Author Archives: starryskies

Blood Type Korean Hierarchy

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 23

Occupation: Student

Residence: New York City

Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2021

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Korean

Background: 

MB is a mixed-race American and spent parts of his childhood in South Korea. There he got introduced to Korean culture and this is his recount of one belief that he remembers. MB – informant. SD – collector

Performance:

MB (over facetime): In Korea, people are really into blood type. It’s sort of like how astrology is in the US. When people meet each other, they ask what their blood type is to size them up.

SD: Whoa, that’s fascinating. So is there a hierarchy to different blood types then? Like what do you infer from them?

MB: I think O is the best because that one can match with anyone. Like medically, O blood types can donate to everyone. 

SD: Interesting, I’ve never heard of that before

MB: Yea, it’s like a conversation starter over there. 

Analysis:

This story was truly shocking to me because, usually, I have some idea of what the informant is talking about, but I was not expecting this story. I think that astrology isn’t as big of a deal in the East as it is in the West, and so places like Korea have adopted new systems to size people. It is possible that people know their blood types from a young age (I know that to be true in India), and so it is information known by everyone. I don’t exactly know how the hierarchy was established, but it seems like medical reasoning can be behind it. I think this story signifies the need for most cultures to have a system that classifies people, so there can be group identity, but also ways to differentiate people. 

Don’t break the pole

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 23

Occupation: Student

Residence: New York City

Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2021

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Korean

Context: As a NYC resident, MB says the following folk belief might just be applicable to his city. MB – informant. SD – interviewer

Performance:

MB: I’m sure you’ve heard this but you don’t break the pole when you’re walking with your friends.

SD: I haven’t heard this actually. 

MB: So basically, when you and another friend are walking, you both go on one side of the pole. You can’t have one person go on one side of the pole and the other person on the other side, you both go on the same side. 

SD: Okay, so is this like an American cultural thing, or a Korean thing…

MB: I don’t think it’s a national thing, it’s probably just a New York thing because there are so many poles here (laughs). When I was in high school my friends and I would always make fun of it, like don’t break the pole or we won’t be friends anymore (laughs again).

Analysis:

This is an example of a super specific belief or superstition that is brought about because of the geography of the place. As MB says, NYC has a lot of street lights and construction poles, so local residents probably came up with this belief. The meaning of this belief is that if you go on either side of the pole, you will break your friendship as the pole has come between you and your friend. However, I think this belief is loose and can be a joke as MB stated at the end. People joke around and mess with their friends by saying that they will go around to the other side of the pole and break their friendship. Obviously, this doesn’t happen, but it’s a good example of a superstition that has been turned into a joke.  

Indian proverb about fate

Context & Background:

Indian proverbs relating to death and fate. Translated from Hindi to English. Informant: an old lady from Rajasthan who is my late grandfather’s family friend.

Performance: (via phone call)

Proverb: “Jakho Rake Saiya, Maar Sake Na Koi”

Transliteration:

Jakho: Whoever

Rake: Keep

Saiya: God

Maar: Kill

Sake: able to 

Na: not

Koi: anyone

Translation: Whoever god wants to save, no one can kill them.   

Explanation: This proverb says to have faith in God or fate, and if you have that no one can kill you.       

Analysis:  

This sounds a lot like a religious proverb, but I don’t think it relates to Hinduism as much as Indian culture. India is a mix of many religions, including a lot of Muslims and Sikhs. The proverb doesn’t state any particular God, just one that you believe in. India is a very faithful country and most people have some sort of relation to a higher power. The proverb is used to reduce worry and have trust, like all faith related sayings. This proverb, unfortunately, is very prominent today in India because of the Covid-19 Pandemic and India is suffering from many deaths in its second wave. As we have family members in India, we use this proverb to keep us hopeful and trust in the higher power. This proverb is also used when to explain miracles that save people’s lives and tragedies that take people’s lives. 

Nail Clippings & Superstition

Context & Background:

Informant: Friend from south India. In India, there is a major difference in cultures of the south and north. The languages are completely different and so are the customs. It is considered that the two parts of the country can act like two different countries. Here a friend talks about south Indian tradition about fingernails and their etiquette. 

Performance: (via phone call)

I was thinking about what you told me and I’ve noticed that we have some weird superstitions about nails. Like nails on your fingers and toes. For one, we don’t cut our nails on Thursday because it’s bad luck. And also, you can’t drop your nail clippings on the ground cause that’s bad luck too. Even if your nail accidentally breaks, you can’t be lazy and drop it on the ground – you have to go and properly dispose of it in the bathroom or trash. 

Analysis:

I’ve never heard of superstition about nails and don’t know that much about south Indian culture, but when I asked the friend about why that is, they had no idea. Sometimes there are superstitions that make no sense whatsoever and this might be one of them. I can’t help but think that in western culture, when witches make their potions, nails are included in their recipes. It might be because they are a waste item and aren’t useful, hence they are associated with bad luck and witches. 

Tennis Serves

Context & Background:

Informant: High school friend and tennis partner. Collected via telephone. This conversation highlights one of the common beliefs in the game of tennis. As high school tennis players, this belief wasn’t taught like the rules of the game, but rather picked up on by practice and seeing senior players play. RK – informant, SD – collector

Performance: (via phone call)

RK: One thing I remember from tennis is the time I took too long to serve the ball. I couldn’t get the toss right for the serve, so I tried like five or more times to toss the ball. Take in mind that I was a beginner, an absolute freshman, so I didn’t know the unspoken rules. But yea, basically, you’re not supposed to take more than 2 or 3 tosses to serve. I found out when some guy who was watching yelled at me, “you don’t have all day!” (laughs)

SD: Oh my god, I’ve had the same thing happen to me, and you’re right, you aren’t really aware of this until you actually start playing. 

RK: To be fair, I still do that to mess with people sometimes. Just kidding! (laughs again). 

Analysis:

When I first started playing tennis, I felt exactly like RK. I too didn’t know about the toss limit for serving, although it is very common knowledge in the sport. There are unspoken rules in many games and it is a type of folklore to know them, spread it to younger players, and keep the knowledge going. Another unspoken rule might be that, at least in girls tennis in the high school level, before the conference or match, the team captain would pat on the butt for good luck and a sort of ‘you got this’ moment. Sports folklore is there, it’s just hard to know if you aren’t part of the sports community, just like all other folklore.