Author Archives: Tobi Ogundipe

Proverb – Hawaii

“The Mene Hene will steal your things unless you clean your room.”

In order to get the subject to clean her room, her mother would tell her that the Mene Hene, (well known elfish beings in Hawaiian culture) would steal her things. The subject describes the Mene Hene as “thievish little elves.” To the subject, the story of the Mene Hene was her mother’s attempt to motivate the subject to not only clean her room, at any given point, but to also continue to keep her room clean for fear she would not be able to find her things (clothes, shoes, toys, etc.) when they were needed. Furthermore, it is important to note that the story of the Mene Hene was only told to her while her family still lived in Oahu, Hawaii.

I am sure if one were to look in other cultures they would find that there are many variations of this same saying. The creatures/ beings that will steal your things might be different but the effect is the same.

Ritual – Chinese

Notes:

Every birthday the subject eats either a meal of noodles or one single noodle. The noodle symbolizes good luck for the upcoming year. The subject’s mother also practices this ritual on her own birthday as well as the subject’s grandmother. The subject say’s that she learned the ritual from her mother and that the ritual stems from a “Chinese tradition rooted in one [their] staple foods.”

The ritual of eating noodles is very important to the subject in that she has repeated the ritual every year since the age of three. To prove this point, during my conversation with the subject she remembered that she had forgotten to eat a noodle on her birthday (just two days prior). She immediately prepared Ramen noodles and ate them.

When asked if she actually believed that something bad would happen to her if she did not eat a noodle/noodles on her birthday she said no but she has not gone through a birthday before without eating noodles and would “rather not risk it.”

It is also important to note that the variety of noodle does not matter (i.e. egg noodles, spaghetti, rice noodles, glass noodles, etc.) According to the subject, it is the act of eating anything “noodle like” on one’s birthday that is important. Upon further research the length of the noodles can also be a factor in whether the person will live a long life.

Story

Notes:

The subject’s grandfather and immediate family were out to dinner when the subject and his grandfather got into a disagreement. The subject’s grandfather yells at him. After the dinner the subject was still upset about the incident as he had never been yelled at before. His father explained why he never yells at him through an old saying

About the clouds and the sun…

“One day the Clouds and the Sun saw a man with a coat down on earth. The Cloud and Sun entered into a competition to see who would be able to make the man take off his coat first. The Cloud tried first by creating horrible howling winds which in turn only made the man tighten his coat. The Sun tried next by shinning brightly. The man in the coat, figuring it was a nice day and that he should enjoy it, took it off. “

The moral of the story, for the subject, was that you can achieve the same effect, if not better, if you are pleasant.  In an effect, the subject’s father never yelled at the subject because he felt that he could achieve the same end by not raising his voice.

I think that the subject’s father gave the subject that illustration to capture the essence of his parenting style. We can only assume that the father used the illustration to also indicate that his father, the subject’s grandfather, had another style of parenting probably symbolized by the sun in the story.

Ritual

Notes:

During a high school health class, the subject’s health teacher explained that she was in the kitchen with a friend. The friend was cooking a pot roast and before putting the pot roast in a pot she cut off both ends. The health teacher asked her friend why she cut off the ends and the friend responded “that’s just how my mom always did it” but the health teacher’s friend said that she would ask her mother.

A few days later the health teacher’s friend came back and told her mother cut off both ends because her mother (the friends grandmother) cut them off. The health teacher’s friend was able to ask her grandmother why she cut off the ends of the pot roast and the grandmother replied “because it wouldn’t fit in the pot!”

The health teacher explained to the subject and her class that the underlying meaning to the story was that sometimes there is no underlying story and the and that the reasons why people perform what may seem to be a ritual is completely logical.

Saying – Chinese

Notes:

The subject’s parents told him that if a person pulls together their fingers on one hand and there are gaps between their fingers then that person is deemed to be greedy. The subject further explained the reasoning behind the saying: “The person is greedy because no matter how much they grab—how much they have in their hands—it will continuously slip through the gaps between the person’s fingers.” The inability of the person to ever assess how much they have in their hands is indicative of the person’s insatiability.

When the subject was asked what this means to him he replied, “I don’t know because I don’t have gaps between my fingers and for the most part I am a pretty giving person.” My question would be what would happen if a child did have gaps between their fingers? Is that person automatically destined to be greedy?  Does the saying also extend to those who are poor?