Author Archives: marcusem@usc.edu

“Can’t never did anything…”

BACKGROUND:

A family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania follows the strict proverb of, “Can’t never did anything…” The proverb would be uttered any time someone would claim that there was something “I can’t do.” If someone expressed their inability to do something, the family would respond with, “Can’t never did anything…” The intention of the proverb had the same basic concept, that nothing will get accomplished by simply giving up. The expression behind it, however, would frequently change. In some instances, the response was expressed in a kind, encouraging tone with the intentions of lifting spirits. Other times, the response was expressed in a stern, denial of their claim that they can’t do something, with the intention of strictly rejecting any approval of that answer.

MY THOUGHTS:

I find it very interesting how many contexts there are in which this saying can be used. My source described how the saying was typically used as a means of shaming someone for giving up easily. While this may have seemed like something that was beneficial to the recipient of this saying, I can’t help but feel like this was more of an unsympathetic way of saying, “Your best isn’t good enough”. The way in which this story was told to me (tone of voice and facial expressions) told me she felt the same way.

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

BACKGROUND:

In Tucson, Arizona, a family passes down the tradition of making a very specific recipe on Christmas. This recipe has been passed down for so many generations, the actual author of the recipe is unknown. The source has said that it traces back to their Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. The recipe was given to the daughters and daughters-in-law of each generation as a rite of passage for becoming the official “woman of the household”. Every Christmas morning, those with the recipe would cook these cinnamon rolls for the entire family and those celebrating the holiday with them.

RECIPE:

Unfortunately, when asked to record the recipe for documentation, my source refused to even let me see it. The secrecy behind this recipe is extremely important to the family and is viewed as a way of creating a bond between the women of the family and a true acceptance into the family. Me seeing this would be devaluing its importance.

MY THOUGHTS:

I think this is a really unique coming of age tradition. Not only is it a way of cementing blood relatives as officially women, but it’s also a creative way of welcoming those who have married into the family. Because of this, I completely understand my source’s hesitance in letting me see the actual recipe.

99 Bottles of Coke

BACKGROUND:

The following song was sung by young children (kindergarten-middle school) in the Bay Area of California, traditionally on long car trips or bus rides. The song was often sung ironically to bother other members of the vehicle due to its obnoxiously long and repetitive manor. According to this source, the song often wouldn’t last more than 5-6 verses before someone would get mad and demand the song cease. The song is also known for using the word “beer” in place of “coke”. According to this source, the reason for the change to coke was due to fear of getting in trouble from teachers or parents for singing about consuming alcohol as a minor.

THE SONG:

99 bottles of coke on the wall, 99 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of coke on the wall.

98 bottles of coke on the wall, 98 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 97 bottles of coke on the wall.

97 bottles of coke on the wall, 97 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 96 bottles of coke on the wall.

96 bottles of coke on the wall, 96 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 95 bottles of coke on the wall.

95 bottles of coke on the wall, 95 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 94 bottles of coke on the wall.

94 bottles of coke on the wall, 94 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 93 bottles of coke on the wall.

93 bottles of coke on the wall, 93 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 92 bottles of coke on the wall.

92 bottles of coke on the wall, 92 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 91 bottles of coke on the wall.

91 bottles of coke on the wall, 91 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 90 bottles of coke on the wall.

90 bottles of coke on the wall, 90 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 89 bottles of coke on the wall.

89 bottles of coke on the wall, 89 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 88 bottles of coke on the wall.

88 bottles of coke on the wall, 88 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 87 bottles of coke on the wall.

87 bottles of coke on the wall, 87 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 86 bottles of coke on the wall.

86 bottles of coke on the wall, 86 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 85 bottles of coke on the wall.

85 bottles of coke on the wall, 85 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 84 bottles of coke on the wall.

84 bottles of coke on the wall, 84 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 83 bottles of coke on the wall.

83 bottles of coke on the wall, 83 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 82 bottles of coke on the wall.

82 bottles of coke on the wall, 82 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 81 bottles of coke on the wall.

81 bottles of coke on the wall, 81 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 80 bottles of coke on the wall.

80 bottles of coke on the wall, 80 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 79 bottles of coke on the wall.

79 bottles of coke on the wall, 79 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 78 bottles of coke on the wall.

78 bottles of coke on the wall, 78 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 77 bottles of coke on the wall.

77 bottles of coke on the wall, 77 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 76 bottles of coke on the wall.

76 bottles of coke on the wall, 76 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 75 bottles of coke on the wall.

75 bottles of coke on the wall, 75 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 74 bottles of coke on the wall.

74 bottles of coke on the wall, 74 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 73 bottles of coke on the wall.

73 bottles of coke on the wall, 73 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 72 bottles of coke on the wall.

72 bottles of coke on the wall, 72 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 71 bottles of coke on the wall.

71 bottles of coke on the wall, 71 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 70 bottles of coke on the wall.

70 bottles of coke on the wall, 70 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 69 bottles of coke on the wall.

69 bottles of coke on the wall, 69 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 68 bottles of coke on the wall.

68 bottles of coke on the wall, 68 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 67 bottles of coke on the wall.

67 bottles of coke on the wall, 67 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 66 bottles of coke on the wall.

66 bottles of coke on the wall, 66 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 65 bottles of coke on the wall.

65 bottles of coke on the wall, 65 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 64 bottles of coke on the wall.

64 bottles of coke on the wall, 64 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 63 bottles of coke on the wall.

63 bottles of coke on the wall, 63 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 62 bottles of coke on the wall.

62 bottles of coke on the wall, 62 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 61 bottles of coke on the wall.

61 bottles of coke on the wall, 61 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 60 bottles of coke on the wall.

60 bottles of coke on the wall, 60 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 59 bottles of coke on the wall.

59 bottles of coke on the wall, 59 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 58 bottles of coke on the wall.

58 bottles of coke on the wall, 58 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 57 bottles of coke on the wall.

57 bottles of coke on the wall, 57 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 56 bottles of coke on the wall.

56 bottles of coke on the wall, 56 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 55 bottles of coke on the wall.

55 bottles of coke on the wall, 55 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 54 bottles of coke on the wall.

54 bottles of coke on the wall, 54 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 53 bottles of coke on the wall.

53 bottles of coke on the wall, 53 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 52 bottles of coke on the wall.

52 bottles of coke on the wall, 52 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 51 bottles of coke on the wall.

51 bottles of coke on the wall, 51 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 50 bottles of coke on the wall.

50 bottles of coke on the wall, 50 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 49 bottles of coke on the wall.

49 bottles of coke on the wall, 49 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 48 bottles of coke on the wall.

48 bottles of coke on the wall, 48 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 47 bottles of coke on the wall.

47 bottles of coke on the wall, 47 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 46 bottles of coke on the wall.

46 bottles of coke on the wall, 46 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 45 bottles of coke on the wall.

45 bottles of coke on the wall, 45 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 44 bottles of coke on the wall.

44 bottles of coke on the wall, 44 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 43 bottles of coke on the wall.

43 bottles of coke on the wall, 43 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 42 bottles of coke on the wall.

42 bottles of coke on the wall, 42 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 41 bottles of coke on the wall.

41 bottles of coke on the wall, 41 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 40 bottles of coke on the wall.

40 bottles of coke on the wall, 40 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 39 bottles of coke on the wall.

39 bottles of coke on the wall, 39 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 38 bottles of coke on the wall.

38 bottles of coke on the wall, 38 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 37 bottles of coke on the wall.

37 bottles of coke on the wall, 37 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 36 bottles of coke on the wall.

36 bottles of coke on the wall, 36 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 35 bottles of coke on the wall.

35 bottles of coke on the wall, 35 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 34 bottles of coke on the wall.

34 bottles of coke on the wall, 34 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 33 bottles of coke on the wall.

33 bottles of coke on the wall, 33 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 32 bottles of coke on the wall.

32 bottles of coke on the wall, 32 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 31 bottles of coke on the wall.

31 bottles of coke on the wall, 31 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 30 bottles of coke on the wall.

30 bottles of coke on the wall, 30 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 29 bottles of coke on the wall.

29 bottles of coke on the wall, 29 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 28 bottles of coke on the wall.

28 bottles of coke on the wall, 28 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 27 bottles of coke on the wall.

27 bottles of coke on the wall, 27 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 26 bottles of coke on the wall.

26 bottles of coke on the wall, 26 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 25 bottles of coke on the wall.

25 bottles of coke on the wall, 25 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 24 bottles of coke on the wall.

24 bottles of coke on the wall, 24 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 23 bottles of coke on the wall.

23 bottles of coke on the wall, 23 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 22 bottles of coke on the wall.

22 bottles of coke on the wall, 22 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 21 bottles of coke on the wall.

21 bottles of coke on the wall, 21 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 20 bottles of coke on the wall.

20 bottles of coke on the wall, 20 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 19 bottles of coke on the wall.

19 bottles of coke on the wall, 19 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 18 bottles of coke on the wall.

18 bottles of coke on the wall, 18 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 17 bottles of coke on the wall.

17 bottles of coke on the wall, 17 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 16 bottles of coke on the wall.

16 bottles of coke on the wall, 16 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 15 bottles of coke on the wall.

15 bottles of coke on the wall, 15 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 14 bottles of coke on the wall.

14 bottles of coke on the wall, 14 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 13 bottles of coke on the wall.

13 bottles of coke on the wall, 13 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 12 bottles of coke on the wall.

12 bottles of coke on the wall, 12 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 11 bottles of coke on the wall.

11 bottles of coke on the wall, 11 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 10 bottles of coke on the wall.

10 bottles of coke on the wall, 10 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 9 bottles of coke on the wall.

9 bottles of coke on the wall, 9 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 8 bottles of coke on the wall.

8 bottles of coke on the wall, 8 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 7 bottles of coke on the wall.

7 bottles of coke on the wall, 7 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 6 bottles of coke on the wall.

6 bottles of coke on the wall, 6 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 5 bottles of coke on the wall.

5 bottles of coke on the wall, 5 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 4 bottles of coke on the wall.

4 bottles of coke on the wall, 4 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 3 bottles of coke on the wall.

3 bottles of coke on the wall, 3 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 2 bottles of coke on the wall.

2 bottles of coke on the wall, 2 bottles of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, 1 bottle of coke on the wall.

1 bottle of coke on the wall, 1 bottle of coke.

Take one down and pass it around, no more bottles of coke on the wall.

No more bottles of coke on the wall, no more bottles of coke. 

Go to the store and buy some more, 99 bottles of coke on the wall.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

I too sang a variation of this song on long car trips, typically in elementary school on the way to a field trip. I love that a fear of getting in trouble caused a lyric change from the version you normally hear, “99 Bottles of Beer”. I think that its humorous intentions of getting on someone’s nerves makes sense for the young demographic that this song was performed by.

For an adapted, published version of this folk song, see:

Williams, Zane. “99 Bottles – Zane Williams.” YouTube, 14 May 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVjCag8XoHQ. 

Ricksmas

BACKGROUND:

A family in Santa Ana, California celebrate the unique holiday of “Ricksmas” in which the extended family and family friends gather to celebrate a sort of counter-culture Christmas. The holiday is celebrated similarly to the American traditions of the Christmas in that there is an exchange of gifts, a Christmas tree, and a grand dinner to round out the night. Unlike Christmas, however, each gift has to follow a designated theme that changes from year to year. The holiday is also not celebrated on December 25th, but rather (like the theme) changes from year to year.

INTERVIEW:

My talk with my source, R, is as follows:

R: My dad’s name is Rick and the whole extended family on his side has kind of like a strange bond cause we’re all a little weird. Basically like a couple weeks before, a couple weeks after we have kind of a Christmas celebration called Ricksmas, cause that’s my dad’s name. Um… and so all the people on my dads side congregate and like some family friends and we have themed gifts every year; like it’s really weird how democratic it is like there’s a different person each year and then they cycle out for each year and they have a certain number of topics they’ll choose. Like sometimes its like… Oh god one time it was just X, like a gift could be something 10 like the roman numeral 10 or it could be like X the Ed Sheeran album. That’s kind of the whole thing I mean the rest is kind of like Christmas with a tree and a dinner but there’s like little tweaks to everything. But yeah that’s Ricksmas.

Brunelleschi and The Egg

BACKGROUND:

There is an old architecture legend about famed Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi trying to convince the city of Florence that he was the most qualified to build the Cathedral of Florence. The story goes that after being rejected due to his long absence in Germany, Brunelleschi attempted to show that not only did he have the artistic eye, but also the wit and intelligence to solve any problem. To do this, Brunelleschi handed each of the chosen architects an egg and asked them to stand it up on its end and have it stay there. After none of the architects were able to do it, Brunelleschi crushes one end, creating a surface that can be stood up on the table. According to the legend, this is what convinced the city that he was truly the smartest of the bunch.

INTERVIEW:

My interview with my source, T, is as follows:

T: So when Brunelleschi was telling his idea to the city, he literally didn’t tell them anything he was going to do. He’s like, “Guys, I know how to do this, I know you have this problem, I’m going to build your building” and they’re like “uhh… you were gone for like 10 years, we don’t even know if you’re capable of this.” And he’s like “You’re gonna give me the job and here’s why.” So he gives them all eggs and says “Make the egg stand on its end. If one of you can do it then you don’t have to hire me.” And none of them could do it so he walks up to the table and says, “You want me to show you why I have more knowledge than you?” and he smashes the end of the egg on the table so it stands up on its end. They gave him the job.

MY THOUGHTS:

I think this is a very clever legend. In all honesty the likelihood of this display of intelligence being the only driving factor behind Brunelleschi being hired is highly unlikely. The story, however, is a great way of conveying just how dedicated and clever Brunelleschi actually was, regardless of whether this event actually took place or not.