Author Archives: Grant Harris

Fishing Proverb

Main Piece:

The informant told me of a proverb that he was told while fly-fishing. The proverb goes “The fish don’t bite until the first light.”



A fishing proverb told to the informant by a fisherman from Maine while the informant was trying to fly-fish in a river right before dawn. The informant is a 21-year-old USC student from Maine who enjoys fishing on his time off.



The proverb does not exactly state the truth as fisherman are likely to begin fishing before dawn in many places throughout the world. The proverb does make more sense when considering fly-fishing and what that entails. While fly-fishing, one wades into the water wearing waterproof boots and waders. If one slips while deep in the water, the waders will fill up with water and it will be difficult not to drown without assistance. By waiting until dawn, there is more light which will make it easier to walk without slipping and if you do need help, there is a better chance someone will be around to help out.

New York City Subway Rats

Main Piece:

Informant: “There are rats in the subway of New York that are the size of cats.”

Interviewer: “Have you actually seen rats that big?”

Informant: “Well… no I haven’t actually seen rats that size, but I have friends that claim they have. Plus, I’ve seen some that were massive.



Informant is a 21-year old female USC student who comes from New York City. The informant has taken subways in New York City countless times and is afraid of the rats that live in the tunnels.



The idea of rats being the size of cats is scary to most people. Most people have a fear of rats of any size so combining that with being extra-large keeps people from wanting to experience an animal like that. This idea that there are rats the size of cats in the New York City subway tunnels is local myth that helps to scare people into avoiding the subway tunnels and to be afraid of any rat as they are disease carriers.

The Jersey Devil

Main Piece:

Interviewer: “Do you know of any folklore about New Jersey?”

Informant: “Umm well yeah I remember this legend about the Jersey Devil that would kidnap kids and also murder people that went near it. Supposedly it lives in the Pine Barrens of south Jersey, which is this like barren land filled with pine trees. A bunch of weird like off-the-grid people live there and junkies go there to do drugs. Anyways, some people have died in that area and people use that as justification for the Jersey Devil being real.”

Interviewer: “So you don’t believe in the Jersey Devil?”

Informant: “No definitely not now, but when I was younger I was scared of it and my parents would use it to scare me into behaving.”



The informant is a 23-year-old USC student from New Jersey. He used to live near the area that is referenced in this legend.



There has been no evidence that the legend is true and there are many legends that share many similarities to the New Jersey Devil. The informant believed that it was mainly a device used by parents to scare their children. This seems likely as many tales are told to children to show them right vs. wrong or to scare them of something in the world. This could certainly be the case for the New Jersey Devil. However, the legend could also be used by the people that live in Barren Pines as device to keep others out. The area is home to some rough folks who may have made up the story to scare off people from visiting.

Drown the Shamrock

Main Piece:

Interviewer: “So did you learn any drinking-related traditions while in Ireland?”

Informant: “Yes! Drinking was so much fun there. My favorite tradition that I learned is called drowning the shamrock.”

Interviewer: “What is that?”

Informant: “So you only get to do it once a year on St. Paddy’s Day and at the last call for the night. So basically, everyone orders a shot of whiskey at the bar and then together everyone puts the 4-leaf clover pin from their clothing in their shot and then shouts ‘To St. Patrick!’ and then takes the shot. Then the clover pin is thrown over your left shoulder”

Interviewer: “Why throw it over your left shoulder?”

Informant: “I have no idea. I think it’s like for good luck or something”



Informant is a 21-year old female USC student who comes from New York City. She was told this tradition while studying abroad in Ireland.



The idea behind drinking traditions has been around since the invention of alcohol, so it’s not surprising that the Irish have a drinking tradition to end St. Patrick’s Day. The idea of putting a lucky object into a drink and drinking it appears to express a want to be lucky and to have good fortune. The throwing of the clover over the left shoulder most likely symbolizes the start of a new beginning and the clover represents sending good fortunes to your future self.


See also the following link for another example of Drowning the Shamrock.

“Drowning the shamrock”

Hindu Proverb

Main Piece:

Original Text (Hindi):

“पेड़ किसी को अपनी छाया से मना नहीं करते, लकड़हारे को भी नहीं।”

(ped kisee ko apanee chhaaya se mana nahin karate, lakadahaare ko bhee nahin।)

Literal Translation (English):

“Trees refuse no one their shade, not even the woodcutter.”



Informant is a 22-year-old USC student from India. His parents raised him as a Hindu, but he does not practice the religion while at school. The proverb was told to the informant by his parents when he was a young child and they have the proverb hung up in their home in India.



The translation of the proverb to English is mostly literal. The idea that trees do not refuse their shade seems like a given as trees do not have feelings and cannot move themselves. However, if one considers themselves the tree, the proverb is profound in that it states that one should treat all other people well, even if they mean to do you harm.