Author Archives: Kaplan

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.

Source:

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.