act in an expected way in a certain situation, then do not attempt trying it. Just give up.” A good time to use this proverb, Anthony said, would be during a basketball game. He said that the proverb could be used on those basketball players that often go down easily trying to con referees into giving technical fouls to the opponents. Those players, Jordan said, could be told to give up playing if they cannot stand the physical game.

In his explanation of the proverb, Anthony said, it is essentially a way to tell individuals to learn the rules before they play the game. He said that if the rules are too hard for someone, then he or she should not attempt the game. Anthony also said that since he learned the proverb, he frequently heard it being used especially by male groups like his former fraternity.


I am definitely no stranger to this Proverb. I grew up hearing this proverb being used in similar context as Anthony described. My mother always used it as a way of advising. For example, every time I complained about being heavily tackled in a game. She (my mother) would say; “if you cannot stand the heat, stay out the kitchen.” Basically she meant that if I could not stand being tackled then I should just give up playing the game.

This proverb also appears on one of Tupac Shakur’s records called Life of an outlaw. It was one of the last songs released at the moment when the “West coast vs. East coast” battle hit the top.

In the context of the song, Tupac used the proverb to remind rappers – Notorious BIG in particular – that hip-hop was not an easy game. In essence, he was advising rappers to give up rapping if they could not stand the difficulties in the rap industry. The manner he used the proverb is exactly similar to the way I have always heard it being used.

Annotation: Shakur, Tupac. Life of an outlaw. Shakur, Tupac. Compact Disc. Death Row Records, 1996.

Lucky Advice – USA

“When you see a penny on the ground, if its head is up, then its lucky and you better keep it. If its tail is showing, either walk on by, or throw it away, but don’t you keep it with you for too long.”

Jordan said he first heard this from his substitute grandmother who is a 91 year old retired African American who grew up in tupelo Mississippi and now living in Fullerton California. He said that Letha helped take care of him ever since he was a little kid. He said that she carried him home from the hospital and has given her a lot of advice in his life.

However, he continues, the one thing he always remembers from her, is to hold on to the heads up penny. Jordan did not know why this was true, but he says to this day he even flips pennies that are lying around his room or even on the street to heads up so that other people can have good luck as well.


Whether a heads up coin actually brings luck or not, I think that Jordan belief is more of a psychological effect more than anything else. I think people seem to believe in the idea that older is wiser. Like any other child, Jordan only easily accepted this because he was young and believed in his replacement grandmother’s ideas. What happened next is psychological. I think that every time he came across a heads up coin and then something good happen to him, Jordan associated it with the coin and vice versa.

This is only because he was brought up in a culture that believes in that a heads up coin brings luck. Another person could easily and rightly perceive a heads up coin as simply a heads up coin and nothing else to it. Such is the strength of traditions. Tradition builds identity. By this I mean people with similar traditions identify and easily associate with each other. It is simply because they perceive similar things similarly. That is why Jordan has to remember his replacement grandmother every time he comes across a coin. There is that connection between two people that can be created simply sharing the same cultural beliefs.

Legend – Hawaii

Maui Legend “Why we have summer and winter”

Like the other Maui legend “how Hawaii Mountains were formed”, Ryan told me that he learned this legend at age five while living in Hawaii. He told me that he still heard it told around Hawaii although with several variations from his own account.

The legend goes like this; Long ago, there was a god called Sun who lived in the skies above Hawaii.  Sun used to come out of the skies everyday of the year projecting unbearable heat towards the people on the Island. People asked Sun to decrease on the heat but he never did and instead continued burning them throughout the year. The people gathered around to discuss and find solution to the problem. They chose Maui, the strongest man around, to face Sun and plead with him. Maui, with a net his hands, went to talk to Sun at a place where he came out of the skies. He told him that the people on the Island were fed up of his heat. Sun just laughed and went on to release heat as he always had been doing. In anger, Maui tossed his net to the sky and trapped Sun. He started pulling him down towards the Island. Sun retaliated by holding onto the sky but was soon defeated by Maui. Scared of the Island people he had heated for a long time, Sun pleaded with Maui asking him to not drag him down. Maui accepted his requested but on condition that he (Sun) would only come out of the skies for half of the year. In considerable grief, Sun accepted the conditions and from that day on, he only came out of the skies for half the year. That is why we have summer and winter.


When Ryan told me this legend, it really made little or no sense to me. Of course the sun does not speak and on one can pull it down with a hook. But again, I remembered it was only a legend! The question I asked myself was, “why is this legend existing?”  The answer I came up with is, because it has a social significance. In a historical context, the legend teaches Hawaiians (or any other passive and active bearer or the legend) about the origin of the Island since Maui discovered the Island. On the other hand, because the legend is known by a certain group of people, it means the legend creates a social identity. It does that by creating the “other.” In this context, the “other” would be those people who are neither passive nor active bearers of the legend. In essence, just being able to learn, understand, and tell the legend can separate a Hawaiian from a non-Hawaiian.

In a way, I also think the legend is meant to credit a “man” with creation. By doing so, the legend some how glorifies a man’s strength and creates a patriarchy. I know one might disagree with me, but they should ask themselves why one would credit the creation of seasons (with all their importance) to a man and not a man and a woman.  Masculine dominance must be behind all this.

Ritual – Uganda

Baganda Introduction Virginity Test ritual

Betty told me that the Baganda have a special ritual that they perform on every introduction ceremony. She said that before the wedding, the bride has to traditionally introduce her groom to her family.  The introduction ceremony is a big occasion, which involves numerous ritual performances. Exchanging gifts like cows, various foods most notably bananas, traditional dancing, and riddle competitions are among the numerous performances that take place. However, what fascinates her most is the “goat virgin test ritual” that determines whether the bride is still a virgin or not.

She said that sometime during the night of the day before the introduction ceremony, the soon to be bride sits down somewhere. Her maternal auntie walks a female goat with a rope around its neck in front of her. That if she happens not to be a virgin, then the goat hesitates walking no matter how hard it is pulled and pushed. For a virgin, the goat smoothly walks without any hesitation.  Betty said that this was done because men had and still have to pay more dowries for virgins, which the woman’s family impatiently expected.


Whether the “Goat Virgin test” works or not, it is there to be explored. However, the whole test process and its significance introduce us to the customs and traditions of the Baganda ethnic group. Of course, knowing, believing and participating in the “goat virgin test” ritual separates Baganda from non-Baganda. This means that the ritual defines the Baganda identity. Of course other important factors like language and bloodlines have to be taken into consideration. Nonetheless, performing the ritual strengthens ones identity as a member of the Baganda ethnic group.

Like any other group custom, I think the “goat virgin test” ritual only works because the Baganda believe in it. I think there is some psychological aspect underlying the success of the whole process. I say so because I do not see any logical connection between walking a goat and someone being a virgin. For that reason, I would not expect an outsider (an outsider being a non-Muganda) to actually believe in the results of the test. But again, that is the nature of culture. The cultural group members can best understand it. Outsiders can try but might never deeply understand a cultural group’s nature of customs.

Folk Remedy – USA

“The hair of the dog that bit ya.”

Jordan said he had first heard this saying from his now 29-year-old brother who lives and works in Los Angeles. Jordan said that; “the hair of the dog that bit ya is a saying that tells of a remedy for a hang over.” By that, Jordan said, he meant that; to cure a hangover on the next day, one could drink a little bit of the same alcohol that caused the hangover the night before. That having that extra drink in the morning would eventually save one from a pounding head caused by a hangover. In his explanation, Jordan said that; the dog that bit ya refers to the long night of drinking and its hair is a small amount of alcohol the next morning that will help cure the awful hangover.


I do not know to what extent this remedy works, but I have heard it a couple of times from friends. It seems to be a popular remedy especially among drunkards, which does not surprise me. Personally, I do not think that extra consumption of alcohol would heal the hangover. I think it would only worsen the matter. First of all, I do not think that remedy is actually scientifically tested. On the other hand, just because it is not scientifically tested does not necessarily mean it does not work. After all, most scientifically proven drugs we use are often derived from folk medicine. Therefore, given the popularity of this folk remedy, I would not be surprised if it worked for someone or for most alcohol consumers.

In addition to that, because “the dog that bit ya” is used by a certain group of people, then it creates identity.  This remedy can distinctively separate two different people, it can also bring together two same people. If one drinks and actually believes in this remedy, then he or she belongs in a group. On the other hand, a non-drinker might never know about the remedy unless he associates with a folk group that uses that lore.