Author Archives: Kaplan

Lacrosse Superstitions

Playing sports in high school, I was familiar with sports superstitions and pre-game rituals that certain players might believe in. For this specific case, my informant is a sophomore midfielder on the USC lacrosse team. I asked him about any specific superstitions he might have. He told me that he wasn’t too unique in that he had a pair of lucky underwear, or compression shorts, that he would wear on every game day. “After my high school team won the state championship my senior year of high school, and I was wearing these compressions, I’ve thought they were lucky ever since”. He admits to not really believing and buying into superstitions, but noted “for some reason, I still would find myself nervous if I wasn’t wearing them. It’s like a sort of comfort; knowing that I’m in my element”.

He notes that for extremely important games, like playoffs or against UCLA, he also has a pair of lucky socks that he sports. Those, like the underwear, are also riddled with holes and battle scars. “It’s part of their personality, their history” he says. They are a special brand of “Adrenaline Lacrosse Socks” that have lacrosse players stitched on the side. I found it interesting to see that athletes such as him choose superstition over comfort and functionality in many situations. He noted that sometimes he gets blisters when he wears those socks because of all the holes.

“I just have to”, he says, “we have too much history together”.

Superstitions such as this span across the globe and are present in many different sports. I had seen rituals and superstitions such as this as a football player in high school where players would have lucky socks, boxers, t-shirts, and shoes. I believe that this superstition is here because players are constantly nervous to play their best, and any extra boost helps. Confidence is such an important aspect in sports, that I truly believe that if a player is more confident because they are wearing their ‘lucky’ clothing, that they will play better in the end.

How About That Ride In?

How About That Ride In?”

My informant, 25 years old and living in Pasadena, CA, was a big fan of the Hollywood blockbuster, “The Hangover”, which was released in 2009. He says that he distinctly remembers one of its most famous lines- “how about that ride in”- when the group of young men arrive in Las Vegas where the plot of the movie begins. My informant tells me that ever since the movie came out, that line has “literally become a part of American folklore for guys my age”. “I’ve heard it countless times from my buddies and other peers when we’re all just hanging out”, he says.

My informant says that this piece of folklore is used as a sort of comical relief from an awkward or dull situation. He says it is usually said when conversation is lagging or there is an awkward silence to lighten the mood and bring humor to the room. “Sometimes people say it as a joke when they arrive late to a meeting or gathering. I’ve really heard it in so many different situations” said my informant. He says that he just assumes that everybody knows that it’s a line from a movie, so it’s not ‘weird or awkward’ when somebody comes out and says it in a random situation. My informant says that he ‘laughs every time’ and that it’s ‘gotten him out of some pretty awkward situations in a funny way’. “Sometimes, when people don’t know that it’s a line from a movie, it gets even more awkward, very fast”.

My informant also says that he can use it as a sort of test, to see if this person is somebody he would like to spend time with or hang around with. He is convinced that it how they react to it will show whether or not they have a good sense of humor, and are into popular culture.

I agree with my informant, and have heard this phrase many times on my own as well. It seems like it would be a good icebreaker or funny quote just to lighten a mood. I think it is a great example of a piece of folklore that is stemmed from a part of authored literature, in this case, a film. It becomes more of a folkloric term because it is used in different contexts and to achieve different tasks than it originally was supposed to in the film. It has begun to grow and gain newer meanings among a younger American crowd.

Annotation: The Hangover, Movie, 2009

The Hurricane

“The Hurricane”

The ‘hurricane’, according to my informant who is a member of a USC fraternity on the row, is his fraternity’s slang for somebody who is ‘outrageously drunk’ or ‘blacked out’. My informant described the term as starting back when he was a freshman, three years ago, from an older member of the same fraternity. This older member, whom my informant witnessed firsthand, was notorious for drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and being ‘outrageously incoherent’. Members in the fraternity began to refer to him as “the hurricane”, or “the ‘cane” for short. They would describe the level of his drunkenness by equating it to categories for hurricanes. “If he was only a little bit drunk, we’d say he was a category one or two. But if he was out getting wasted, he’d be more like a category six or seven”.

And, according to my informant, the term stuck. Now, anybody that comes back from a night of drinking can be referred to as “a hurricane” or people will say that he “got hurricaned out”. My informant says that it now is commonplace among the fraternity, even with members that have never even met the ‘real hurricane’ because he was much older. “It’s just what we do”, he says “it’s just common slang in our frat now”.

My informant assures me that other fraternities are picking up on the same lingo, and the members of other USC fraternities, and even sororities, have picked up this term. My informant assures me that the term is unique to his fraternity, and that they were the ones who first used the term to describe this sort of situation and behavior. He says that he sees it as an engrained part of his fraternity’s culture these days, and that he assumes it will carry on for years to come.

I believe that this is a prime example of how folklore is started in a small community and group of people, and is then spread to a wide and wider audience. I am certain that other fraternities will pick up on this terminology and begin to utilize it like it is their own in future years.

Passover

1)   My informant for this ritualistic folklore was my grandmother, Sylvia. She was born and raised Jewish, her maiden name being Gelwasser, and discussed with me her family ritual of Passover. She stated that “for as long as I can remember, we’ve always celebrated Passover. For the most part, we’ve always celebrated it the same way”. She says that Passover is the celebration of the Jewish people escaping the wrath of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the time of Moses. She discussed that she remembered that as a child, growing up in New York, she would attend temple in the evening and head to her grandparents house in the Jewish area of the city where her grandmother had made matzah ball soup and beef brisket for a family dinner. They would follow along an old book, performing prayers and rituals with food, wine, and water that would commemorate the days where the Jews were able to escape Egypt. Her grandparents would hide the Afi-Komen, a special piece of matzah, somewhere around the house, and the child that found it was rewarded with a fifty-cent piece.

She says that now, she performs the same rituals and traditions with her children and grandchildren. She prepares the same meals of matzah ball soup and beef brisket, and the family reads a “very similar” prayer book in the evening. She said “I’m sure that many families have begun to celebrate Passover differently or in a more modern family. But for me, I have taken on the exact role of my grandmother, now that I am a grandmother of my own”.

She says that she thinks the tradition is rooted deep in Jewish history and, fact or not, she believes that the biggest part of the tradition is “to have faith and to bring families and friends together”.

For the most part, I agree with Sylvia in believing that this holiday is about keeping tradition and bringing family closer together. I am impressed that the tradition has managed to stay the same over so many generations in her family, and am curious to see whether that will be the case in the coming generations.

Bar Mitzfah

My informant was raised as a reform Jew in a household with two Jewish parents. He described to me the ritual of his “Bar Mitzfah” when he was thirteen years old. He says that a Bar Mitzfah is an age-old Jewish ritual that all young men undergo (Bat Mitzfah for females), that signifies the transition from being a boy to a man. The tradition carries back to Israel and dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. My informant said “it used to be easy for kids raised in Israel or that grew up knowing Hebrew, but the hardest part was having to learn to read Hebrew to be able to perform the chants and prayers”. “It was a bitch to learn”, he said.

The tradition, he said, is performed very differently in different levels of the religion. He said that he was thankful that he was a part of a reform synagogue, where the ceremonies last for only an hour and a half at most. On the other hand, ceremonies in conservative temples can run up to 4 or 5 hours, and orthodox temples even longer. My informant discussed how he remembered attending a conservative Bat Mitzfah for one of his friends from synagogue, and that he and his other friends “couldn’t stand it any longer after the first two hours”.

There are a few things that all Bar and Bat Mitzfah’s have in common, he says. Everybody has a Torah portion and a Haf-Torah portion assigned to them, depending on what time of year that the person performs this ritual. That is, for the rest of their life, their Torah and Haf-Torah portion.

“The thing I was most excited about was the party that night, and all of the gifts” said my informant. He stated that it was a tradition, probably American, that the new man or woman celebrate with a party that night, inviting all of his or her friends, Jewish or not.

My interpretation of this ritual is one as an insider as well, because I am also Jewish and have gone through my own Bar Mitzfah. I believe that this has been a long-standing tradition since the time when men would be considered adults and marry as teenagers, and start their families as young as 16 or 17. Both my informant and I distinctly remember feeling too young to be passing through the gates between boyhood and manhood. My informant stated that he hadn’t even hit puberty yet! I believe that this tradition carried on so young from the old days because Jewish people saw it as a tradition and meaningful in their lives and their community. Changing it would go against old tradition.