Author Archives: Sirarpi Muradian

High School Senior Pranks

Main Piece

My informant explains that her old high school has an age-old rival high school in the same city. She remembers that the graduating seniors of every year would perform a prank on the rival school, and the rival school would do the same. These pranks were usually harmless, but sometimes costly to recover from. She remembers that in her senior year of high school, a few seniors from her school dyed the rival school’s pool purple, which was her school’s colors. The rival school, looking for revenge, threw two queen-sized mattresses in her school’s pool, which absorbed a large amount of water, making it impossible to lift them out of the pool without a crane. She laughed as she recounted these memories to me.

Background

My informant is a college student studying Business. She was school spirited in high school and claims to have always participated in senior activities with her classmates. She explains that nobody she asked could remember how the rivalry between the two high schools started. However, according to my informant, it is not hard to draw conclusions. Both schools were located in the same small suburb of Los Angeles, ranked academically high, and held strong sports teams. She concludes that these factors may have caused, in her own words, this “friendly, but not-so-friendly” rivalry between the two high schools. She explains that in addition to the senior pranks, there would be one school day out of the entire academic year dedicated to pep rallies and parties to encourage the football team to beat the rival school later that day. She explains that these schools were rivals in every way, but her favorite part of the rivalry was the senior pranks.

Context

These senior pranks are performed by high school seniors. Faculty members knew about the pranks and were aware of the plans for the pranks, but never interfered with them unless they saw a safety issue or a health hazard that could possibly result from the pranks. Usually, these pranks were performed later in the year, when most seniors suffered from “senioritis” and would rather organize pranks than do any more schoolwork. 

My Thoughts

I attended the same high school as my informant, and can attest to the large-scale rivalry between these two high schools. The pranks that the seniors performed were generally creative and inventive, but the pranks were not as important as the act of organizing these pranks. Students came together after school to meticulously plan their pranks to perfection. This goes to show that the prank itself was not important. The value of this tradition came from the act of coming together. 

High school seniors are in a liminal period. They are transitioning from their identity as a student to their identity as an adult, whether they enter the workforce or go off to college. Senior pranks are a form of rite of passage. According to French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep, practical jokes and pranks such as senior pranks are performed during these liminal times to ease the tensions and anxieties that come with the transition. Thus, we can conclude that senior pranks were a way to smoothen the transition from student to adult for high school seniors. 

Ambulance Chasers

Main Piece

Informant: “We [corporate lawyers] call personal injury attorneys “ambulance chasers.” We mean this as a joke, obviously, but sometimes we … don’t. There’s this stereotype that personal injury attorneys chase around ambulances in order to add the injured persons to their clientele. It’s… it’s a real thing that people do. I know it’s unbelievable but people do it out of desperation. But this is actually illegal and it goes against Rule 7.3 of the ABA (American Bar Association), because you’re basically seeking out people who are in a time of severe distress and are unable to properly think about what they’re doing and who they’re hiring.”

Background

My informant is a General Litigation Lawyer at a major corporate law firm based in Century City, California. He has been working in his field for over five years. My informant admits to using this term a few times when describing unethical practices by personal injury lawyers.

Context

This phrase is used often in a professional environment, but not professionally and in private from one lawyer to another. This phrase can be used in the office, courtrooms, and depositions, but it would not be told in front of others. One lawyer might use this term when speaking to another fellow lawyer, but it would not be said “on record.” This kind of language would be considered unprofessional, so it is told in private. This term is almost always used as a degrading term pertaining to all personal injury lawyers.

My Thoughts

Since I am planning to pursue a career in law, I was familiar with this phrase. The first time I heard this phrase was from one of my political science professors. I believe, like all other stereotypes, that this phrase is not an accurate representation of all those that it pertains to. But, like some stereotypes, it may hold some truths to it. Since ambulance-chasing goes against American Bar Association ethics codes, using this phrase helps to discourage unethical behavior on behalf of the personal injury lawyers. Therefore, the use of this stereotype may be a helpful one as it shames unethical behavior. 

This is a term that neither I nor my informant have ever heard used outside of legal occupations. Therefore, this phrase is a good example of occupational folklore, or folklore that is better understood or widely used within a particular folk group. This is not to say that those outside of the lawyer folk group are not allowed to use it; they will just not be able to extract the full meaning of the word without working in that occupation.

The use of this phrase suggests that there is an unwritten hierarchy in the field of law. Corporate lawers, like my informant, tend to see themselves as higher-ranking and better lawyers than personal injury lawyers. This can give us insight into lawyer culture because we can see that higher-paid lawyers will look down upon lower-paid lawyers and fail to realize that both positions in the field of law are honorable.

For further reading about occupational folklore, see Robert McCarl’s chapter in Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups And Folklore Genres: An Introduction titled “Occupational Folklore.”

Iranian Flu Medicine

Main Piece

Heat up one whole lemon and 3 garlic cloves until soft and mash with a fork. Strain the mixture and take one spoonful every morning to prevent sickness. 

Background

My informant was born and raised in Iran. She remembers the flu, and how it ravaged through her elementary school. Her mother, to protect her, made a blended concoction consisting of one whole lemon, including the peel and pulp, and three or four cloves of garlic. Because she did not have any kitchen equipment that could properly blend the ingredients together, she resorted to heating up the lemon and garlic until it was soft enough to mash with a fork. After mashing, she would strain the mixture to get rid of any extra-large pieces, and fed one teaspoon-full to my informant every morning before school. My informant adds that she hated the taste but took this “medicine” every morning nonetheless because her mother insisted it would keep her safe. My informant concludes that the medicine must have worked, as she was the only child in her class that did not fall sick with the flu. 

Context

This medicine is made when someone is sick or in danger of falling sick. The purpose is to prevent or cure illnesses. 

My Thoughts

Being born and raised in America and going through the American school system, I never paid much attention to medicinal practices that were not Westernized. When my informant told me about this medicine, I was skeptical and doubted that it would actually be effective. But further upon further research, I discovered that the ingredients used in this recipe contain many natural antibiotics and vitamin C. Therefore, the workings of this folk medicine are completely logical and valid. In America, Western medicine is the widely accepted practice, and most ethnic home remedies are frowned upon. But there is logic to these home remedies, or they would not be so widely used in other countries. Using ingredients such as garlic in folk medicine is an ancient practice. For further information about garlic’s role in folk medicine, see the cited article under the subheading titled “Medicinal History.”

Sources:

Kilham, Chris. “Garlic.” MEDICINE HUNTER | Medicine Hunter, www.medicinehunter.com/Garlic#:~:text=As%20a%20folk%20remedy%2C%20garlic,gastroenteritis%2C%20and%20to%20expel%20worms.&text=The%20father%20of%20medicine%2C%20Hippocrates,and%20for%20healing%20abdominal%20growths. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Iranian Nursery Rhyme

Main Piece

Original Script

Phonetic Script

Pinky miguyad, “boxzarit dozdi konam”

Angoshte halghe miporsid, “che chizi ra mitavonim bedozdim?”

Angoshte vasat eztehar mikonad, “chizi bozorg va taloey”

Angoshte eshare miporsid, “che kasi pasokhe khoda ra midehad?”

Angoshte shest pasokh midahad, “man boyad zira man bozorg va ghavi hastam.”

Transliteration

Pinky said, “let me steal do.”

Finger ring asked, “what thing we can steal doing?”

Finger middle declare doing, “something big and goldy.”

Finger pointing asks, “who answer God will?”

Finger thumb answered, “I shall, since I big and strong am.”

Translation

The pinky says, “Let us steal”

The ring finger asks, “What can we steal?”

The middle finger declares, “Something big and gold!”

The index finger asks, “Who shall answer to God?”

The thumb answers, “I shall, for I am big and strong.” 

Background 

My informant’s mother used to recite this nursery rhyme to her when she was little. My informant says that nursery rhymes pertaining to the fingers are very common in Iran, and there are many children’s books dedicated to giving fingers personalities. This particular rhyme, my informant believes, was local to her family because her schoolmates weren’t familiar with it. She believes that the purpose of this nursery rhyme was to teach her about the existence of roles in society. She associated the physical stature (length and width) of each of her fingers with certain personality traits. For example, the pinky is the weaker person who suggests to sin and steal, the ring finger is the accomplice, the middle finger is the materialist, the index finger is the responsible one who reminds them of the consequences of their actions, and the thumb is the voluntary scapegoat that sacrifices himself so that the hand can succeed.

Context

This nursery rhyme was told to teach children about the types of people in society. My informant cannot recall the first time she heard this from her mother, but can confirm that it was a common occurrence during her playtime hours with her mother. 

My Thoughts 

I think societal roles are an interesting concept to teach children. It is very difficult to try to teach children about the different types of people. Usually, that is learned through experience. I thought of this nursery rhyme as a type of cautionary tale, as if it is telling us to stay away from the pinky, ring and middle finger personalities and make acquaintance with the index finger and thumb personalities. My informant was young when she heard this rhyme, so it seems fitting that her mother would warn her about the different types of people in this world so that my informant can surround herself with good people in school. 

Iranian New Year Tradition (Haft-sin)

Name: Haft-sin (هفت‌سین)

Main Piece

Me: So, I know people in Iran celebrate their New Year next month.

Informant: Yeah, Nowruz. It’s in March, but I’m not sure what day it’s on because it’s always different I think.

Me: Is there anything you guys do on that day? Or any particular dish that is traditional for New Years?

Informant: Well, yeah there are foods that are usually on the table but that’s not… I guess it’s not as important as Haft-sin (written: هفت‌سین). I don’t… have you heard of that?

Me: No, never.

Informant: Ok ok. So, there’s a small table, maybe off to the corner, and we put seven foods that start with the letter “s” on it. It doesn’t need to be cooked food or prepared in anyway because we don’t have to eat it. This is supposed to keep evil spirits away and bring good luck for the rest of the year.

Me: Oh, so you don’t have to eat these things, you just have to have them there.

Informant: Yeah, yeah. It’s stuff like vinegar and spices that you can’t really just eat like that, so…

Me: Can you tell me what your family puts on the table?

Informant: Yeah, we put garlic (سیر –  pronounced “seer”). We put sabzeh (سبزی), which is some type of green herb. I’m not sure how you say it in English, sorry!

Me: Oh that’s ok!

Informant: Yeah, then we put vinegar, like I said. It’s called serkeh (سرکه). We also put this pudding called samanu (سمنو). I can’t translate that either, and I’m not even sure what went in it, but it was kind of sweet. And then my mom sprinkled sumac on the table, too. You know sumac.

Me: Yeah.

Informant: Yeah, we pronounce it somakh (سماق). And then we put apples, which is seeb (سیب). And olives, which is senjed (سنجد). And then… that’s it I think. And my mom liked to decorate the table with flowers and candles. 

Me: That’s interesting. So, was this the standard? You had to have all seven of these things on that table and decorate it with flowers to have good luck?

Informant: Well, my mom always did it this way because she… she said it was the right way to do it. But pretty much, everyone just decorated it how they wanted to. I don’t think flowers were the standard.

Me: So you just put these on a table in the corner and it brings good luck?

Informant: Yeah, that was the point. I mean, it doesn’t have to be in a corner, I was just saying that. But yeah, it was supposed to keep evil spirits and evil people out of your house that year. I don’t know if it ever worked, but we always did it anyways, so…

Me: Did you personally like this tradition? Do you feel like you would do it in the future if it were left up to you?

Informant: Yeah. Yeah I think I would. Mainly because I want my kids to know the tradition. But I wouldn’t expect it to actually work. I would do it, but not to keep the evil spirits away.

Me: Right, right. So just to keep the tradition alive.

Informant: Mhmm.

Background

My informant was born and raised in Iran, and she remembers this tradition being performed every year. She explains that her mother is the one that kept the tradition alive in the household.

Context

Haft-sin is performed every Iranian New Year on March 22. According to my informant, this tradition is more widely performed in Iran than it is in the United States, where my informant currently resides.

My Thoughts 

I had never heard of this before. We don’t have anything like this in my culture, and I have never been exposed to this in America. This is an interesting tradition, and I wondered what the significance was of putting each of these foods on the table. For more information on this, visit the first citation at the bottom of the page. In summation of the information on the website, “Sabzeh is a symbol of rebirth and renewal of nature. Samanu represents fertility and the sweetness of life. Senjed is for love and affection. Serkeh… symbolizes patience and age. Seeb…is a symbol of health and beauty. Seer…is for good health and Somaq…symbolizes the sunrise and the spice of life.”

I found it interesting that seven is the lucky number in Iran, much like it is here in America. Upon further research, I found that the number seven held enormous significance in Iranian culture. For more information on the lucky number seven, visit the second citation at the bottom of the page, which is an article from the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.

Sources:

Bakhtiari, Parisa. “All About Haft-Sin: The 7 ‘S’ of Iranian New Year.” SURFIRAN, 28 Mar. 2021, surfiran.com/all-about-haft-sin-the-7-s-of-iranian-new-year/. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Shahbazi, A. Shapur. “HAFT (seven), the “heptad” & Its Cultural Significance in Iranian History – (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies – CAIS)©.” The of the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)©, www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Culture/haft.htm. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.