Author Archives: lysiak

Folk Sayings: “She’s for the Streets”

Informant Context: The informant is a 20-year-old white male from Riverside, California.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “What is a proverb or saying you might share with a guy friend when giving advice about women?”

Informant: “The other week, my boy came to me about a girl he’d been seeing. He found out she was talking to other guys. I told him ‘she’s for the streets’ and to keep it pushing.”

Collector: “What does it mean when a girl is ‘for the streets’?”

Informant: “It means they’re a hoe. That she sleeps around and she belongs to everybody. Like she is willing to do things with anyone on the streets. Kind of like a prostitute.”

Analysis: In recent years, this saying has risen in popularity among the Gen-Z and Millennial demographic. If someone’s viewed as promiscuous, younger generations will commonly deem that person as “for the streets” through online comments or folk lore. The phrase’s popularity is reflected in this decade’s pop music. One notable example is the pop song “Streets,” released in 2019 by rapper/singer Doja Cat.

Discrete Ways Women Reference their Menstrual Cycle

Informant Context: The informant is a nineteen-year-old female undergraduate student at the University of Southern California (USC).

Conversation Transcript:

Collector: “Could you share an example of tabooistic vocabulary you’d use in everyday life? Any indirect way you might reference an inappropriate topic. For example, instead of saying ‘we had sex’ one might say ‘we got to fourth base’.”

Informant: “Right. So like a euphemism?”

Collector: “Exactly.”

Informant: “I have a few for when I get my period. I’ll say ‘Miss Flow came to town this week.’ (laughs) Have you ever heard that one before?”

Collector: (laughs) “No, I haven’t!”

Informant: “I’ve also heard some people say ‘Japan has invaded’, you know because of the flag and its colors.”

Analysis: It was interesting to learn the creative ways other women reference their menstrual cycles. During my conversation with the informant, we were constantly laughing. The tabooistic phrases were funny because they aim only to be understood by a specific folk group (women of the female sex) who can personally identify with the menstruation process. For instance, the word “flow” in the first phrase is commonly used among women to describe bleeding during a period. The Japanese invasion phrase was comical since the country’s flag has similar imagery to blood spotting on a white pad. As members of the target folk group, the informant and I enjoyed these tabooistic phrases about menstruation.

Discrete Ways Men Reference Masturbation

Informant Context: The informant is a 20-year-old white male from Riverside, California.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “I am exploring tabooistic vocabulary around masturbation. For men, are there any phrases or gestures you use to reference male masturbation?”

Informant: “I mean, when I’m talking to my boys I’ll straight up just say ‘jerk off’ and be more explicit. Sometimes I will do this–“

The Informant cups his hand it into a cylindrical shape, then moves it up and down. The gesture aims to demonstrate male masturbation.

Informant: “–and say ‘yank one out’ or ‘beating your meat’. Meat is just another word for your penis.”

Analysis: I was not surprised by the tabooistic vocabulary the informant shared about male masturbation. Those phrases and gestures are commonly used in our age demographic. What did surprise me was how openly the informant discussed masturbation. He said around peers, he is not afraid to explicitly talk about the activity. When it comes to people outside his peer group or age bracket, he avoids talking about it all together.

Bomb Threats Written on School Bathroom Walls

Informant Context: The informant is a nineteen-year-old female undergraduate student at the University of Southern California (USC). She attended a public high school in Chicago, Illinois.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “What is something traditional you’ve seen written or drawn on high school bathroom walls?”

Informant: “Initials are pretty common. I’ve seen couples’ initials with a heart drawn around them. Penises are drawn a lot too.”

Collector: “You see them drawn in the girls’ bathrooms?”

Informant: “Not often. I have seen girls write polls on stall doors. This or that questions about general topics. Like coffee or tea. Mascara or blush, for example. Then girls would put tallies under each option to place their vote. Oh! At my high school, people would also leave bomb threats in the bathrooms.”

Collector: “Bomb threats?”

Informant: “Yeah. Kids would write threats on the walls like ‘I’m going to shoot up the school’ or ‘there will be a bomb explosion tomorrow’. Crazy stuff.”

Analysis: It was surprising to hear the informant’s examples escalate during our discussion. I was familiar with her first examples because I had seen similar drawings in bathrooms at my public high school. What shocked me was the informant’s experience seeing terrorist threats written on walls. While I never saw any at my high school, I could imagine this being a popular practice across the United States, as school terrorism has become an epidemic in the country’s recent decades.