Tag Archives: child

Anti-Lullaby to Children

“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some worms. Short fat skinny ones, itty-bitty little ones, guess I’ll eat some worms.”

Context: The song was originally preformed by the mother of the collector when her child said that she was having difficulties making friends with children during elementary school. The collection is taken from a later date when asked to recite the song.

Informant Analysis Below:

The informant had grown up switching many schools, about 11, during her time from elementary through high school. She noted that because of moving around so much she often had difficulty making strong friendships. This song seemed to encapsulate the self-pity she once had as a child, and how she learned to become less emotional about such things.

Informant: “I honestly don’t remember when I first heard it, but I know it was definitely while I was still a child. It’s possible my mom also sang that to me too.”

Collector: “Do you have any idea of what it means?”

Informant: “I think it is saying, like, who cares if you feel unliked. Be stronger than that. The whole eating worms thing, to me, is saying that if you are gonna whine about not having friends, might as well eat worms while you are at it because the world does not care.”

Collector Analysis: Lullabies in themselves are supposed to be calming and reassuring to a child. This lullaby is rather odd because it does no such task. It seems to point out any amount of self-pity one may have for themselves and make light of it. In doing so, it can be seen as “tough love” and harsh in many ways. The concept of not being liked is a very common fear, not just for children, but for adults too. Perhaps when told to a child it not only is meant to teach children to “toughen up”, but also remind the adult to do the same. I believe this piece also has a lot to do with the drives in American culture of being self-sufficient. Starting at a young age, it would make sense to instill a sense of individualism by not caring what others think onto a child.

Mal de Ojo

Main Piece:

“This happens when a person has a very strong stare. If they stare at a newborn with their glare the child will get a really high fever, convulse, and die. The only cure is to have the person with the evil eye carry the baby. That is the only way to reverse the evil done. I know babies who have died from this curse.”

Context:

The informant is a 77-year-old Spanish speaking woman, born in Mexico. She believes this to be true. She does not think those with the evil eye necessarily know that they have that power.

Analysis:

It seems that this belief is a way to explain sudden deaths of infants. It is a way to explain the unexplainable.

Saint Christopher Medallion

Content:
Informant – “When I was being raised, Saint Christopher was an important saint. All of us, the kids, got medals, little medallions that we wore, that were Saint Christopher medals. Saint Christopher was the patron saint of travelers.
Now Christopher means Christ carrier. And the legend is that he was a big person, almost a giant, and he came upon a little boy on the bank of a stream and the little boy asked him to please carry him over to the other side. And so Christopher said sure and proceeded to carry him on his shoulders across the river, and as he went further and the water got deeper the boy got heavier and heavier, and it took all his strength, and when he finally reached the shore, exhausted, he asked the child ‘My gosh how could you weigh so much?’ And the child revealed that he was really Christ and that he was carrying the weight of the world. And then he disappeared.”

Context:
Informant – “I grew up with it. And while I was growing up, Christopher was touted as being a real person, but more recent research has found that there is no real record of his existence. The first mention of him was like 3 centuries after he supposedly existed. So they say he’s pretty much a legend.

JK – “What were the medallions for?”

Informant – “It was really a religious good luck charm. It was supposed to protect us from the travails of travels and journeys and all that.”

Analysis:
There is an interesting connection between the medallion and the story. One wears a medallion around one’s neck. You feel the weight at the back of the neck – the same place where you would feel the most weight if you were carrying someone on your shoulders.

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe

The informant is my 9-year-old cousin, who lives in Buena Park, California. I asked her about what rhymes she knew, and she shared this one with me. Though she could not remember where she first heard it, she believes it was from other kids at school when she was younger.
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“Eenie Meenie Miney Moe/catch a tiger by the toe/if he hollers make him pay/fifty dollars every day/red, white, and blue/I choose you.”
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This was particularly interesting to me, because this is a rhyme that is fairly universal in children’s lore. Though these were not the lyrics I remember from when I was younger, I recited a version of this rhyme when I was growing up, and almost everyone I know also knows this rhyme. The fact that this rhyme has been so widespread and also has so many different versions demonstrates the “multiplicity and variation” of folklore as laid out by Dundes. The “red, white, and blue” part of the rhyme was particularly interesting to me, because it made this version specific to the U.S. Because this rhyme exists in the United Kingdom as well as in other English-speaking countries, I thought it was interesting that this version specifically referenced the colors of the American flag. After doing some research, I found that different versions of the rhyme have arisen over time, each of them reflecting the specific time period during which they were invented. For example, during World War II, children in Atlanta recited this version of the rhyme: “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe/Catch the emperor by his toe/If he hollers make him say:/’I surrender to the USA.'” There have also been racist variations of this rhyme using the n-word that appeared in the mid- to late-1800s, around the time of the Civil War.
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For more versions of this rhyme, see “Counting-out Rhymes: A Dictionary” by R. D. Abrahams and L. Rankin. (R. D. Abrahams and L. Rankin, Counting-out Rhymes: a Dictionary (University of Texas Press, 1980)).

Yo Sun-Sun Ikimashou

On a few occasions my informant, Peter, has taken my hand and rhythmically chanted a short, japanese phrase while swinging our arms back and forth. I never knew what he was saying or who he had learned it from until I asked to document it. The following is from when I interviewed him in the USC Village:

 

Me: “Can you explain that thing you do where you swing our hands while sing-chanting in Japanese? What is that?”

 

Peter: “Well, when I used to go on walks with my grandmother, we would hold hands and swing them while chanting this over and over again: ‘Yo sun-sun ikimashou, yo sun-sun ikimashou.’”

 

Me: “Could you please translate that for me?”

 

Peter: “The ‘Yo sun-sun’ part does not have a real meaning…”

 

Me: “Can you extrapolate on that?”

 

Peter: “It’s like, ‘la, la, la” in English. It’s just sing-songy.”

 

Me: “And the second part?”

 

Peter: “That means, like, ‘Onward, here we go…;’ but in a pleasant way.”

 

My informant then helped my find the Japanese script and translation with my computer so I could add it to my entry:

~Original script: 行きましょう

~Roman script: Ikimashou

~Translation: (A nice way of saying) Let’s Go

 

Analysis:

I’m so glad my informant chose to share this with me. I now know a little more about his cultural background and how that comes into play in his everyday. I’m also honored that he has done this with me when we hold hands. I think it means he feels connected to me, and wants to replicate the happy feelings he got from his grandmother in me.