Category Archives: Kinesthetic

Body movements

The Safety of a Dollar Bill

“Every time I leave to go on a trip, I put a dollar bill in front of Ganesha to bless myself with safety for my travels to whatever destination”

Whenever she is traveling, she never forgets to put a one dollar bill in front of a statue of Ganesha, one of the most worshipped Hindu deities or gods. In Hinduism, Ganesha is associated with success and removes obstacles in one’s life.The dollar bill is an offering to Ganesha in order to receive a blessing of peace and safety on her next adventure. This money is never touched again and never removed. Every dollar bill she has placed in front of Ganesha throughout her life still sits right as she left them. While her parents taught her this practice, this ritual has been passed down many generations of her family and is a largely shared practice in the Hindu religion and culture.

I had never heard of this spiritual ritual before, especially when traveling or embarking upon a new adventure. My familiarity with an act like this is something similar to leaving a dollar or a trinket on a shrine of a god or a spiritual entity one believes in. For example, in Catholicism, Saint Christopher is the saint of protection and guidance for those on journeys, and people in this religion will wear a pendant with this saint on it for a sense of safety. This demonstrates the variability and immense diversity in folklore; some traditions are similar and hold comparable values while coming from totally different heritages and backgrounds. While folklore does not always stem from religious beliefs, this shows that it can interlace with so many different categories of life and be passed throughout centuries, while still holding on to key aspects of the tradition, story, practice, etc. Overall, this ritual that this person practices examples how traditions are passed down throughout generations and entire cultures with adaptability to circumstance and environment. For example, this person and her family use a dollar bill to represent the token given to Ganesha, while in India, or other countries where Hinduism is practiced, these tokens may be different, whether it is a different currency used or something completely different, such as a special trinket. Folklore has the ability to shape individuals practices and beliefs all while creating and sustaining a connection to cultural communities.

Filipino Gesture of Respect


JT: In the Philippines, a sign of respect for elders is to place the back of their right hand on your forehead.

JT: It’s a greeting, if you were to go up to your grandfather or grandmother. I think it’s really funny if you do it to someone who is not that old. Like if my 5-year-old cousin went up to me and did that I would be like “Bro I’m like 20!”.

JT was born in America, but both of his parents are Filipino. When he visits family in the Philippines he will greet his grandparents in this manner.


This is a folk gesture that acts as a sign of respect, similar to a Japanese bow. Commonly, signs of respect are words or phrases spoken to elders. This gesture is prevalent throughout the Philippines, and JT emphasized that respect is an important part of Filipino culture.

Discrete Ways Men Reference Masturbation

Informant Context: The informant is a 20-year-old white male from Riverside, California.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “I am exploring tabooistic vocabulary around masturbation. For men, are there any phrases or gestures you use to reference male masturbation?”

Informant: “I mean, when I’m talking to my boys I’ll straight up just say ‘jerk off’ and be more explicit. Sometimes I will do this–“

The Informant cups his hand it into a cylindrical shape, then moves it up and down. The gesture aims to demonstrate male masturbation.

Informant: “–and say ‘yank one out’ or ‘beating your meat’. Meat is just another word for your penis.”

Analysis: I was not surprised by the tabooistic vocabulary the informant shared about male masturbation. Those phrases and gestures are commonly used in our age demographic. What did surprise me was how openly the informant discussed masturbation. He said around peers, he is not afraid to explicitly talk about the activity. When it comes to people outside his peer group or age bracket, he avoids talking about it all together.

Marching Band Shot Taking

Tweeeeeeeet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, down, don’t die preformed

“Tweeee^eet tweet tweet tweet tweet down, don’t die”

I’m in band, I am a college student of legal age, who occasionally recreationally takes alcohol, in a safe, consensual manner (laughter) [consensual between you and the alcohol?] Yes. (laughter) [So where will you use this?] Often times I’ll use this right before parties. [So you’d use it at parties, do you think you would use it (this method of taking shots) at a non-band party?] Probably not because I think I’d look like a weirdo. [Who taught you this? Who did you originally learn it from?] The people who were in band before me, so like when I was a freshman they were seniors and it just gets passed down. [Would that be your section or just general band? (both the taking of the shot and the teaching of the shot] General band, but I learned it from my section. [Why do people in the band say this?] We say this before we run down on the field, we say “tweeeeet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, down, don’t die” and then we would start going “aaaaaaa” and then running on the field, and then because another huge part of the band other than marching band and music is alcohol (laughs) we will also do that before we drink. [So what does the tweet stand for? How does that become a thing?} the tweet mimics the sounds of the whistle that Jake uses to cue us off (to go running onto the field).

-Interview with the Informant

The USC Marching Band became as well known and impressive as it is today thanks to its previous director, Arthur Bartner. His tenure at USC is marked by the current band for having an incredibly football team, manly mentality as well as a band that was rowdy and alcoholic. The identity of the band has shifted since Dr. Jacob Vogel, the current director, took the reigns, however the importance of alcohol for band members has not been completely erased. Band members spend much of their time together, especially during the fall football season and as a result they have created a folk group that transcends just being a marching band and is also a social group outside of band itself. They have band exclusive parties, drinking traditions, particular mixed drinks made special by each different section, all of these different social aspects that are considered a part of band despite not being practice or music related. Using the folklore of their band activities, such as being tweeted off before running onto the field, they extend the group’s activities to drinking, partying, and socializing outside of just the marching band practice and game hours.

In the Stone Signal

The informant is a third year in the USC Trojans Marching Band.

The gesture is, using my left hand to make kind of a fist, you’re holding it upright. And then you take the other hand, you point your pointer finger (laughs) and then you stick that finger in the hole that your fist makes. But it’s important that it’s standing up.

-Informant Describing the Gesture

[How do you use this gesture?] I’m in the band. The Trojan Marching band of USC, Fight On. [Fight on] And this (hand gesture) is what the director would make when he is trying to call this song. Often times you can’t really hear Jake (the director) over the crowd noise, so he’ll make the gesture so we can know what we’re playing even if we can’t hear him. And it’s passed down. I can turn around and make the gesture at someone behind me and they’ll get it and pass down the gesture (to people behind them). [For the studio audience here, what song does it signifying you’re playing?] It signifies that we are playing in the stone. [Do you know how it came to be?] I assume that the fist is meant to be the stone (laughs) and the finger is meant to be the sword in the stone, so that brings it together to the name-sword in the stone (laughs). [Finger in stone, got it]

-Interview with the Informant

The gesture is one of many that the USC Marching Band uses during games. Someone who is not in band would not know any of the hand gestures as they would have no use for them. The band has an incredible strong bond as a group, which is reflected in the oodles of folklore it contains. Even in the interview with this informant, there was a demonstration of the band’s unique atmosphere. The informant referred to Dr. Jacob Vogel as Jake, something that only band members second year or up are allowed to do. People outside of band probably don’t know its director by name (Dr. Jacob Vogel), and certainly wouldn’t know him by the name Jake.

Additionally, this gesture demonstrates how some folklore is spawned as a solution to a problem. In this instance, the problem that the band faces with communication. Because of how hectic the games, both football and other sports, are, they are unable to hear what the director calls next. They have to rely on each other to pass back the song called both verbally with hand signals and this reliance strengthens their bond as a folk group. The informant’s understanding of why the gesture is the way it is draws upon a well known legend of King Arthur. The informant says that the finger signifies a sword in the stone, the stone being made up of the other fist, a clear reference to the sword in the stone which is a central part of the King Arthur legend. The song’s title, In the Stone, does not reference a sword in the stone, but instead that the love described in the song was written in stone, a reference to the Biblical story in which Moses receives the ten commandments written on stone tablets. Whether or not the gesture is a reference to the sword in the stone or just a demonstration of something being in a stone, the reference to a different very widespread piece of folklore in a much more exclusive piece of folklore was worthy of note.