Text: “On Korean New Year, people eat rice cake soup and on birthdays people eat seaweed soup.”
Context: The informant is Korean-American. Her parents immigrated from Korea but the informant grew up in the United States and moved around different states as a child. The informant is 21 years old and she currently attends the University of Southern California. The informant grew up with these Korean traditions. The rice cake soup is called tteokguk and is made with sliced rice cakes, beef or chicken broth, and multiple garnishes such as egg and seaweed. The soup is said to bring good luck and fortune at the start of the year. The seaweed soup is called miyeok-guk. This traditional soup is made with seaweed, beef, and various seasonings. This soup is regarded as a means of celebrating a person’s life and health for another year. This is a tradition because it’s a reminder of the value of nutrition and good health in preserving a long and happy life.
Analysis: I was very interested to learn about these traditional soups from the informant because I don’t have many food traditions like this in my culture. The closest traditional food I eat is a birthday cake. I’ve never heard of traditional soups for birthdays and New Year. I’m fascinated by the Korean traditions that are dedicated to good luck and life preservation. These seem to be common themes in Korean culture.
“Life sucks and you die”
The informant is in her mid-50s and currently living in Tampa, Florida. She told me about the phrase “life sucks and you die.” She says this phrase because she says that this brings reality to life and can sometimes put things into perspective. The informant told me that she’s tired of life seeming unreal and fake on social media and how we have unrealistic expectations about what life should look like. The informant uses this phrase to express frustration with life or as a coping mechanism for difficult circumstances. However, she also uses it as a humorous or ironic statement.
The informant learned this phrase from her mom when she was a young adult living in Boston. The informant stated that this phrase was commonly used by comedian Bill Hicks, who frequently used the expression in his stand-up comedy routines in the 1990s. Her mom heard it from this comedian and frequently started saying it and then the informant picked it up.
While it is true that life can be challenging at times, it is important to remember that there are also many positive experiences and opportunities that life can offer. Focusing only on the negative aspects of life can lead to a sense of hopelessness, which can have a detrimental impact on mental and emotional well-being. I understand the informant’s reasonings for saying this expression, but I prefer to maintain a more optimistic view of life.
This phrase is a minor genre of folklore because it is a popular American expression that people use to express their pessimism for life or even just express their dissatisfaction when life gets rough.
“Wicked” used in sayings like “It’s wicked cold outside.”
The informant is in her mid 50’s and is currently living in Tampa, Florida. She grew up in Massachusetts about 20 minutes outside of Boston. She was born in MA and lived there for around 35 years before moving down to Florida. The informant often uses “wicked” in place of “very.” Examples would include phrases like “The line was wicked long” or “The price of that meal was wicked expensive.” The informant usually doesn’t use this phrase in Florida but whenever she visits Boston, she uses this word a lot. The informant also uses this word a lot when she talks to her family in New England on the phone. The informant says she especially uses this phrase when she’s talking to her dad because her dad loves using this word and so the informant makes sure to match his language. The informant’s dad is also from MA and has only ever spent time in New England.
The use of the word “wicked” in New England can be traced back to the region’s colonial roots. The Puritans who settled in the area brought with them a rigid moral code, and the word “wicked” was often used to describe anything sinful. Over time, however, the word began to be used more broadly to mean “very” or “extremely”, perhaps as a way of adding emphasis without resorting to profanity. The usage of “wicked” is largely confined to New England because the region has historically been somewhat separated from the rest of the country. This isolation, combined with the region’s unique dialect and cultural traditions, may have helped to preserve the use of “wicked” as a regionalism.
This is a popular phrase and is a type of minor genre in folklore. This phrase connects people and gives people from New England something in common. If you ever hear a person saying this phrase it’s a giveaway that they’re from New England. I interpret this word to mean “very.” However, I think this word will always have a slightly negative connotation for me just because I’m used to hearing my mom and grandpa use it to complain about things. Also, the word wicked will always have a negative connotation for me because I’ve always compared this word to evil, even though in the informant’s context that’s not what it means at all.