Tag Archives: dite

The Earth is round

NM told me a phrase his mother would say when someone takes a wrong turn in the car. He described his mother a “casual, very laid back, person.”

I forget the actual phrase, but basically it’s like “The Earth is round, we’ll get there eventually”


This saying could be a response to contemporary American culture. In the United States, there much respect given towards working people. Leisure and relaxation are often viewed as laziness, which can lead to people becoming upset when unnecessary time is taken to complete a task. In contrast to this, NM’s mother takes a more laid-back approach, choosing to accept the extra time taken in stride and stay content with the way things happen.

Green Frog


Original script: 청개구리

Roman script: chung-geh-goo-ri

Transliteration: Green frog

Full translation (according to performer): Expressing your frustration by calling someone a contrarian


This saying is inspired by a Korean folktale that explains why frogs croak when it rains. A disobedient frog regrets how burdensome he was when his mother dies. To finally follow her wishes, he buries her near the riverside and cries out for her in fears that she’ll be swept away. In a less tragic light, CL says that her mother often recites this to her when she “didn’t do what she asked for certain things.” An example CL provides is when she pulled an all nighter instead of sleeping, even though her mother advised her to rest. As usual, her mother was proven correct when CL “complained about feeling like I did bad on the test the next day.” Thus, CL’s mother said “청개구리” to express her frustration.


Minor genres can act as forms of discipline or advice. By taking from culturally significant knowledge, the dite holds extra weight than if it were a stand alone saying. Almost like an “I told you so,” certain sayings can reflect broader knowledge that exists outside intimate relationships. A mother’s advice appears much grander when it is connected to a cultural tale or traditional story–the saying exceeds her and carries the weight of the “wisdom of the masses.” The saying universalizes personal experiences, thus considering disobedience an expected aspect of child development. Folklore doesn’t necessarily illustrate how to live life–it can also be used to discourage behavior and tell a cautionary tale. Thus, this saying is applicable to a multitude of situations: its moral and disciplinary motive can be used for various situations of disobedience or hypocrisy. Furthermore, it reinstates the mother-child dynamic and confirms the mother’s superior level of experience and life knowledge. However, the tale that inspires this imposes restrictions as to who can be the performer and who can be the audience: it can only be told from a mother to a child, not vice versa. Otherwise, the moral implications would fall short. Motherhood is prevalent in various forms of folklore–symbols, characters, and metaphors immortalize the mother-child bond. Even when their relationship appears ruptured, mother and child are eternally united through folklore.

Lunar New Year Traditions and Precautions

  1. The main piece: Lunar New Year Traditions and Precautions

“So a lot of the traditions we have are based on earning money and wealth and things like that. So one thing that we do is we get red envelopes right. The reason they’re in red envelopes is because red is a lucky color right. And you put the money in red envelopes and you sleep on them…

“And yeah, so we sleep on the money. And another thing that we do is, uh, we cook the fish and we leave half of it raw, so that it lasts outside the fridge until the next day. Because you’re supposed to keep the fish out from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day, because there’s another phrase, it’s called ‘nian nian you yu’, and that means every year you will have money.

“So you clean everything in your house and when you sweep, it you sweep out of the house, and you have to take out all the trash in your house. And so on Chinese New Year’s day, you can’t use knives or scissors or even like nail clippers, because that’s like cutting things, and cutting things symbolize cutting your life. Some people eat long noodles that have never been cut, because cutting them is like cutting a lifeline.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

The informant learned about the different traditions and precautions for Chinese New Year from performing them every year with her grandparents and mother. She somewhat resents how people see it as quaint, telling me instead that some of the preparations and precautions are tedious and mundane. The informant expanded on this by saying, “It’s annoying to have to do all the cleaning and lucky color stuff, but it kind of made me closer with my sister over complaining about it.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

The informant’s traditions and precautions for Chinese New Year involve a lot of symbolism. Sleeping on money and keeping a fish both before and after the new year both seem symbolic of continuing one’s good fortune throughout the year. Cleaning the whole house and sweeping everything specifically outside could be symbolic of starting the year afresh and with a clean slate. The aversion to using any sharp objects, from knives to scissors to even nail clippers, is symbolic of preventing violence and not cutting one’s own life short—this would be an example of conversion magic, or reversing bad luck into good luck. The phrase ‘nian nian you yu’ matches the description of a dite, or a folk saying, because it is commonly said specifically on this holiday to confer good luck.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is an 18-year old Chinese-American female. While she grew up in the southern California area, she spent more time with her grandparents than her parents growing up, and felt that learning their Chinese traditions and language was the main way she bonded with them, while her younger sister never had that experience because her parents were out of school by then.

Every Rock Falls on My Head

Item (direct transcription):

Every rock falls on my head.

Background Information:

The informant learned this saying from his father. It means, “I get blamed for every problem.”

Contextual Information:

The informant says he uses this dite when he feels that he is being undeservedly blamed for something, especially if by his wife. However, he only uses the dite playfully or jokingly, not rhetorically. When he is truly upset or argumentative, he does not use this saying.


This saying meets all four of the canonical criteria for a dite. It is (1) short, (2) fixed-phrase, (3) metaphorical, and (4) not rhetorical.