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.


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.

There’s Always Two Sides

This saying is one that my informant said she uses on a regular basis:

“No matter how thin the pancake, there are always two sides”.

My informant said that she learned this proverb or saying from a friend that was born and raised in Japan. Her name was Kozuko, and my informant met her in the 1980’s when her husband was stationed in Japan for the army. My informant believes that it was a proverb that was common within Kozuko’s family. Kozuko had translated the phrase from Japanese and told them how to say it in English. My informant thinks that it originally may have been a different word than ‘pancake’, because those are not a Japanese food. My informant uses this saying, she says, to express that there are always two sides to a story. She told her kids this when they would make decisions without considering the consequences or the people that they could hurt in the process. She says that she always thinks of her friend Kozuko when she uses the phrase, and is happy that she was able to bring it back to California.

I, for the most part, agree with my informant’s analysis of this piece of folklore. I believe it was likely developed as a more clever way to say that there are two sides to every story. I believe that this metaphorical way of saying that is a good way to get the message across. I had never heard this saying before, and after researching it more, could not find many sources and sites of it. This leads me to believe it is a rather rare saying, and potentially rarely translated from Japanese, or wherever its true origins lie.

It Either Will Or It Won’t

My aunt is infamous around our family for having certain sayings and proverbs for specific situations. One of her most notorious snippets is her saying:

It either will or it won’t”.

She is known to say this in times of complaining, uncertainty, or fear of future events. My sister, my informant, specifically remembers many times in which our aunt would say that quote to her. My sister admitted that she is a “complainer” and that she finds solace in talking about her problems out of her inability to cope with uncertainty of the future because of her perfectionist tendencies. “I remember that I would be complaining about school, assignments, thinking I might get a bad grade on a test” she said, and “Aunt Merrilee would always say ‘you either will or you won’t’ or ‘it either will or it won’t’”. It always bothered her at the time, says my sister, because it seemed a rude approach that did not truly fix the problem. But as she has grown up, she realized the truth in the quote. She told me that she sees it as our aunt’s way of saying that there is nothing you can do about it now. The event is already over. The test is already taken. There is no good that can come about by sitting around wallowing in it when it really won’t change anything. It’s a quote that both my sister and I have taken to heart, and I believe it has saved us from a lot of unnecessary negativity.

“I’ll be telling it to my kids when they’re growing up” says my sister. I smiled when she said that, seeing that this particular piece of folklore will live on for following generations.

I personally believe that this quote is a good piece of life advice that was likely created in many different areas and families across the nation, if not the globe. It is a very simple, logical explanation to issues and hardships. I would guess that it is more widely used among people with short tempers or those that don’t like to complain themselves. I believe it is a very logical explanation and a useful piece of folklore.

Carrots Improve Your Vision

My informant, a fellow dorm-mate of mine at USC, was eating whole raw carrots one night as I was walking past his room. I turned in, asking him why he would be eating such a snack. He said, half-jokingly, haven’t you heard?

“Carrots improve your vision”

Though this wasn’t the real reason that he was eating the carrot, I asked him more about the origins where he had heard such a thing. “I’m not sure”, he said “I just always heard that growing up as a kid. My dad used to say it to me when I didn’t want to eat my vegetables”. Others joined in the conversation as well, some saying it was fact, others stating it was myth.

After looking up this debate online, we found that it was once reported in the London Sunday telegraph that this rumor is a myth, and that it dates back all the way to WWII when Britan’s air ministry created the rumor that a steady diet of carrots would help their pilots see Nazi bombers that were attacking at night. In reality, the article read, it was to cover up their new technology of interception radar so the Nazi’s wouldn’t find out about it. Apparently it was so convincing that the English populous took to eating carrots to improve their vision (Sunday Telegraph). From then on, it appears the rumor has spread and hasn’t been overwhelmingly disproved to the many that still believe it. Further, I personally believe that much of its survival has been a tactic by parents to get their children to eat more vegetables and carrots. In addition, I believe the placebo effect may come into play in this situation, making individuals subconsciously convince themselves that their eyesight is improving after eating carrots.


London. Sunday Telegraph. “Don’t Expect to See Like a Hawk After Eating Your Carrots with Today’s Roast”. 9 March 2003. (p. 41).

Morning Song

I had always remembered my mother noting a song that her father sang to her and her sister every morning to get them up and out of bed. When I asked for more details, she immediately groaned and grimly stated “trust me, after I moved out of home I never wanted to think about that song again. My dad would always sing it so loudly and so early”. She said the song went as follows:

“It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the mooorning”

She stated that he would repeat this over and over again until both girls finally popped out of bed simply from dreading hearing another verse. She noted that this was one of the few songs that my grandfather knew, because he went deaf at age twelve due to medical complications. He had heard it from his Swedish parents and remembered the tune to sing to his children years after losing his hearing. Perhaps, my mother said, this was why he would sing it so loud in the morning!

Fortunately, my mother never sang that song to my sister or I when we were growing up, and I have a feeling that it has to do with her not liking it when she was young. Because of this, the song will likely not be carried on in family tradition, and I bet each generation will be thankful of that. I believe that this song must have originated from a ‘morning person’ who would be up and cheery and singing in the morning. They must have taken a simple phrase like this and sang it until the tune caught on with their kids and their kids after that.

Rabbit Rabbit

I interviewed my informant, from Portland, Oregon, about his familial traditions. He noted that he grew up with a certain saying that his family would repeat. On the first day of every month, they would all say:

Rabbit, Rabbit”.

It was a tradition that was passed down from his mother’s family that she had grown up with. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents immigrated to New York from England. The interviewee said that his parents believed it stemmed from the “fact that in some parts of the world, rabbit legs are a symbol of good luck”. My informant remembers his mother discussing the tradition with him when he was a boy. She had always told him to perform this saying right as he awoke on the first day of every month, and that he would have good luck for the rest of the month. By the end of the month, she told him that he would receive a present. This present could have been mental, physical, or any other form of present possible. If it were his birth month, he would have “extra luck”, according to his mother. She had always told him that the tradition had followed her family from back in England, where it is a popular saying. It was also popular, she said, on the east coast where she had grown up. Their family then brought it to Oregon, where they now reside.

My informant remembered a specific time when he realized that it was a rather unfamiliar saying in Portland. “I guess I had always just thought that everybody said it” he noted, “but whenever it would be the first of the month and I would say it with my friends, they would always give me a weird look and ask me what I was doing”. But, the informant said, that didn’t stop him from saying it. “I would always just laugh”, he said, “and think to myself how much luckier I would be than them that month”.

I had never heard this specific piece of folklore before my interview with my informant. I, therefore, have relied on his telling of its history as accurate. I believe it is a typical good luck omen.