Author Archives: Will Hagle

Folk Speech/Games

The phrase as performed by Pam:  “Eenie Meenie Minie Mo, Catch A Nigger By His Toe.  If He Hollers Let Him Go, Eenie Meenie Minie Mo.”

Pam said that she used this chant as a child to pick sides for games such as tag and kick the can.  Every person that wanted to play the game would put their shoes together in a circle, and one person would be the “counter.”  The counter would touch one person’s shoe for each word of the phrase, moving clockwise around the circle.  When the counter reached the final word, “Mo,” whoever’s shoe he or she was touching would be “out.”  Then, the process would continue until every shoe except for one would be touched and out.  That person would be “it” for the game, the position that nobody wanted to be in.

Pam said she probably learned this phrase from one of the kids in her neighborhood.  They would play games like tag and kick the can after school, and this phrase would almost always be used in order to designate who was “it.”

Pam said that she doesn’t remember using the term in a derogatory way, but she just remembers hearing people say it all the time.  Even though Pam grew up in a northern state (IL), this phrase was used not long after segregation ended.  Because she played these games before the popularization of the Civil Rights movement, she said that children would utter the phrase without second thought.  She now realizes that the phrase is racist, but she did not realize this as a child.

Even though Pam explained that the word “nigger” was not considered derogatory within her friend group, I think it was still likely a racist term.  However, the children that performed this phrase were probably unaware of that fact.  The phrase had likely been passed down for generations in the United States, blatantly representing racist values of white Americans.  The phrase also represents the tendency for children to experiment with their new understanding of words.  Even though most of the words are nonsensical, performance of the phrase demonstrates a child’s ability to rhyme correctly.

It is interesting to note that I also played this game as a child.  However, instead of saying the word “nigger,” we would say “Tiger.”  I had never heard of this earlier version of the phrase.  This difference most likely stems from the fact that people have become more racially conscious, social groups have become more racially mixed and people have become more politically correct.  That the phrase represents an extreme shift in popular culture in regards to racial tension.

Curse— Chicago

The curse as described by Jim:  “The owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago wanted to bring his goat to a Cubs game in 1945.  He wanted to bring the goat in, but the owner of the Cubs prohibited him.  So, he put a curse on the Cubs by saying that they were no longer going to win.  The Cubs have tried to get rid of the curse, but they haven’t been able to break it… because they haven’t been back to a world series since 1945.  There have been other occurrences proving that the curse is true.  For instance, the Cubs were five outs from going to the World Series in 2003.  Then, a foul ball was hit to left field.  A fan, the now infamous Steve Bartman, interfered with the fly ball which made left fielder Moises Alou angry.  Then, the Cubs lost the next two games.  That proves the curse is true.”

Jim told me that he believes wholeheartedly in this curse, as it’s his duty as a Cubs fan to stay loyal.  He explained that there’s no other explanation for why the Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945.  He said that he believes the curse will one day be broken, but he’s not sure how that will be accomplished.

Jim said that he learned about the curse from his father when he was growing up.  His father was a huge Cubs fan, which influenced his team preference.  Jim also said that every Cubs fan should know about the curse.  He mentioned that it’s perpetuated by the media, who reference it after losing Cubs seasons.

At the simplest level, this curse is used as justification/an excuse for why the Cubs have not been to the World Series since 1945.  The team is known for its losing seasons, and this is an easy way for fans to justify their losses and feel better about the team.  For instance, when the aforementioned mishaps involving Steve Bartman occurred in 2003, it was easier to blame the curse than the actual players involved with losing the games leading up to the World Series.

The curse is also a way to shape the identities of Cubs fans.  Jim mentioned that all Cubs fans should know about the curse.  While most non-fans wouldn’t believe in the curse, true Cubs fans do… giving its fans a sense of community and camaraderie.

This curse is similar to other baseball curses like “The Curse of The Bambino,” which was supposedly placed on the Red Sox after the team traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920.  However, the curse was “broken” in 2004 when the Red Sox finally won the World Series.

This curse is referenced in Issue #250 of the Hellblazer comic book series, in which main character John Constantine is hired to break the curse.


The proverb as performed by Jim:  “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”

Jim told me that he learned this proverb around fifteen years ago from a lawyer in Tennessee.  The two were working on a case together and discussing settlement terms.  The opposing side didn’t offer as much money as Jim wanted, so the other lawyer told him about this “Tennessee saying.”  The phrase stuck with Jim, because it taught him the lesson that one should never be too greedy.

Jim said that the proverb, very simply, means that a little greed and competition results in gain, but too much is never healthy.  Since originally hearing the proverb, Jim said he uses this phrase as a guiding principle in his law practice.  He references it if clients are unhappy with the amount of money that they’re set to get.  He said that clients need to hear this proverb because they often think that their cases are worth more than they actually are.  Jim said that people need to learn to be reasonable.  Jim also uses this proverb in his daily life, but applies it most often in the workplace.

For the most part, I agree with Jim’s interpretation of the proverb.  A “pig” generally refers to a greedy person, or one who indulges in something.  Therefore, “Pigs get fat” signifies that a little bit of greed results in happiness or success.  When applied to humans, “Hog” has a more negative connotation than “pig,” generally meaning extremely greedy.  “Hogs get slaughtered,” then, signifies that those that are too greedy ultimately end up with nothing.

It’s interesting to note that, for at least a small network of attorneys, this proverb has become a form of occupational folklore.  Most of the attorneys at Jim’s law practice use this proverb as a loose guiding principle, and Jim has thanked the Tennessee lawyer for teaching him the saying.  Because law practices generally deal with taking money from people, this proverb acts as a type of moral compass for the job.

Foodways— Chicago

Jim told me that the Chicago hot dog has to have the right bread— A Mary Ann poppy seed bun.  This is a specific brand, but any other brand of bun immediately disqualifies the hot dog as a Chicago dog.  It also has to have a Vienna brand hot dog, made with all beef rather than pork.  Condiments on the Chicago dog always include mustard, relish, chopped onions (he emphasized that they must be chopped), tomato, two hot peppers (one on each half), and seasoning salt.

At this point, Jim emphasized that you can never put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog.  He jokingly said that you cannot chemically put ketchup on a hot dog, as it would have an adverse reaction.  He said that the only people that put ketchup on hot dogs don’t really know how to eat a hot dog.  He said that that’s just not how it’s supposed to be.  If you put ketchup on a hot dog, you’re not from Chicago.  While discussing the idea of ketchup and hot dogs, Jim became very passionate and animated, raising his voice and making sure that I got the message.  In a seemingly serious tone, he said that he feels shameful and embarrassed when his friends put ketchup on their hot dogs.

Jim said that he learned the Chicago hot dog tradition just by growing up in Chicago.  He said that every few blocks there would be a hot dog stand, and each hot dog would be prepared in the same way.  He said that you’d be asked to leave one of these stands if you ask for ketchup on a hot dog.  Once again, he emphasized that the practice is not acceptable in Chicago.  Jim didn’t have a clear answer for why the Chicago hot dog is prepared this way or insightful analysis on what the Chicago hot dog means, he simply claimed that that’s the only way he knows how to eat a hot dog.  His family and his friend’s families would prepare hot dogs with slight brand variation, but they would never put ketchup on the meat.

This specific hot dog preparation likely exists as a form of identity for Chicago citizens.  As Jim said, “If you put ketchup on a hot dog, you’re not from Chicago.”  Even though Jim had no idea where this tradition came from, he still felt strongly connected with it because it was a part of his culture growing up in the city.  The tradition is likely a way to distinguish locals from outsiders and tourists, ultimately uniting Chicago citizens.

It is also a way for Chicagoans to connect throughout the world, as there are many “Chicago restaurants” located in different cities that usually prepare hot dogs in this manner.  Furthermore, it offers something for tourists to try when they come to Chicago.  It provides a unique experience for tourists that want to experience the local culture.  The companies that make the specific buns and beef likely attempt to keep the “official” hot dog a staple in Chicago society in order to continue to make money.


The game as explained by Luke:  “When someone farts they must say ‘Safety’ before anyone else says ‘Doorknob.’  If they do not say ‘Safety’ first, then others have license to beat the shit out of, tickle, poke, or do whatever they want with that person until they either touch a doorknob.  Or until they spell ‘doorknob’ backwards, but people don’t usually use that rule.”

Luke explained that he learned this game from his family.  He has two older brothers, and they would take joy in beating him up if he forgot to say “Safety.”  His sisters would join in the game as well, but it was primarily played amongst the men of the family.  He said that he would also play this game with his friends, but he mostly played it when he was younger with his other family members.  Luke explained that the game was ongoing, and occurred any time after someone passed gas.  There wasn’t a set time that people played, it just happened.

Luke said that the game means that people have found ways to exploit bodily functions, a kind of universal common ground like talking about the weather, to bond and grow as a social group.  He said that he thinks the game exists because it combines the humor of farting and the joy of punishment.  Also, it has an element of danger and competition.

I agree with Luke’s surprisingly insightful analysis.  I also had a similar experience playing this game growing up, as I mostly played it with my family members and close friends.  This demonstrates that the act of passing gas is natural, and deemed acceptable with people that you are comfortable around.

Also, farting is something that is usually tabboo in modern popular culture, but this game makes it acceptable and fun.  Because those that have to deal with the repercussions of another person’s flatulence are usually uncomfortable or unhappy, this game gives them the chance to return the favor by beating on the one that passed gas in an acceptable manner.