Category Archives: Childhood

Pondy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: March 20th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant: “I’d always play pondy in the winter, I never played hockey though”

Background:

The informant grew up in a small, midwestern town on the Great Lakes where winters were always below freezing and lakes were of easy access. The informant’s high school also had a very competitive hockey team. Hockey was ingrained into the town as something all kids would play for at least a year, according to the informant.

Context:

The informant was telling me about her hobbies she had when she was younger.  I thought she played hockey, but the prior quote is how she corrected me.

Thoughts:

This demonstrates a piece of folk speech that has been created to differentiate one activity. Outdoor hockey is exclusively known as pondy while indoor, rink hockey is just hockey. From context clues, this word is easy enough to understand which lends itself to being used by young kids out playing games. Pondy also implies a sort of casual play to the game instead of competitive hockey. It is interesting to see the same sport be defined by its location through a colloquial expression.

Term for Cheap Vodka

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 23
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

In this conversation E.S represents myself, the collector.

Informant: “We would all drink Shitty K like it was nothing”

E.S: “We never had that”

Informant: “What? Shitty K was just like all that really gross vodka you could buy for cheap.”

Background:

The informant grew up in a large, suburban, middle-class town in central South Carolina. Underage drinking was very common.

Context:

I was hanging out with the informant, talking about the differences in our high school experiences. The informant brought up what people used to drink when they were underaged and we compared our towns.

Thoughts:

With underage drinking, there is a consistent level of secrecy that surrounds the activity. Many high schoolers consider drinking alcohol to be an adult activity and it makes them feel older. To describe cheap liquor as “Shitty K” is inherently a very childish thing. It also removes the word “vodka” from its title, adding to the secret facade high school kids try to keep up in front of parents. The creation of this term allows for kids to feel like an adult because they are consuming alcohol but emphasizes immaturity as it is an inappropriate name for the drink.

Lemonade, Crunchy Ice

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 20th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant recited a rhyme that she remembered from elementary school. 

“Lemonade (clap, clap, clap)

Crunchy ice (clap, clap, clap)

Sip it once (clap, clap, clap)

Sip it twice (clap, clap, clap)

Lemonade, crunchy ice, sip it, once sip it twice

Turn around, touch the ground

Freeze”

The informant explained after one girl said freeze you lost by being the first person to move, so the girls would stay frozen for as long as they could.

Background:

The informant explained that there were many rhymes that she and her classmates would turn into games. Having these rhymes memorized was seen as being really cool or made you more popular, according to the informant. This occurred at a public, co-ed elementary school in a suburb of the midwestern United States.

Context:

This game would be played between two girls. The informant explained they would normally play when they were waiting in line between classes or after recess to pass the time.

Thoughts:

Rhyming games like this one exist in many iterations all over globe but the emphasis on lemonade and ice in this rhyme seems particularly American. It also evolves into a competition by the end to make the game carry on beyond the words. School girls can use these rhymes to develop friendships and bond with one another. It creates a small community of girls that can all join in on something similar and play with one another in an organized fashion. This form of folklore holds significance in childhood and also evokes nostalgia for adults. The informant explaining this to me was an adult but recalled this rhyme with ease.


Birthday Traditions in Elementary School

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

At the informant’s elementary school, there were very intricate birthday traditions. When there was a birthday in the class they would go outside and stand in a large circle. The birthday child would stand in the middle holding a globe. Then all the kids would sing “The earth goes around the sun, tra-la-la. The earth goes around the sun. Around and around and around and the earth goes around the sun” 

Then the teacher would say “and then [birthday child’s name] turned 2!” and a friend of the birthday child would hold a picture of the birthday child when they were two and walk around the entire circle showing all the classmates. The song would then start over and the pattern would continue with 3, 4, 5 and so on until the class reached the age of the birthday child.

Background:

This tradition happened at a private, Montessori school where the informant attended. The school was located in the southern United States so the weather was almost always nice enough to do this tradition outside.

Context:

This tradition was explained to me when the informant was discussing the importance of traditions at their schools throughout their childhood.

Thoughts:

This tradition captures a lot of elements that are important to birth, growing up, and continuing on with one’s life. There is the emphasis on the globe and the sun, to explain to the children that the years pass with each orbit of the sun. Then the photos of the child at each age allow for the children to get to realize what their classmates looked like before they knew each other. This shows the physical changes each child has gone through as they grow up. All these elements mesh into a creative demonstration to show the importance of being one year older that will make an impact on these children.

Celebration of Springfest at an All-Female High School

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant explained to me that there was a tradition of celebrating Springfest at their all-girls high school. Each year the juniors would all wear white dresses and the seniors would wear dresses of any color. The whole school from grades 5-12 would go sit in the chapel, while the juniors and seniors would be a part of the ceremony. The organist would always play a sort of calming, “water” music on the organ. After the music had been playing for a bit, the ceremony would start. A senior and junior would walk towards one another. Then the senior would hand off an orchid to the junior and they would cross their paths, making them intertwine. The informant explained it was supposed to symbolize handing down the leadership of the school to the juniors. 

In addition to the ceremony, each year there was a Springfest Princess and a Springfest Queen. The Queen was always a junior and the Princess was a fifth grader. The whole school would vote for the Queen and as the informant explained “everyone would vote for the nicest person in the junior class”. The Queen had to wear a floor length, white dress that looked like a wedding dress, provided by the school. She had two flower girls and they would walk in front of her when she walked down the aisle. The Princess went before the Queen and would get a bouquet of flowers. Then the Queen from last year would be wearing a crown and standing at the end of the aisle waiting for her. After the Princess walked, the next Queen would walk and kneel down in front of the old Queen. She would place the crown on the new Queen’s head.

Background:

The informant attended an all-girls, Episcopalian school in the southern United States. This tradition has occurred since before the informant’s Mother went to the same high school. The school mostly consists of girls from white, affluent families.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience. This festival would always occur in April near the end of the school year, in the midst of spring.

My Thoughts:

Springfest aligns closely with other spring celebrations such as the Swedish Midsummer festival, as it celebrates the springtime with an emphasis on young women. Given that this is an all-girls school, the presentation of girls in all white feels closely to Vaz da Silva’s analysis of white in his article discussing “Chromatic Symbolism in Womanhood in Fairy Tales”. He states “white stands for luminosity and untainted sheen, thus for luminous heaven as much as for purity” (245). These girls are dressed in white to appear as the pure maidens, ready for entering a new stage of their lives. This festival mimics a wedding as the girls are walked down the aisle in all white, being presented to the school as the new leaders. Instead of meeting a husband at the end of the aisle, they are meeting new responsibilities. This moves them one step closer to adulthood.

Citation:

Vaz da Silva, Francisco. 2007 “Red as Blood, White as Snow, Black as Crow: Chromatic Symbolism of Womanhood in Fairy Tales”. Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies. 21: 240-252.



The Oogli Boogli Man

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Zimbabwean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

This is the transcription of a story told by the informant.

There is an old old woman and she lives all alone in the hills and every single night when she goes to be she takes her boots off and puts them on the ground and tries to go to sleep in the middle of the night the boots wedge themselves on her feet making her do chores all night long and then right as the sun starts to rise the walk her back to her bed and slip back off her feet. So she is becoming really really exhausted and doesn’t know what to do. So she finally takes a trip to the Oogli Boogli Man. He lives even deeper in the hills than the old woman. So when she has to go and walk over to him she takes her time and as she approaches his house a stench comes into the air. She stands far from the porch and screams “Oogli Boogli man” and there’s nothing. She screams again and then out comes the most stinky, farty, old crusty man that you have ever seen. He has icicle boogers coming from his nose and rat poop in his hair because the Oogli Boogli man does not like to clean himself. But he is magic. So the old lady says that her boots are exhausting her until the day breaks then she can go to sleep. The man says all right I will help you. Tonight when you go to sleep the boots won’t hurt you anymore. That night the boots jump back on her feet only this time the boots are taking her all over the town. She is absolutely exhausted and she knows a trick has been played on her. This next time the old lady decides she is going to take matters into her own hands. She makes jam for the Oogli Boogli man and puts some choice ingredients like cat turds, snot, whatever she can find. The concoction is a deep icky brown. She pours it into a jar and seals it shut. Then when she walks over to the man this time there is no reply, but she says all she wanted to do was thank him. That night when she is walking back to her house she hears a scream from the Oogli Boogli man’s house. “Damn you old lady, I’m gonna come get you” that night she is scared shitless, obviously. She hears a knock on her door and she does not know what to do so she stays nice and quiet. The man says “old lady I know you are in there, I just wanted to thank you for that jam that you gave me” and she stays nice and quiet. Then all of the sudden there is a creak and the door opens, so she is freaked out. Then the boots start walking towards the door that’s just opened and the Oogli Boogli man pops right into the boots and walks out the door cursing the old lady’s name. And that’s it, she gets to sleep after that. 

Background:

This story was told to the informant by their father and he learned it from his grandmother. The informant’s great-grandmother was from a tough-as-nails farming family that moved from Nebraska to the desert outside of Joshua Tree. The informant is very close with their family so stories are constantly shared as a way to feel close to their relatives.

Context:

The informant explained that this story was told to them by their father as a spooky tale before bed or around a campfire. When I asked the informant to share some of their family’s folklore, this was the first example that jumped to their mind. They were able to recite it completely from memory and with critical detail and description that showed how much this story had impacted them.

Thoughts:

This folktale is very representative of the blue-collar background of the informant’s great-grandmother. The isolation of the mountain town makes this story more scary for those who live in that environment. It also has magic involved but a very dark kind of magic that can control you in a painful way. This again shows the beliefs of people living in isolation. It could perhaps allude to the idea that outsiders could try to control communities they did not understand, just like the shoes control the old woman. Also the shoes never allowed for this woman to rest and in a farming community, rest is one of the few sacred things that you are given to survive. There aren’t luxuries that wealthier communities get access to, but rest is something guaranteed. The woman gets her rest back by standing up to the Oogli Boogli man which highlights the values of tough communities. You have to act for what you want and not expect things to get better without work.

Legend of Slender Man

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 17
Occupation: School
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/30/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): spanish

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer. 

Informant: A guy who supposedly lives in the woods and he goes…  umm for young teenagers and kids. And it has it that he gets these kids to basically collect their faces since he doesn’t have one. And lets see… umm… where was I at? 

Interviewer: You said that he collects their faces since he doest have one.

Informant: Oh ok and he does it because he believes that he’ll get a face but he doesn’t. 

Interviewer: And does he get boys only or girls only? Or how does it work? Who does he kill? 

Informant: Well we don’t know. He just makes them go missing. They disappear but it’s random. 

Interviewer: Anything else about him? 

Informant: Well he’s known to have a black suit and a white face and octopus-like tentacles… you know like the arms I’m talking about. 

Background: My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. She knows this story from a couple years ago when she was talking to a friend about scary stories. She also watched the Slender Man film that came out in 2019. 

Context: We were in my room and I asked her if she can tell me any scary stories like myths and legends and gave her La llorona as an example. She proceeded with the legend of Slender Man. 

Thoughts: I’ve heard the story of Slender Man. I know there’s a mobile game about him and a film that came out. I’m personally into scary stuff so I know the legend. As to whether it is true or not, I believe it’s not true. It doesn’t make too much sense to me. I don’t find it plausible but it’s a figure I know relatively well, or at least I can tell his story, and can be frightening with the right setting. 

Citation: For more information about Slender Man, check out the following source

White, Sylvain “Slender Man” film (Fall 2018). 

“Nwata adi ebu orika”-Onitsha Proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 56
Occupation: Budget Analyst
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/30/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

Context: This is a proverb that is native to my dad’s village and he learned it as a child growing up in Onitsha. Proverbs like this were a prominent means of giving advice and life lessons especially to the children of the tight-knit community. 

  • “Nwata adi ebu orika”
    • Transliterated Proverb
      • Nwata: child
      • Adi: does not or should not
      • Ebu: carry
      • Orika: heavy
    • Full Translation: A child should not carry the responsibility of the entire house or the responsibility of taking care of themself, meaning that parents have a responsibility to make sure that their children do not carry a burden that they cannot yet carry.
      • Explanation: My dad grew up in Nigeria and learned this proverb from his father[my grandfather]as a child. He remembers it well because it’s an important aspect of the community when he was growing up. He talked about the fact that “It takes a village”, meaning that it was important for adults in the community to support and help a child develop and grow. This is why it was stressed heavily that children must not be burdened by responsibilities that cannot carry.

Thoughts: I found this proverb to be quite compelling and that it really speaks truth to how I was raised. I am Nigerian American so I grew up hearing proverbs like this from my parents. This proverb is one that I have heard often, and I understood its meaning to be that as a child I should not try to overload myself or overextend myself. After talking with my dad about this, the meaning became more clear. While I should not overburden myself as a child, it also puts the responsibility on my parents to make sure that they handle their responsibilities and give me what I can manage. Indirectly this proverb has influenced a lot of my decisions because I always consult with my parents when I plan on taking on a new responsibility. Every decision becomes a dialogue and I always make sure that I understand now, that some things I cannot do by myself and I am grateful that my parents are around to alleviate and take on some of my burdens. 

“Onitsha ji azu awu”-Onitsha Proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 56
Occupation: Budget Analyst
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/30/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

Context: This is a proverb that is native to my dad’s village and he learned it as a child growing up in Onitsha. Proverbs like this were a prominent means of giving advice and life lessons especially to the children of the tight-knit community.

  • “Onitsha ji azu awu”
    • Transliterated Proverb
      • Onitsha: Onitsha
      • Ji: uses
      • Azu: the back
      • Awu: urine
    • Full Translation: Instead of confronting troublesome people, you avoid conflict by making an excuse to leave[i.e. use the restroom] and leave that environment through the back door.
      • Explanation: According to my dad, this is a pinnacle saying among men in the village of Onitsha, where he grew up. This saying serves to represent the ability of an Onitsha man to assess a situation and leave when it is appropriate for him to do so, avoiding conflict and maintaining his dignity and pride as a man. My dad learned the village elders of Onitsha and it stands as a saying to exercise heightened awareness in regards to the safety of your environment and or surroundings.

Thoughts: While this appears to be a proverb directed towards men within my dad’s village, I believe that this proverb can be taken as a message for both men and women.  Growing up my parents would always tell me and my brother to always be aware of our surroundings and be observant so as to prevent walking into danger. When I left for college, the premise of the saying became very real for me because I heard a lot of tragic events and or stories in regard to people finding themselves in situations that they did not understand how to escape. Now as a young adult, I exercise the message of this proverb almost every time I leave the safety of my apartment or dorm room. There have been situations where I have had disagreements or conflict with people that I know and a lot of times I always ended up leaving the situation and returning later when things have cooled down. While I agree that some situations can prompt one to leave and never return, I do believe that this caution can still be exercised by staying in a risky but manageable situation. There is always a level of conflict associated with working with others, so I think it’s important to exercise caution but also do it in a way that is solution-oriented and non-escalating. In this context I wouldn’t just leave an instance of conflict unresolved, instead, I would try to deescalate the situation and find a solution but if the situation gets out of hand then I will figure out a way to leave.

“Isi buka ora ka Okpu”-Onitsha Proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 56
Occupation: Budget Analyst
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/30/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

Context: This is a proverb that is native to my dad’s village and he learned it as a child growing up in Onitsha. Proverbs like this were a prominent means of giving advice and life lessons especially to the children of the tight-knit community. 

  • “Isi buka ora ka Okpu”
    • Transliterated Proverb
      • Isi: head
      • Buka: big
      • Ora ka: struggle
      • Okpu: cap
    • Full Translation: No matter how big a man’s head is, we can find an alternative cap, meaning that we can always find a solution or alternative to any issue or problem.
      • Explanation: This proverb comes from my dad and he learned about this when he was a child growing up in Nigeria. This was supposed to be a saying that illustrated that no matter how big a problem was that a solution could always be found. When my dad told me about this proverb, he emphasized it as a teaching rather than a saying. He experienced a lot of hardships and adversities growing up, but he always remembered the words of his father in that there was no problem that he could not solve and to keep pushing forward.

Thoughts: Growing up this was not a saying that I would hear often here from my parents, but I recognize a lot of variations in English that they would tell us. It is interesting to think about how this one proverb could summarize the experiences of my dad as a child and his journey from Nigeria to the U.S. to start a better life for himself. Life in itself is riddled with challenges, but this proverb provides a simple and almost cheesy solution. If we think of problems as being impossible and that they can never be solved, then they will continue to plague and affect us throughout our life. However, if we address a problem with possible solutions from the beginning and speak into existence that a solution is near then no problem will be too great and we’ll always find a solution. The proverb is speaking clearly on the value of being solution-orientated and I agree with this message entirely. Given my dad as an example of what happens when you choose a path of solutions rather than problems, I hope to carry on the message of this proverb and apply it to the challenges I know I will face.