Author Archives: RPM

La Llorona

My brother claimed to know the story of La Llorona and recounted it here:

“In some poor part of Mexico, supposedly some lady went crazy and drowned her kids or killed them somehow.

And now she goes around crying ‘n shit about her kids.

And if she sees a little kid being bad or something… bad to parents, she snatches them away and takes them. And then she probably does to them what she did to her kids.”

I’ve heard many versions of this tale. In some she is intended to be more believable than in others. In this one she is a less developed character so her actions are given more attention than her motives. She punishes children that are out of their parents’ control without personal reasons. This suggests to the children that their transgressions are so grave they will not go unnoticed and are the concern of greater powers. Parents tell their children this tale to instill a fear in children they hope will make them more obedient.

Korean Food Generosity

An informant who is from a Korean family was explaining her family’s tendency to try and overfeed guests as a sign of being a good host. Here she recounts an experience she had with food during a visit in Turkey:

“When I was in Turkey they do a similar thing where they offer you way too much food and they just keep offering it to you.

But one difference I found there between the way Korean people and Turkish people do it was that Korean people eat everything on their plate and it’s rude not to eat everything on their plate.

Turkish people will keep giving you food if you eat everything , so they always leave a little bit on their plate to show, ‘Oh I’m good’.

So they kept giving me all this food, and I just kept eating it all. And it’s like rude not to eat it, like to me. So I just kept eating it, and they just kept giving me more!”

My informant also recounted how people at Korean restaurants would get into fights over who would pay the check and how this was due to a concern with generosity. It seems that the confusion in this encounter was because generosity was a very important part of etiquette and appearance for both cultures. The same extreme concern could be found in Turkish culture as her experience shows. However, each culture had a slight variation on how generosity was controlled. Turkish people seemed to let their guests determine when they’d had enough, while Korean hosts would have to at some point determine to stop feeding their guests.

Colors & Hand Signs in the Latin Kings

A friend who grew up on the South Side of Chicago explained a few of the meanings of iconography for the gang the Latin Kings:

Their colors are gold and black. Gold is supposed to represent like Life for the members. And black is supposed to be their blackness absorbing the other rival gangs.

Then they have the 5 Point Crown. The five points…each point stands for something. So it’s like Love, Unity, Knowledge, Respect and Honesty.

It’s either a 3 or 5 point Crown. It depends on the gang. Gangs that have more Mexicans have 3 points. The gangs that have more Puerto Ricans use the 5 point Crown.”

The existence of so much symbolism in gang iconography is part of the bonding of the gang. Unity is a major part of developing a gang mentality and symbolism can be employed to establish unity as an almost natural state outside of the manipulation of the gang. Discipline is also important to the success of a gang and the Latin Kings are known for their close knit control on their members’ discipline. The virtues expressed by this symbolism suggest a strict discipline if not moralism, although this may be relative to who they are interacting.

Cigarettes

A friend who has moved around the United States frequently during lifetime noted that there was a vast number of ways to refer to cigarettes.

In New Orleans, where he lived the most substantial part of his life, they were referred to as “Joes” :

“When I first got there people would ask, ‘Can I bum a Joe?’ ”

After his confusion subsided he realized Joe was not a person, but merely another coy way to ask a stranger to donate a cigarette. In different parts of the country he has also encountered:

Stoges, stogies, cigs, fags, and cancer sticks.

The regional renaming of cigarettes is a common phenomenon, particularly in places were smoking is still deeply entrenched in the culture.  People use these alternate terms to identify themselves, and potential test others, as frequent smokers who are intimate with the terminology of smoking of their region. Opting to use a term other than cigarettes is also used when someone is “bumming” – asking for a cigarette without anything in return. It is implied that if you yourself are a smoker you will understand the need to acquire a cigarette when someone has to ask to bum. People don’t necessarily want to bum, so if they are it is because they absolutely are fiending. As a good smoker, identified by your knowledge of alternate terms, you are expected to comply.

As All Get Out!

The following Southern expression was explained by someone who has mostly lived in the South (U.S.). He first, and most frequently encountered it in the state of Alabama:

“It’s really an emphatic expression. Basically you can say something [any noun] is as something [any adjective] as all get out!

For example, ‘That’s as cool as all get out!’ “

The informant has no background knowledge on the source or meaning of the phrase, and recognizes that it is definitely a rare one even in the context of the South.

Despite it’s apparent rareness this phrase showcases some of the most important characteristics of Southern speech. The phrase makes an active effort to avoid cursing, while still suggesting that the enactor was tempted to. That makes the phrase an expression of extreme feeling whether excitement or disapproval. You would be alerted to the severity of whatever prompted the phrase by the employing of Southern speech to express it properly. The phrase is also composed so that it may be reusable, any number of words could be inserted and although the meaning would change, it would remain a distinctly southern phrase.