The subject is a child in elementary school. I asked him if they had any inside jokes that they could share with me and this is what they said.
Subject: At school we had a rainy day one time and at lunch the teacher wasn’t in our room so the visor lady would check on us sometimes. And, but we wanted to go on our iPods cause we can’t do that with the teacher there. So we had someone stay watch at the window and every time the visor lady would come they would yell “Tweet tweet” and then we’d put all our stuff away for when she’d come in and check. And we’d switch off sometimes on who would watch the window.
Interviewer: That’s really smart. So do you only do it on rainy days?
Subject: We started doing it at lunch and stuff when it’s not raining so that we can go onto our iPods on the playground and stuff.
Interviewer: Have you gotten caught?
Subject: No, not yet. I don’t think we will cuz it’s a pretty good plan, we always know when there’s a teacher or a visor lady around.
I think this is a common experience in childhood. Despite the addition of the technological advancement in the iPod, someone’s always delegated to be the lookout for adults on the playground. It’s comforting to know that certain things just don’t change.
Item and Context:
“My seniors in school – the eighth graders – would always tell us to ‘Never trust a man in a big white van!’ We were all really interested in why, especially because my friend Evan thought that white vans were pretty cool. Haha, no… So he, bold as he is, went up to one of the many eighth graders repeating this warning and asked them what the story was. When he returned, he informed me that it was because this one kid from our middle school had been kidnapped by a man in a big white van and held for ransom! So when a friend of mine asked me about it, I repeated to him exactly what Evan had told me. After a few days, there was a rumor spreading around the school that the man in a big white van had taken away one of the students many years ago, and that student had been held for ransom, and when the parents failed to come up with the cash, the kid was murdered and his spirit was the one telling the eighth graders to ‘Never trust a man in a big white van!’! I did not understand how this happened. I assume that it traveled from Evan to me to A to B to C and so on, finally resulting in this wild exaggeration. How strange, no?”
The proverb/superstition that this story is based on is an example of children’s lore. However, what is most interesting is that while it is an example of a type of folklore, the story the informant provided is also a perfect depiction of exactly how folklore happens. I doubt that his friend was even told about a “ransom”, and instead added that detail just to spice up the story. As the story went around the middle school, everyone freely added their own details to it, resulting in something starkly different than what these eighth graders were probably talking about, much like the game ‘Telephone’, which is also an excellent example of the process of folklore creation. The belief that the warning is based on is that large, white, unmarked vans are usually driven by creepy pedophiles who offer little girls candy and then whisk them away. Hence, according to the informant and his seniors at school – ‘Never trust a man in a big white van!’
“Be wary of silent dogs and still waters.”
The source interviewed related his personal experiences with this particular proverb – “Growing up, I always made the wrong friends. I didn’t know they were the wrong friends, but my dad did. Because he was my dad, and he knew everything. My friends were those people who would be incredibly sweet and make easy conversation, but would be very guarded around other people about their own secrets and opinions. One day, I stumbled upon these guys talking the classroom. I was outside in the corridor, and they didn’t know that I was there and listening to them. Naturally, they were talking about me. And they said some things that I can’t repeat in front of you. Upset, I went home and complained to my dad, who told me ‘Be wary of silent dogs and still waters’ – meaning it in particular about people who don’t voice their opinions on others frankly and instead plot and scheme behind the backs of others.”
This proverb is a classic Indian warning against people who don’t talk. Indian people in general are quite talkative, never hesitating to share their opinions, even and sometimes especially when it proves to awkward or unwanted. Therefore, when people aren’t talking, it means that they must be up to something. So, when someone isn’t being obnoxiously vocal about their opinions on your personality, sever all ties with them, because they probably don’t like or care about you.