Tag Archives: competition

Kajabe Cancan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: White
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Dimas, CA/Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: So I learned this game as a camper at the summer camp at Hume Lake it was called Kajabe Cancan. It was a game that we were never really taught to play, but it is very easy to figure out and it was a huge thing at this camp. Basically there’s a bunch of people, they usually do it by gender because it is so violent. Everyone stands in a circle, and they hold a piece of rope that is like a foot long between everyone. Inside the circle there is usually like 2-3 trashcans, like the big grey ones. The goal of the game is to be the last one standing. To get people out you had to make people let go of one of their ropes, or hit the trash can with any piece of their body. So basically, you are trying to throw around the person next to you to either rip the rope from their hand or toss them into the middle. It is a great forearm workout, haha. It is such a big thing at this camp that they have a night dedicated to it, like there’s a championship round. They form small groups and the winners of each group play a championship round, and whoever wins gets to sign a Golden trashcan. 

Interviewer: Did you ever win?

Informant: No, I got close though, haha. I made it to the championship round but got out pretty early. 

Interviewer: What happens when you get out?

Informant: Nothing really, you just sit out and join the people watching. You let your hands rest. It gets intense, some people got injured. 

Interviewer: What did this game mean to you?

Informant: Everyone always looked forward to it, it was always a really fun night. This was a church camp, so a lot of churches would go to this camp at once. People would train their campers before going to play because winning was like a huge deal. 

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

During our interview the informant let me know about the different games and experiences she had going to many camps growing up as both a camper and a counselor. One of the games that was brought up was Kajabe Cancan. 

Analysis

This game has a very competitive and physical nature, and I believe that it is fairly easy to play as you need participants, trashcans, and pieces of rope. In the context of the church, this folk game potentially served as a mini competition of all of the different churches who combined at this specific camp, gaining pride or brownie points if one of their campers won the championship. 

Holy Name of Jesus Crawfish Boil Competition

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence: New Orleans
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

SG is a mother in New Orleans. Crawfish boils are major events throughout New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole. They tend to be more of a social hour rather than a meal. Holy Name of Jesus, SG son’s school, has an annual crawfish boil as a fundraiser for their school. Around 10 different groups, parents and relatives of kids at the school, compete to see who makes the best crawfish boil. Generally each boil has potatoes, corn, crawfish, seasoning, but everyone puts their own spin on it trying to win the competition. The voters are the students and families visiting, and they each get tickets which they can give to the group that they think had the best crawfish. We have gone a couple of years in a row, and they usually have good music, atmosphere, and of course food. As a social hour, since Crawfish at typically eaten standing up, you stand around a table with others and socialize more than just eat crawfish. SG says that crawfish boils are a big aspect of Louisana culture.

Context:

SG is a resident of New Orleans who’s youngest sons attend Holy Name of Jesus School. She has attended this with the rest of her family since her youngest sons attended the school, and plans to go after.

Thoughts:

The idea of this being a social event is really appealing to me. The idea of dining as a social event has always been present be it with dates, luncheons, or business dinners, but this is different. It is similar to a barbecue or cookout, in which you invite others over to eat with you and socialize, but is unique in how people are positions. The fact that you are usually standing at a crawfish boil is interesting to me because that is more like behavior at a bar which functions mainly as a social place. The idea of it being a competition is also interesting because it shows the culture of food in New Orleans. It shows that everyday people in the city care about perfecting the craft that their city is known for and that they want people to socialize around it.

Mertz til it Hurtz – Loyola University

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age: 19
Occupation:
Residence: New Orleans
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

TF, a freshman at Loyola University Chicago, stays in Mertz Hall, a dorm at Loyola Chicago. One tradition they have there is “Mertz til it Hurtz”. TF explains: “There is a Freshman tradition called Mertz til it Hurts. This is named after the freshman dorm Mertz. The floors compete against each other in various challenges. The competition is where students climb the 18 flights of stairs of Mertz tower as quickly as possible. The “Hurtz” comes from your shins hurting. ”

Context:

TF is a freshman at Loyola University Chicago. She is a relative of mine and is in her first year in college. As a freshman she would have participated in the Green Door tradition very recently.

Thoughts:

At USC, due to zoning codes and safety, we do not have very tall dormitories. The dorm I stayed in, Marks Tower, only had 8 floors, so this idea of a competition to get to the top floor was not an idea that we had. What this shows is the spirits and effort that Loyola Chicago students have towards their dorm’s competition. Since TF mentioned how people are very competitive at it, it shows how even over a small things like climbing 18 flights of stairs, Loyola students are very competitive and devoted to their craft, even in times of stress on them.

Meaning Behind The Proverb “I Don’t Have to Outrun The Bear”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 67
Occupation: Retired Physician
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Yiddish

Main Piece: 

Original Proverb: “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.” 

Meaning as told by my informant:

“So, the story goes like this. Two men are hiking in the woods, and they see a bear. The bear is really mad, so they start running to get away. The first man says ‘how are we going to outrun this bear?’ and the other guy goes ‘I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.’ (laughs) Because think about it. If the bear gets one guy, he’s not going to keep running to get the other. In life, it means that you don’t need to be the best, you just need to be better. I used to like telling you that when you were taking tests that were graded on a curve. If you got a question wrong, but everyone else got two wrong, you didn’t have a perfect score, but you got a hundred percent. You didn’t outrun the bear, but you did outrun the other people.” 

Background: 

My informant is my father, who grew up on a chicken farm in South New Jersey. His parents were holocaust survivors who immigrated from Poland, so growing up, he generally spoke Yiddish at home and English at school. Everyone always calls him the “walking joke book,” and he speaks more in proverbs (in both languages) than he does in normal sentences. While he doesn’t remember where he learned this proverb, he assumes it was at school, since he learned it in English. He says he likes this proverb, and all proverbs, because they’re an easy way to evoke a whole story and moral from just a few words. In addition, he just thinks they’re funny and that the world would be a better place if everyone laughed more. 

Context: 

While I’m not in quarantine with my informant/father, I do call him every day, and this piece was collected during a routine call. 

Thoughts: 

This was likely the first proverb I ever learned (I don’t technically remember learning it), and it evokes a very fond sense of nostalgia for me. I think the beauty of this proverb is its fairly dark sense of humor. The saying itself implies that someone is going to die, but an audience’s response is always laughter. It’s this weird sense of optimism because although you know someone is going to get mauled by a bear, your takeaway is that you’re going to be okay. My analysis is that depending on how you look at life, someone’s success almost always means someone else’s failure. For example, if I got into USC, that inherently means someone else didn’t. This can be even more awkward when you take into account how Americans value being humble and putting others before yourself. Oftentimes, Americans remedy discomfort with humor, which I believe is what makes this proverb transcendent. This proverb is not a joke, yet it masks as one because we choose to hide our self serving agendas under funny sayings. Referencing what my father said about curved tests, he never told me ‘wreck the curve so everyone else does worse than you,’ he just said ‘you don’t have to outrun the bear.’ Much like running from a bear, American humor is a self defense mechanism. 

I got singles in my britches

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/23/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Text

I got singles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got singles in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got singles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah

I got doubles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got doubles in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got doubles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah

I got tipples in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got triples in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got triples in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah

I got home runs in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got home runs in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got home runs in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah  

 

Background

The informant use to sing this song at her soft ball games. They would use this song as a way to not only boost their own morale, but to also intimidate the other team. The song made her feel proud of herself and proud of her team.

 

Context

The informant goes to college in Southern California and grew up in Newport beach where she attended a nice public school.

 

Thoughts

This song boosted the team’s morale, as the informant said it did, but it also gave them a way of feeling like they were truy apart of a group. It was a way to separate them from the other team. Knowing the song was also a way of separating themselves from people who did not play softball or baseball and may not know the song or even what “singles” or “doubles” mean.

 

The Jungle Joke Competition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican/American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: N/A
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/18
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

Interviewer: What’s the jungle joke that you mentioned earlier?

Informant: Ok, so, the king of the jungle, a lion, decides that he wants to hear the best joke in the jungle. He gathers all of the animals of the jungle around him and announces that whoever tells a joke that gets everyone to laugh will win. But, if their joke does not make every single animal laugh, then they will be killed.

The elephant immediately begins to tell his joke, thinking that he will no doubt win the competition. After he finishes, the crowd is silent. No one thinks the elephant’s joke is funny, and so the king of the jungle murders him.

Next, the parrot comes forward. The parrot tells his joke and half of the crowd erupts into laughter. The other half is silent though, so the king of the jungle kills him too.

Then, the giraffe steps forward. The giraffe pauses, then begins his joke. When he finishes, every single animal in the crowd laughs – except one, the turtle. The king of the jungle pauses for a moment, waiting for the turtle to join in, but the turtle never does. So, the giraffe is killed too

Finally, the jaguar strides forward and tells his joke. The jaguar, who mostly likes to hunt, doesn’t know many jokes, and his joke is terrible. Only one animal laughs – the turtle.

After the King of the Jungle kills the jaguar, he asks the turtle why he laughed. The turtle says “the giraffe’s joke was hilarious!”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This joke was told in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.

Background: This informant heard this joke from his parents, both of whom are from Chihuahua, Mexico. He enjoys it and remembers it because of the turtle and his delayed reaction. He and many of his friends and family use “Don’t be the turtle” to chide someone when their reaction is delayed or they did not respond to ones question or statement.

Analysis: I personally enjoyed the joke a lot. It doesn’t rely on wordplay or any sort of cultural knowledge, all the listener has to know is that a turtle is slow – this makes the joke relatively accessible. At the same time, the use of a somewhat brutal method of punishment, that is, death, for a bad joke, also makes the stakes higher for the animals and adds to the hilarity of the situation, since, at the end of the day, death is a ridiculous punishment for not making everyone laugh. I also found it interesting that the motif of threes finds its way into this joke as well. Though there are four animals, the giraffe, the animal to tell the best joke, and whose joke elicits laughter from the most animals, is the third to tell a joke.

Pre-Competition Cheer

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: College Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 5, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): n/a

“Basically, when I was doing cheer, whenever we had a competition we would stand in a circle and put our arms around each other’s shoulders, and then we would rock back and forth and yell “S-T-O-R-M-E-L-I-T-E” because that was our team name. And then we would put our hands in the middle, go up and down five times, and then we’d yell break. If we didn’t do that five times, or if we didn’t spell Storm Elite, we would lose. But if we lost, at least we had done it, so we lost because of something else, not because we didn’t do it.”

Background Information and Context:

The informant’s cheer squad performed this ritual at each competition, right before they stepped on stage. The informant cheered for two years in Wisconsin when she was 15-16 years old. This was a private team that she paid to join, not a school team. They did dance, stunts, and tumbling, but no actual cheering.

Collector’s Notes:

This is definitely not the first time I’ve heard of this pre-competition good luck tradition. It’s a great example of multiplicity and variation. My own high school tennis team did a “Terriers on 3! … 1-2-3! Terriers!” before matches, putting our hands in and breaking just as the informant’s cheer squad did. What I find most interesting about this example is that, although forgoing the cheer would lead to a loss in the eyes of the informant’s squad, doing it and still losing didn’t necessarily take away the validity of the superstition. Pre-competition traditions are often not logical or actually lucky, but, nevertheless, they serve the additional roles of getting the athlete in the right mindset and instilling a sense of team comradery.

Lucky Bracelet

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: College Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): n/a

“I had this bracelet that I got from a gas station, and it had a little four-leaf clover, and for some reason – well, I was really young when I did archery, like 10 – I was like, ‘This is good luck, and if I ever don’t compete in it, then I’ll lose,’ and, for some reason, every time before I’d shoot I’d rub it once and them pull my bow back. [The superstition] was so strong. I was like, ‘this is my good luck charm,’ but [the competitions] were small. Well, it was a state competition, but there weren’t that many archers at the time, and so I kept winning – I guess I was good at it but whatever – and I was so convinced. One day I lost it, and I was like, ‘oh my god,’ I was so stressed, and that was that.”

Background Information and Context:

“I guess I picked it up because the four-leaf clover is supposed to be lucky, but it being in the bracelet in my favorite color and being the only one at the store, it felt like fate (she said the word in a mocking tone).” As the informant said above, she bought the bracelet at a gas station while on a road trip, and the ritual of rubbing it was done while competing in archery, just before shooting. I had asked her to share another pre-competition ritual to follow up one about cheerleading that she’d shared in a prior interview.

Collector’s Note:

Athletes and competitors having tokens of good luck is certainly nothing out of the ordinary, but I found it interesting that the informant kept pointing out how illogical the idea was (e.g. by using a mocking tone or adding “for some reason”). Tokens of good luck are so interesting because the power they hold lies largely in the owner’s beliefs and personal associations with the object, and suggesting that the object is mundane can be a huge insult. It is also interesting to note how symbols travel. Although the symbolism of the four-leaf clover comes from folk tradition to which the informant does not have a personal or inherited connection, it has become something of common knowledge.

Three Lightbulbs, Two Rooms, One Answer…

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Israeli, USA
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/2/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hebrew, Spanish

Folk Piece

Question: There are two rooms, one room has nothing but three switches. The other room has nothing but three light bulbs. You can only enter each room once. How do you determine which switch corresponds to which light bulb? Also: the walls aren’t transparent.

Answer: Flip one on, wait a couple minutes, repeat. Feel the heat of the bulbs in the other room.

 

Background information

The participant likes this riddle because it’s a bit longer than most of the ones he tells. I talked a little about his story in my post ‘A Dog Walks into a Forest…’ But essentially, he likes these riddles because they remind him of him and his dad growing up telling them to one another. He also said “Usually I’d ask riddles that have more to do with word play, I don’t know. But this one is just like a fun variation on that and makes the person think a little bit harder.

 

Context

I actually guessed this one right, and he was pretty impressed. He asked, “You hadn’t heard that one before?” It was originally being told in a battle of wits between him and a friend of mine, who were asking riddles to one another trying to out-riddle the other. He usually will tell it if someone else will tell one first, or he might do it just to break the ice between he and someone he knows.

 

Analysis

Just like the other riddles, this one was told as a back-and-forth exchange between two informants. What I find to be most interesting is the competitive aspect of this folk telling. The informant actually seemed to be legitimately surprised, and even almost a bit annoyed, that I had known the answer. As with traditional riddles, like this one is, there are traditional answers. Typically, those answers are not supposed to be easy to think of; they wouldn’t be considered good riddles if they were. Riddles almost give the person telling them the power to drive the conversation; only they know the answer, or other people who may have heard it.

 

Also intriguing is the competitive aspect between the two participants. I asked for different riddles, or jokes, but it seemed that just as one ended, another began. I didn’t say that the best one won some sort of prize, or that the most clever would be included. However, it seemed that they were more interested in telling one another these riddles than to me. Why might this be?

I would argue that these participants had learned these riddles throughout their childhood and early adulthood; to them, they own their histories and the memories of them. These riddles, actionable to recall at any time, act as a way to show the history of their wits. Whoever is able to stump the other repeatedly, or has more clever riddles, is the one that has had superior intellectual exposure to riddles. It’s common after someone tells a riddle to say “Ooooh, that’s a good one!” This qualification of which riddles are the most clever can act as an actual social agent in determining the wits of an individual.

Where’s that Polar Bear Going?

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA and Boston, MA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/2/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Folk Piece

Question: You’re standing in a room which is centered perfectly on the south pole. You see a polar bear walk by the window. In what cardinal direction is the polar bear?

Answer: North. It can be northeast or northwest.

 

Background information

“I don’t even know where I heard this. Probably when I was in middle school? I don’t know, I definitely remember telling it to people in high school – it’s one of my favorite riddles. It’s just like, simple, but sort of like fucks with your mind a bit? You can almost, like, feel your head spinning as you think about it”

 

Context

“I usually tell this story only when other people bring riddles up. I don’t, like, just casually whip out some riddles because I want to. But they are fun and entertaining, I guess.”

 

Analysis

This, along with “A Dog Walks into a Forest” and “Three Light Bulbs, Two Rooms, and One Answer…” were part of an exchange between two informants that went back and forth with riddles they knew. While the first informant had familial connections to the riddles he was telling, this informant seemed to have less attachment to his riddles. Still, however, it was a point of pride for him when no one could answer. For more analysis on what this competitive aspect of riddling might mean, reference my post “Three Light Bulbs, Two Rooms, and One Answer…”

As for the piece itself, I think it’s interesting that this riddle would probably have been easier in years past. As we become more removed from our transportation and travel around our world, so too does our sense of direction become lost. I know many people who do not know the difference between East and West. While that is certainly not standard, and not a good thing in any way, it was still interesting for me to have to mentally orient myself on a map on the South Pole, spinning my head around trying to make sense of it all.