Author Archives: Janelle Bustamante

Pick-up Line: “What did your mom and dad feed you to get you so pretty?”

Anonymous “grew up seeing the pick-up line, ‘What did your mom and dad feed you to get you so pretty?’ in Hmong movies… usually the girl always responds with rice.”  It was interesting for them to see this in movies because they never heard of or experienced that pick-up line in real life.  Furthermore, it seemed very carefully chosen for her culture because she shat  “love was often shown through food by family members and to hear that comment on food asked by a date was really goofy.”  Anonymous is still bewildered by the use of this pick-up line and how it is incorporated into Hmong media regularly.

It is uncommon to hear of or see this pick-up line used in American folk groups, but the  utilization of a cultural pick-up line in which the answer is a staple food in Hmong culture is an interesting tidbit of folklore to be shared, orally or digitally.  It encompasses an ironic connection between the love languages utilized in Hmong/Asian families and those found within romantic relationships.  It is common for Asian cultures to be incapable of orally expressing their love and affection  to their family (mostly from parents to children), but sometimes food is the easiest way to do so.  When Asian parents apologize, it is most likely your favorite dish waiting for you downstairs as an offer of reconciliation.  To ask a romantic interest, “What did your mom and dad feed you to get you so pretty?” may allude to what kind of love one was  raised on and even a way to delve more into one’s personality traits.  It is also interesting that food is valued and not seen as an enemy to beauty.  Sometimes in American standards, it is not seen as feminine or beautiful for a woman to express her love for food because they must uphold a taut figure.  It is evident that values differ purely by analyzing American and Hmong folklore.

Superstition: “Don’t point at the moon or else it will cut your ear.”

In Hmong culture, Anonymous stated that it is vital that one does not “point at the moon or else it will cut your ear.”  Although the connection seems arbitrary, they even have witnessed this experience personally with their cousin, strengthening the cultural superstition.  “Once, [they] pointed at the moon, and a week later they developed a cut and infection on [their] left ear.”  Now, Anonymous takes careful measures to never point at the moon and warns all [their] friends about the misfortune that the action will cause.

The Hmong superstition of not pointing at the moon to avoid physical damage aligns with other warnings for bad luck that is to come in other cultures.  For example, in Filipino culture, it is imperative to not let a pole or object on the ground in between two people walking or else they will get into a fight. Where exactly do these connections come from?  Individuals could respond with various explanations and some may say they are just coincidences; however, it is interesting to see how patterns may repeat themselves within these connections and in passed on generations.  Even so much so to the point where folk groups must advise against doing them to prevent the worst from happening.  

It may also be interesting to explore an individual’s connection to this superstitious warning against bad fortune who had committed the undoable and did not reap the consequences.  Does this invoke distrust within folk groups if it is debunked?  Or does it even steer individuals against any folkloristic speech warnings in general?  It is hard to say from just this one close study, but significant to consider.  For now, keep your ears safe and sound, and do not point at the moon!

Piko: Filipino Hopscotch Game

Piko is a game commonly played in the Philippines, similar to hopscotch.  Anonymous stated, “This game was easy to play because all you need is a stone or something to throw and chalk or a stick to draw in the dirt.  Especially in a developing country such as the Philippines without as much toys and technology, this game kept us preoccupied.”  Piko consists of 10 drawn-out rectangles and a round end (refer to image).  First, a pebble or throwable object is thrown and whoever is closest to the middle of the first rectangle will go first, second closest second, etc.  They must take turns throwing their object to each number, hopping to every shape, and picking up their object on their way back on only one leg.  If one falls or forgets to pick up their object, they are out!

The Filipino cultural game of Piko is a significant expression of the Filipino folk group’s values in play.  As the Philippines has varying social classes and material objects are not accessible to everyone, Piko is a fun alternative game that is enjoyed by all and can be shared with others, no matter who they are, as well. By finding ways to play without many resources and creating a folk game of their own, they have preserved an important aspect of childhood that allows children to interact with one another, develop motor skills, and use their imagination.  This folk game’s players are not limited to children however and can be easily shared with other cultures/folk groups.  Piko is a game without words and requires very little to play so its possibilities are endless.  This small game can share an important aspect of Filipino culture and tradition that is passed on from generation to generation to anybody!

Remedy:  Jingle Bells

Anonymous stated, “Jingle Bells is an english term for a Hmong ritual.  It is a cultural fact that if someone is sick it is because their spirit had left their body and wandered it off.  In order to call your spirit back, you must call a Shaman to your house to perform Jingle Bells.”  This Hmong ritual involved “a spiritual doctor to heal individuals and they perform the ritual with two bells in their hands, hence the name jingle bells, jumping up and down to enter the spiritual realm to see what is wrong with the individual and how to heal them.”  Anonymous “[has] never personally experienced jingle bells, but [has] watched the ritual being performed on other family members with severe sickness who could not be treated by medical doctors.” 

This Hmong remedy to fight off sickness is a unique cultural ritual.  It relays the Hmong folk group’s emphasis on spiritual health.  As shamans are also commonly found in Hmong communities, it is evident this ritual is done frequently.  Spiritual beliefs and remedies are fascinating to explore because they are not usually done in American folk groups.  Natural remedies usually include drinking or eating something warm or creating natural medicine, but this remedy relies purely on spirit and action.  In some Hmong cultures, Anonymous included that those that are in desperate need of help may “sacrifice farm animals to the spirits” in order to gain back their own spiritual health.  This may relate to a topic touched on in the Forms of Folklore class lectures where individuals held the belief that they would obtain certain powers from eating certain animals, yet in this case, individuals gain their spiritual capabilities from animals.  This ritual reiterates the special connection between spiritual, human, and animal folk groups, uniting them as one.

Proverb: “Bite the shark first.”

Anonymous used to work as a junior lifeguard and had undergone rigorous training that included “common ocean safety, fitness practice, buoy swims, getting out of a riptide and rip current, and how to efficiently save someone.”  During this training, one thing that the trainees were taught was to “Bite the shark first” which meant that they must stay confident during a shark encounter.  It was imperative that when encountering a shark to “not draw attention and hold your ground because if they see you afraid, they see you as a predator.”  It was also emphasized to “remember you are in their home, so be respectful.”

This approach to challenging sharks reveals how to ameliorate frantic struggle with calm and cool confidence while also portraying how the human folk group reacts to villainized animals.  Oftentimes, the first initial reactions that fear induces are fight or flight responses whether it is trying to fight back, screaming, running, or covering our eyes.  This is made difficult when in a terrain different from the one that we have adapted to, but by staying calm, humans hold the power to apologize to sharks for invading their safe space.

Sharks have been villainized for decades through media (such as Jaws) and because of their optics (sharp teeth, large nature, etc.), yet it is important to keep in mind what we would do if we were in their shoes.  If someone barged into our own houses, we would choose offensive tacts in order to keep the intruder at bay and the others in the house safe.  Sharks have families and needs of their own that humans fail to protect and understand.  By biting the shark first, we are ironically not fighting back at all, but rather showing respect to sharks and their respective community.