Author Archives: Katherine Marchant

Lawyers in the Ocean

Informant: What do you call a group of a hundred lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

Informant: A good start.

The informant (my dad) is a particularly self-deprecating lawyer. While he does take pride in his work, he often admits that he only went to law school because his father had been a lawyer, and the informant had “no idea what to do with [his] life” after he graduated from college. The informant currently works at a law firm in San Francisco, CA (he recently changed firms, after his former firm became too large and very corrupt. I suspect the series of lawyer jokes he told me were told with some of his old colleagues in mind.) This joke was told to my family over the dinner table, and was very much enjoyed by my mom (also an attorney).

The informant told me that this joke was relayed to him “a couple weeks ago” by a close friend and colleague. Given how often the informant complains about other lawyers being “assholes” and the stereotype of the conniving and greedy attorney being true, I suspect that this joke was aimed mainly at those in the profession who reflect this kind of negative image. It’s probably very important to note that the informant and the friend who told him this joke both left the firm they worked together at a handful of months before this joke was passed on to my family.

Shoes for St. Nick

Informant: The evening of December 5th, we’ll leave out our shoes for St. Nick to come by and leave a present in. So when we wake up the morning of the 6th, we look at our shoes and know he was there! We’ve done that since before I can remember, but I think we got the shoes thing from my mom’s dad.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from Florida, and has younger siblings who also participate in this pre-Christmas tradition. While she and her family also celebrate the more traditional December 25th Christmas, the informant insists that leaving shoes out on the front porch on the night of December 5th has always been a large part of her family’s Christmas festivities.

December 6th is, in western Christian countries, Saint Nicholas’ Day. In countries like Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, leaving shoes out to be filled with presents from St. Nick is a well-documented practice.

Citation: Carus, Louise. The Real St. Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope from around the World. Wheaton, IL: Quest /Theosophical Pub. House, 2002. Print.

“Blood Makes the Grass Grow”

Informant: I’m from Oklahoma, and back home at football games, we always chant, “Kill, kill, blood makes the grass grow” whenever we’re winning or, like, about to make a big play.

Me: Like at professional games?

Informant: No, mostly at high school ones. And some college games.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California and loves to attend and participate in sporting events.

This chant, in the context of football games, seems to mean that a brutal victory over an opponent will serve to make the field look better during the next game. However, variations of the chant also seem to be associated with the US military; it receives a nod in the title of author Johnny Rico’s memoir—and account of the year he spent fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan—Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green: A Year in the Desert with Team America. Another version of this chant appears in the 1987 war film Full Metal Jacket. The Sergeant asks, “What do we do for a living?” To which the platoon replies, “Kill, kill, kill!” The Sergeant continues with, “What makes the grass grow?” And his men reply, “Blood, blood, blood!”

Citation 1: Rico, Johnny. Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green: A Year in the Desert with Team America. New York: Presidio, 2007. Print.

Citation 2: Full Metal Jacket. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Prod. Stanley Kubrick. By Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford. Perf. Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Lee Ermey. Warner Bros., 1987.

Assyrian Wedding Traditions

Informant: Something that’s passed down, as far as Assyrian wedding traditions, is that the groom’s family has to go to the bride’s house the morning of the wedding before the church ceremony to “pick her up.” And while the groom and his groomsmen are waiting at the church, his relatives are all at the brides house singing and dancing, waiting to escort her to the church. Also, before they leave the house, a male relative of the bride—it’s usually like a brother or a close cousin—closes the front doors and ask for, or, I guess, demands a payment of some sort for the giving away of his relative (the bride). The payment is usually cash, and they negotiate the final amount at the door. After he—the relative—gets the money, he opens the door and everyone dances outside and gets in their cars and goes to the church.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. Aside from learning many Assyrian traditions from her parents, she has attended several weddings of relatives and has witnessed these traditions firsthand.

This particular custom of a male relative of the bride demanding compensation for her hand in marriage seems to be a remnant from the past. The informant acknowledge that, while a bit out of date in the contemporary United States, this aspect of the wedding is extremely important to Assyrians who are in touch with their family’s traditions.

The informant told me about Assyrian weddings while we were discussing the future possibility of marriage, and weddings we had been to in the past. She confirmed that her parents have asked that she marry an Assyrian man and preform these traditions at her own wedding. When I asked her if she would feel comfortable doing it, she nodded and confirmed that she liked the tradition because, as “archaic” as it seems to her, it “makes [her] feel connected to [her] family.”

St. Patrick’s Day

Informant: My family is super Irish. Yeah, very, very Irish. They always say that St. Patrick’s Day should be celebrated by always having a Guinness and Irish stew. To, you know, fully appreciate the holiday.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from Indiana, where she and her “very Irish” family live, and told me about her family’s St. Patrick’s Day traditions while we were discussing the upcoming Spring Break.

What I found most interesting about this particular piece of folk tradition is the idea that there is a “correct” way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.