Category Archives: Folk speech

LA Parking Prayer


This short prayer was given to the informant by a friend who had grown up in Los Angeles. The interviewee is currently living in Salt Lake City, Utah, but lived in Los Angeles for ten years. This is a prayer to find a parking spot in LA, only meant to be invoked in true desperation. She is of Latin American descent.


MM: Um, Okay. It is “Mary, Mary, full of grace, help me find a parking space” and it’s used to help you find a parking space, uh, when you are looking for street parking or in a car park, a crowded parking lot.

MM: Um, and, but you have to use it very sparingly. I can’t, you can’t just like at, for, you know, you have to have been looking for a minute before you can use it.

MM: Um, I first heard it from a friend who grew up in LA and she pulled it out after we’d been searching for parking for quite a while and she said she keeps it in her back pocket for absolute emergencies. We found a parking spot immediately and it has not failed me since, but again, only used in emergencies.

Interviewer: Sparingly.

MM: Sparingly. Yes. Yes. And by emergency, I mean, you know, a Los Angeles emergency, which is there’s no valet.

Interviewer: Haha, yeah.

MM: Truly an emergency.


This is an example of folk speech, more specifically a prayer. I had heard this prayer from the interviewee some time ago and knew it would be perfect for the archive.

As any LA driver can attest, it can be extremely difficult to find parking on the streets of Los Angeles. One can find themselves driving around endlessly, and this prayer is meant to save them from the struggle. As the interviewee states, the prayer cannot be used in any situation. Instead, it can only be invoked at a time of desperation or emergency, when hope is nearly lost for finding a parking space. This maintains a certain significance to the prayer; if it does not work, the situation might not have been desperate enough.

This example of folk speech likely evolved through the converging influences of car culture and Catholicism on Los Angeles. This prayer is invoked almost in jest, rather than it being attached to any true religious belief. The informant, notably, does not have any ties to Catholicism. Still, the prayer mentions Mary, most likely the Virgin Mary, pointing to its roots in Catholic belief. This prayer is an excellent example of how folk belief evolves from the environment and culture it finds itself in.

El Conono


M, 56 was born and grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. His father is from Baja California Sur, Mexico. The capital of this state is La Paz. The people that live in this region are known as ‘Choyeros’ and they have a very niche folklore.


“Esta es una historia real. ‘EL CONONO’ era un señor que tenía labio leporino (hablaba gangoso), y era muy conocido en La Paz en los años 50’s, 60’s,70’s. Vivía con sus padres aun siendo adulto; todos lo conocían, hacía favores, barría las calles, iba por mandado, etc.

Un día fue a la iglesia con su mamá y el padre de la iglesia le dijo por el micrófono de la iglesia: 

‘Hijo, Conono, hinqué a su mamá’ y Conono voltio a ver al padrecito y le contesta en voz alta, donde todos oyeron: ‘hinque a la suya padrecito…’!”


This is a real story. ‘Conono’ was a man who had a cleft lip (he spoke nasally), he was very well known in La Paz in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He lived with his parents well into adulthood; everyone in town knew him, he would do favors, sweep the street, run errands, etc. One day he went to church with his mom and the Church Father said through the microphone: “My son, Conono, ‘hinque’ your mom”; Conono loudly responded: “’hinque’ your own mom, Father!”.


This story is somewhat of a legend because it is known that Conono was a real person from La Paz (you can google him); however, it is also a joke. In Spanish, the word hinque has multiple meanings: one, to kneel or bow, the way the father was trying to use it; or another, to thrust or bend over. The joke here is basically that Conono misunderstood the Father’s instructions and thought that he was telling him to perform a sexual act with his mom, to which he told the Father to do it himself. It’s only funny in Spanish because those listening to the joke should be able to know what version of ‘hincar’ is being used in a certain setting. Naturally, a church would not be the appropriate place to make it sexual.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away


M is a student at USC. She told me about a common proverb about doctors that is considered a joke in her family because her parents are doctors.


“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”


This proverb traditionally means that eating apples or being healthy by eating nutritious food will help prevent unwanted doctor’s visits caused by poor health or illness. On the other hand, since my informant’s parents are doctors, she thinks this common proverb is more of a joke because it suggests that she can avoid her parents by eating apples. Avoiding parents is something all teenagers can relate to, and it appears that children of doctors do as well.



M, 56 was born and grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. He told me about a phrase Mexican people say to each other when eating.


“Cuando vas a comer a un lugar público (aunque no conoces a los comensales), si te retiras del lugar y pasas por gente comiendo, es de mexas decir: ¡¡PROVECHO!! 

Básicamente es decirles que tengan un buen tiempo, disfruten y aprovechen su comida.

Ellos contestan: GRACIAS, e igualmente.”


“When you eat out somewhere public (even if the other diners/eaters are strangers), if you leave said dining space (could be a restaurant) and other people are eating, it is very Mexican to say: Provecho!

You are basically wishing them a good time, and that they enjoy and benefit from their food.

The other party should answer: Thank you, the same goes for you.”


The word “Provecho” is essentially a blessing or good wishes and it is considered good manners when said in the right setting. It cannot be said to someone that isn’t eating as well; it’s like a waiter saying: “enjoy your meal!”. You can’t say it back to the waiter; however, you can say it to a friend you run into that’s eating at the same restaurant. The word “Provecho” reflects Mexican culture as friendly, social, and caring; it is about wishing well to those around you and socializing in a food-related setting.

Counting to 10 with one hand in Chinese


S, 19 was born in China and moved to Canada at a young age. She told me about a way of counting to 10 on a single hand through a series of hand and finger gestures. I took a video of the informant counting to 10 in this fashion.




This method of counting makes it convenient for a person to count using only one hand; it also is a good way of teaching children to count, since each number has its own gesture and it is different from traditional western finger counting (the number of fingers is the number you are on, so you are limited by the number of fingers you have). This method of counting allows a person to reach the number 100 by using both hands. This article further explains this method, as well as how to continue counting past 10: