Author Archives: ivyhong

Very Good Rice Takes Time, Will

To help pay the bills, the informant recently started working towards a bartending certification again. It was a relaxed, informal environment— people were waiting for a meeting to start— and they were sharing this exact piece of folklore with a friend


When you start to learn how to bartend, what do they tell you to help remember the mixes in the well?


“Um, so when you’re bartending, um… When you’re at the bar, there’s a well which is like the common liquors that you use in; it’s- to remember the kind of order and which liquors they are when you’re first learning you can learn the phrase “very good rice takes time, Paul- Will,” sorry. Some, some wells have different liquors but in California, it’s whiskey.


So “very” is vodka, “good” is gin, “rice” is rum, t or ta- “takes” is tequila, “time” is triple sec, and “Will” is whiskey. And so it’s just like an easy way to start getting used to using the well, um in a like timely… manner.”


Since mnemonics are there to fill a specific purpose and recall a specific set of information, I had not realized that they could also have multiplicity and variation. It seems that variations would be in response to a change in environment, as in this case, or a change in both time and landscapes, such as how the mnemonic to remember the planets of the solar system changed to reflect Pluto’s reclassification.


Also, it is possible that those who use mnemonics are largely beginners of the related topic. Using this mnemonic as an example, one might assume that its use might fall with a bartender as they become familiar with the well through greater bartending experience. Alternatively, the mnemonic could simply speed up a bartender’s familiarity with the well, with the bartender continually referring back to it.

Being a mnemonic unique to bartending, this is also a fun example of occupational folklore.


Scaremongering, HIV, and Fruit

I requested the informant to recount some pieces of folklore, some being ones that they have told me before. This is an urban legend they heard in middle school about how someone contracted HIV.


The informant says that this teenager bought a cup of chopped fruit from a street vendor in his neighbourhood. The next day, he started feeling sick and throwing up. When he went to the doctor, they told him he contracted HIV. As the story goes, the fruit vendor had HIV and had accidently cut through his gloves and into his hand without noticing. The boy did not notice the blood when he was eating it.

As some people still hold a lot of misconceptions and ignorant ideas about HIV, I am not entirely surprised that these almost scare-mongering, horror stories still exist. Presumably, people will drop these misconceptions as they grow up and learn. Information often dispels fear, a driving force behind these legends. For example, the informant later learned that one cannot contract HIV through consumption of infected blood, unless one has an open wound in the mouth seeing as HIV-infect fluid needs to enter the bloodstream. Having said that, it is possible that the person from the story had an open wound on their mouth.


The informant shared this information at my request. They shared this with me when I asked if their college, UCLA, had anything superstitions and such.


The informant said that before someone starts their first year at UCLA, they have to touch this inverted fountain to get “bruinitized.” They’ll also have to touch it one more time after they graduate; however, if they touch it before, the superstition goes that they’ll stay an extra quarter. The informant also mentions that incoming students were told to do this at orientation.

Most colleges have their own folklore. This follows the general pattern of a few I have heard before, where there is a threat of being held back. This also fits another pattern college folklore tend to have, where first-years may have to go through a ritual of sorts before they are considered a “full” Bruin for example. The fact that this was something new students were pushed to do at orientation also supports the idea that these rituals are there to help newcomers feel included.

Bloody Worms

The informant shared this information at my request. They told me about how some people used to sell “bloody worms” in high school.


The informant said these “bloody worms” were simply gummy worms in red Kool-Aid. They were also typically in a small, plastic bag. They also mentioned that students also sold a variation called “bloody bears,” which used gummy bears instead.


They’ve never actually bought them, and is not entirely sure how or why students came to this specific combination of sweets. If they had to guess, the informant would say it might have given the food items more flavour.

I see this as an example of young people trying to make their way through life. Here, they would like to make money, so they are selling items easily accessible to them. I would guess that this folk dish came about after one takes two loved snack items, both full of sugar, and combine them into an even sugarier snack.

Chinese Zodiac and Charms

The informant gave out the following piece of folklore at my request. They are of Chinese descent, and the setting was casual.


They said that for people born under the Year of the Ox, wearing a rat, rooster, or snake charm is “good” for them. When asked what that meant, they said that the charms are like friends.

This was interesting, because most charms I hear of are for good luck, wealth, and similar ideas. But similar to them, it may be a charm for more friends in the future, in addition to an animal figurine actually being a companion of sorts. The informant also mentioned that it does not have to be a charm; one can wear the complementary zodiac animals in any form.