Author Archives: Mark Winn

Proverb – Sandusky, Ohio

Original version:

“Take one step towards God and he’ll take ten towards you.”

Anna told me she learned this proverb from one of her teachers at an all-girls Catholic school in Sandusky, Ohio. The saying was common throughout the school and she said it was hard to tell where it had originated from because it had been passed around the school for years. The teachers would consistently say it to students that they felt were struggling in their walks of faith. After hearing the proverb in her freshman year of high school, she felt it was very inspirational and has been using it ever since.

Anna thinks this quote has to do with God’s desire to become close to her. If she just put a little effort into understanding and becoming closer with God, God would put a lot of effort into understanding Anna. She said this quote did help her in her faith during times where she doubted God.

I think this quote has more than just religious implications. It is hard to quantify what one step towards God is or what it feels like when he takes ten steps towards you, but this proverb can be applied to many things. It is generally known that the first step or initial task is often the hardest. Once the job is started, the rest doesn’t seem so hard.

In an additional note, I grew up in a religious family with a fairly religious background myself and I find it interesting that I have never heard this quote or anything similar. It seems to be a quote that would be popular among Sunday school teachers and the such.


Original script/version:

“I am named Robbin after the birds that were singing when I was born.”

“I heard this first from my mother when I was very little, probably about 5 or six. Although we were living in Texas at the time, I was born in Colorado. I was born after a very cold, severe winter. My mother told me that she had named me Robbin because of the first birds that came out during the first break in the weather. And that’s why I’m named Robbin!”

Robbin told me she did not remember where exactly she heard this story first, although she thinks it was during a family gathering. She didn’t believe there was a lot behind the story other than she was born in the spring about the time the birds were becoming active again.

The robin could represent several things. Birds are often considered free and light-hearted animals. My grandmother could have associated this image of a bird with how she wanted her daughter to grow up. Robins also have a beautiful song, many mothers wish their daughters to be good singers when they get older.

In some places, it is very acceptable to look outside and name a child Willow or Sunshine, while in other places names must come from ancient traditions or past heroes. American names tend to be grandfathered down, names like Samuel, Joseph, Christopher; These are all names that came from forefathers. The fact that my grandmother chose to pick a more nature oriented name may say something about where she was living or what she felt.

Folk Language


Space Talk. Space Talk is an makeshift language, much like Pig Latin. Like Pig Latin, Space Talk uses English words and changes them. It inserts “i-b” into the middle of each syllable of a word. So a sentence would sound like, phonetically, “Thy-bis i-bis why-but i-bay si-ben-ti-bence why-bould ly-book ly-bike.”

My sister said, “Dad taught me how to speak it when I was 10 or 11 I think. Dad and my aunt Robbin learned to speak it from another adult when they were young. They don’t remember where exactly from. However, they spoke it enough that they can have entire conversations at a speed that no one can understand what they are saying. It is really only fun when there are other people in the room. That way we can hold entire conversations and no one really knows what we’re talking about.”

Jessica said she seems to remember running across someone at Carnegie Melon University that also knew Space Talk well enough to hold a conversation. It is definitely not as common as Pig Latin which I heard all throughout middle school and school.

The interesting thing about Space Talk, or even Pig Latin, is they seem to find a middle ground between English and a true second language. While it may sound quite foreign to a passerby, once you know the secret to manipulating words, you can start to understand bits and pieces almost immediately. It is not a language the can really define any specific culture or group, but it is as much an oral tradition as telling jokes.


Original script/version:

“I was told that when I had the hiccups, the best way to get rid of them quickly was to scare them away! It is a little difficult to be scared when you are expecting it, but the idea is to somehow have someone startle me enough to get rid of my hiccups.”

“I was originally told this trick by my older brother when I was about seven. I had a really bad case of the hiccups and I was almost in tears. My brother really liked to give me a bad time, so I think that was part of it. It did actually work the first couple times I had the hiccups. Then I think I expected it too much and it stopped working.”

Kyla said she thinks this might have just been a way for her brother to screw around with her. I don’t know very much about hiccups, and have never tried to have them “scared” away, but it doesn’t seem very plausible to me.

This could be related to a form of shock treatment. Some native Americans would alternate between sitting in a sauna and jumping in a ice cold river because they thought it was good for their body. Likewise, it could be believed that a sudden jolt would cause the body to change enough to stop the hiccups.

Tradition – Latvian

Original script/version:

“On the first day of spring, it’s tradition to give pussy willows to people, so when my parents came to visit me, they gave me a vase-full.

My grandmother showed me this tradition.  She was born and raised in Latvia, had her first daughter there, and my dad was actually born in Germany during WWII because his father was off fighting in the war and my grandmother had to pack up everything she could carry and take her daughter and start walking- all while pregnant with my father.  There is a very large Latvian community in Willimantic, CT which is the town next to the one I grew up in.  A lot of Latvian traditions were part of my childhood, but bringing Pussywillows for Spring was a big one.  It’s fun because they are these branches with these soft little buds on them- they feel like a cat.  As to what it means, I think it’s simply an offering of some sort, like poinsettas at Christmas or Lillies at Easter.”

I agree with Kate in her suggestion that the giving of these pussy willows is some sort of an offering. It could possibly have to do with trying to bring prosperity and good fortune in the spring. A pussy willow is not the most beautiful of flowers, its possible that it was an abundant flower in the region of Switzerland where the tradition originated.