Rice and Ancestors–Southern Folk Speech


Leighton Lord is my father. Given this relation to me, I was interested in procuring some folklore that both of us participated in, but obviously from his perspective as he and my mother were the ones who set the traditions that we followed. Another unique perspective he has is being instilled in Southern traditions after twenty two years spent in Columbia, South Carolina following his marriage to my mother, a native South Carolinian. He grew up in Delaware, and was fascinated upon arriving in the South and witnessing the obsession with tradition and particularly talk about ancestors. I collected several pieces of folklore from him during a recent trip he made to Los Angeles. He currently practices law.


Leighton: What do Charlestonians have in common with the Chinese? They both eat a lot of rice and talk about their ancestors.


By Charlestonians, my father is referring to people from Charleston, South Carolina. He could not remember exactly where he heard this joke, having heard several versions of it, and even once seeing a cartoon with similar content. This was his simple synthesization. The joke is straight forward, explaining that both Southern culture and Chinese culture appreciate rice and ancestors. Though relying heavily on stereotypes, my personal experience confirms this Southern speech about ancestors. Folk stories of ones ancestors are often told at dinner parties.