Awkward Silences are Called Tumbleweeds

Z is the informant, L is interviewer

Main Piece

Z: So in Texas, when there’s an akward silence or an awkward moment, we call it a tumbleweed.


L: So when a tumbleweed happens, what do you do?


Z: We don’t really call it a tumbleweed until after it’s happened. Like if we’re referencing a different awkward moment we’ll be like “oh that was a tumbleweed.” Now that I think about it, that’s so southern, oh my god. But yeah, it would be very weird if an awkward silence was happening and someone was just like, “oh this is a tumbleweed.” Like, it’s never a thing that’s mentioned at the time, it’s always in reference to it.


L: Do you know why?


Z: I think it had something to do with the fact that before the cowboys did their gun-dueling thing, like when they paused and waited to like, do the thing, there would be like, a tumbleweed that went by in the movies. I think that’s where it came from. It’s very Texan.



The informant is from Dallas, Texas.


Nationality: American


Location: Los Angeles, CA



I asked if she had any very Texan folklore



This story reminded me a lot of “awkward turtle” from back in grade school. I think there’s folklore surrounding awkwardness in social interactions because we evolved as social beings. Without social interactions, we would quite literally die, so anything that implies poor social standing or interactions, such as an awkward silence, feels intimidating. Being able to break the tension with shared folklore is a great way to counteract the negative social effects.