Author Archives: Makena Hudson

“Ah Ma Schwartz Katter”

“When somebody’s being lame, or kind of a wet blanket, there’s, I mean, okay, I mean, there’s two of them. One of them is “ah ma schwartz katter” which is “oh, my poor little black cat,” and that’s for if they’re being silly. So, just, for instance, if someone is like, ‘oh, poor pathetic me!’ it’s ‘ah, ma Schwartz katter,’ [she mimics patting someone on the head in mock sympathy]. And then sometimes I do a variation on it, which I don’t know if it’s even correct or not, but it’s ‘ah ma brune katter,’ which is ‘ah, my little brown cat.’ But honest to god, it’s probably a huge bastardization of German, I know the actual one when I’m saying it is correct, but I don’t know the actual spelling of it, because my mother did not deem to teach me it.”

 

It’s like saying “oh, poor thing,” but it’s a little bit mocking. The informant uses the brune version because sometimes she likes to “mix it up,” and because her cat is brown. Usually, when she is saying this to someone, it’s her mother (because her father doesn’t “get it”), and she uses the brune version because her mother’s hair is brown.

The informant first learned this when she was about seven from her mother, (who speaks multiple languages, including German). Both she and her mother are of German descent.

This is a good demonstration of how foreign languages are kept partially alive and spread throughout generations who may not be fluent in it. Sayings are easy to remember because of their brevity and they also seem to create strong bonds between those who say them (e.g. the informant here shares this with her mother and brother, but not outside her family or even with her father).

The Gypsy Rover

The Gypsy Rover

A lullaby that the informant’s  grandmother would sing to her mom:

 

“The gypsy rover came over the hill,

down the through the valley so shady.

whistled and he sand, ‘till the green wood sprang,

and he won the heart of a lady.

“And then it’s like:

“Ah-di-do, ah-di-do-da-day,

ah-di-do-ah-di-day-O!

whistled and he sang, ‘till the green wood sprang,

and he won the heart of a lady.

“And then it’d be like, it, like, there’s a bunch of, um, different parts, but it would be like, the main one of them, was like, this girl falls in love with the gypsy person, and um, her father doesn’t like it, but she’s, but the part that I remember at least:

“He is no gypsy, my father, she said,

the lord of the valley’s all over.

And I shall stay ‘till my dying day,

With the whistling gypsy rover.

“So it’s just, like, a long ballad thing that my mom would sing to me as a lullaby. I can just totally see this being a 70’s ballad now that I think about it, but I always thought it was like, some special song that she knew from somewhere, that was handed down through the generations.”

 

The informant’s mother sang it if she couldn’t get to sleep beginning maybe when she was two or three (her mother had been singing it as long as she could remember). It was her “go-to” lullaby. She is unaware of the origins of the song, but she liked it because it wasn’t a typical lullaby and nobody else had heard it. She also liked it because it is a long saga, and she says she’ll have to write it down so she can sing it to her children at some point.

The tune of this song is easy to follow because it repeats for each stanza throughout the duration of the song (even for the part where words are replaced by sounds). This may be what makes it enjoyable and easy to pass on; however, the length of it (the informant only knew parts of it) may be a hindrance to spreading by those who do not have great memory skills (the informant said she’d have to write it down). The combination of enjoyable easiness and that challenge in the length seem to make it more precious.

French Gardens

“So French-style gardens are very exact in their layout, they’re supposed to ache, like there’s definite vegetation areas, and there’s gravel stuff, and they’re really into doing intricate designs, and you’re supposed to see different things the farther up you are. What you see on high is supposed to be different from what you see, you, know, at straight-ahead level. And the whole theory of it—you know, they have like, multiple level terraces and whatnot, so you’d see, like, a curlicue design if you’re standing inn, like, eagle eye, but if you’re actually staring just straight at it, it looks like different levels of topiaries.

“So the whole theory behind it is that, um, gardens are supposed to be man’s demonstration of his power over nature. So it’s a whole exercise in controlling, you know, what would otherwise be wild nature. And so, it’s about making sure each path is—strictly delineates between, um, say vegetation and gravel, because it demonstrates that man is ultimately at, by God’s design is at the top of the food chain and is therefore able to control any and all elements, and so the more control that you have, and the more intricate the designs, the better demonstration of man’s control over nature.”

 

The informant said that the purpose of the two different views was to further demonstrate skill: if you can trick the eye into seeing one thing from one place, and another thing from another, it was a good demonstration of power. She found that this belief is “in line with French thinking,” which often favors the art of precision and links that with divinity.

She learned about the gardens from one of her teacher’s in France in 2012, (and she found more evidence of the belief when she researched it on the internet). She discovered it started with Italian gardens and tree carving. The informant learned that it is a sort of big game to see how much you can do with plants in a controlled environment, and it was a way for royalty to demonstrate their power (the head gardener for such people was actually a very respected position).

This belief is compelling because it is so widely accepted it doesn’t exist on the margins of French culture, but in its center. The informant said that magazines and other publications exist solely to teach how to garden in the French style. It seems that the original purpose of the gardens (to demonstrate man’s power over nature) has fallen away in a way that it is not obsolete, but it is no longer truly important. The ideology has been totally absorbed by the culture.

“Don’t Use Children or Dogs in Theatre”

“Don’t use children or dogs in theatre.”

 

In theatre, the informant said it’s supposed to be bad luck to use children or dogs in a show. In the informant’s first full run production of a play (as a producer) in 2010, he used several children and one dog. He said that the belief ma be valid because children often have varying degrees of discipline, and both they and dogs can be distracting to audiences. In this production, the informant said the dog pulled focus (her tail was moving back and forth “like a flag” much of the time because she was so happy to have attention).

The informant learned of this when he started doing theatre 10 years ago. He regularly hears it from theatre professionals. He says that because audiences love kids and dogs, they often find them more entertaining than the actors, which is not ideal for those putting on the play. Ultimately, he has found that dogs and children may be difficult to work with, and may steal focus.

Understandably, dogs and children are very distracting because they are so easy to focus on (many YouTube videos will attest to that), so this belief makes sense. However, it could become problematic for productions that require children or dogs because adults dressing up as either could also be distracting. This also causes me to question whether or not writers steer away from adding children or dogs to their plays.

The Butterfly Stretch

“I remember, we would wake up friggin’ early ass in the morning, and then, we would, like, warm up together and do the butterflies, with, like, our legs crossed, and we would, like, flutter, I don’t know… It’s a stretch, and um… then for some reason, we’d be okay, like, all the little girls, you’d see, like smiling, like oOOoOo… and then we’d do, like, the little circle—the arm circle things, and like you know, you were flying somewhere, like I could just imagine that. I was seven, that was, that was fun. It was fun, pretending to be a butterfly for a little while… because I guess you’re supposed to be graceful, with gymnastics in some sense.”

 

The informant recounted a stretching ritual she would perform with her gymnastics peers at the beginning of each class as something to help break the ice that existed between them at the beginning of the session. She found it especially helped shy or quiet kids and enabled her to talk to her friends after the moment of silliness (her and her peers pretending to be butterflies). She thought it might serve a purpose for her as a college student (“Like, can’t we all do butterflies in class, like, the first day of class?”).

I agree with the informant that a shared performance represents an opportunity for conversation because it creates a shared experience. This is similar, perhaps, to other types of “ice-breaker” performances for adults (which are often other sorts of games), though it has the added benefit of being an exercise.