Tag Archives: dogs

No Bones Day

Context: Informant uses a social media platform known as ‘TikTok’. Tiktok allows users to follow other members, and view other member’s videos.

Background Information: Informant uses TikTok mostly to look at cute animal videos and follow current trends. Although Informant does not take TikTok very seriously, they enjoy playing into it a little for amusement.

Informant: “So TikTok, there’s this guy who posts this videos of his pug, and i can’t remember the pug’s name, but I think it’s noodle, or, something? Anyways, I follow this guy and he posts these videos of his pug and this is the oldest pug in the world, like, this an 18 year old dog or something,, she’s a tired girl, or boy, i don’t actually know what gender this pug is. Ok, but, he will post these videos when he wakes up his pug in the morning, and he stands them up, and the pug will either fall back down or it will stand on its own. And it’s so cute, and people will be like, if the dog, like, stands up, then it’s a ‘Bones Day’, but if it falls down it’s a ‘No Bones Day’. So, people will base their day on this little, incredible old pug. Cause’, if its a bones day then that’s like, “gotta get up and go and be determined and, work hard” and, if it’s a no-bones day, then like, you’re able to flop and take a rest and self-care day basically. Anyways, he got really popular and all these people were following him, and for a long time, for a while, people would just base their whole day on this pug.”

Thoughts: This is incredibly humorous, I don’t think anyone necessarily truly believed that the pug was able to forecast the day, however I don’t think that is the point. Folklore is full of looking at the physical world for advice and information on the future. By having a large amount of people support the psychic powers of this pug, the notion gains a sort of validity. There are lots of things uncertain in life, and it can be difficult balancing healthy self-care with determined hard work. by relying on this pug, people have a (semi-valid?) way of ‘knowing’ that they are balancing their life every day. ‘Noodle’ the pug serves as a comfort for people to feel like they are handling their life correctly, in accordance to their own needs for balance as well as society’s demands.

South African Slang and Sayings (Voetsek, Sweet Like a Lemon, Yoh, Aiyoh, Shame)

Informant Context:

Otis’ parents immigrated separately to America from South Africa in the 1980’s, during apartheid. Otis’ extended family now lives in the Bay Area, California and near Johannesburg, South Africa. Otis often visits his family in South Africa.

Transcript:

OTIS: I can think of like, some slang that my family uses a lot. Um…

INTERVIEWER: Oh, yeah.

OTIS: A lot of it is like… [laughs] a lot of it will be like, toned-down South African swear words. 

INTERVIEWER: [joins]

OTIS: I don’t really know how most of them are spelled, but you could probably find… I don’t really know, but uh, one I thought of is… is “Voetsek!” [both laugh]. And that… it—it means “get away” in Afrikaans. And it… like, it’s mainly like, a thing that you say to dogs, ’cause there’s a lot of stray dogs in like, the kind of poorer areas where my family grew up. So they would be like, if a dog is coming near them, and if the dog looks dangerous, they’d like—yell “Voetsek!” And all the dogs *know* it by now, so the dogs—

INTERVIEWER: Oh, Wow! [laughs]

OTIS: —Scatter. 

INTERVIEWER: They all—they all scatter?

OTIS: But… so when you say it to a person, [laughs] it’s kind of rude. You’re like, calling him like, a dog.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK. Yeah.

OTIS: Yeah. And… like, my family will like, jokingly say it to each other. When like, one of my aunts is teasing one of the other aunts, they’ll be like, “Eh, voetsek” 

INTERVIEWER: [laughs]

INTERVIEWER: Like, joking. Um… [both laugh] There’s this thing my dad like, taught me to say whenever I was visiting family in South Africa. But I’ve never heard anyone else say it, but my dad’s like, “Oh yeah, me and all my friends always say this”. It—It just means “cool”, but it’s “sweet like a lemon”.

INTERVIEWER: [laughs] Oh! 

OTIS: So…

INTERVIEWER: [voice broken by laughter] I haven’t heard that… either. Lemon’s aren’t really sweet!

OTIS: It makes zero sense! But, uh… my dad might be just like, messing with me.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah [both laugh]Do people respond when you… ’cause he—he told you to say this in front of other family. Did they understand it? 

OTIS: They’ll just be like, “Oh yeah OK” [laughs].

INTERVIEWER: Oh. [joins]

[…]

OTIS: And then like, there’s a lot of like, exclma—exclamations um [laughs]… there’s like, “yoh”! Which means [laughs]—and I-I don’t know how you gonna spell all this stuff so… 

INTERVIEWER: I try to spell it out phonetically, but [laughs].

OTIS: Y-y-yeah. It’s like “yoh”!—which means, uh… like “Whoa”! And then there’s “Aiyoh!” which is like, “that’s crazy!” And I’ll hear my dad say that stuff a lot when he’s watching his soccer games [both laugh]. And… um… Oh! OK, a lot of South Africans will say [elongated] “Shame!” But it like…! It means—it kind of means the same thing as like “it’s a shame,” like how Americans will say. But it’s kind of different. Like, they’ll mean it in like, a… they’ll say it when like, a kid does something cute. Or like, someone’s being naïve, almost? 

INTERVIEWER: Oh.

OTIS: Like, if they say like—if they say like, “Oh this… kid like my, my son like didn’t make the soccer team. He was too short.” 

INTERVIEWER: [laughs]

OTIS: Or something. I guess that’s like “it’s a shame”. 

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

OTIS: But like, if they say something like, “Oh! The… the little kid made like, a… made like a fort, and told everyone that’s his new house.” They’d all be like “Uh! A shame, man!” They’s say that. [both laugh] 

INTERVIEWER: Oh interesting. So it’s around kids or something cute.

OTIS: Mhm.

INTERVIEWER: But also kind of something unfortunate. 

OTIS: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: So like… so like if I told somebody that I backed into a car in the parking lot, would they say “Shame” to that? Probably not? 

OTIS: No!

INTERVIEWER: Yeah [laughs]. Whereas— 

OTIS: If you said something like… like, “Oh, I need to go get gas right now”. They’d probably said like “Oh, shame”.  

INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK. 

Informant Commentary:

The informant recalls two levels of folk sayings: one that appears cultural (or at least, regional to Pretoria), and one that appears familial. On a large scale, interjections with origins in Afrikaans or  Asian languages (in the case of “aiyoh”) are easily recognizable among those in the South African Indian culture. They might even be understandable to those outside this culture, given the right context. To use Otis’ example, the meaning term “aiyoh” might be decipherable by someone watching the same soccer game as Otis’ father. The term “shame” might be decipherable to someone watching a child build a fort in front of the family. Other sayings, such as “sweet like a lemon” are idiosyncratic to Otis’ family, in his experience.

Analysis:

A small detail Otis mentioned about the dogs in South Africa give the term “voetsek” a deeper significance. Otis stated that “all the dogs know it by now,” implying that over time, the dog population came to gather the same meaning from the word “voetsek” as humans. In this way, the dogs seems to be part of the in-group who understand this term. If the term was said to a group of dogs from the region and a group of humans from outside the region, in “scatter[ing]”, the dogs would demonstrate a better understanding of this folk term than the humans would. This is a post-humanist analysis of this one, particular saying: folklore shared among non-humans. As for the collection of sayings as a whole—there is a significant amount of evidence online to suggest that these are widely used terms, not only among South African Indians, but South Africans of other ethnicities as well. “Aiyoh” appears more idiosyncratic to Asian (particularly Indian and Chinese) cultures, and “sweet like a lemon” might have a wider usage than Otis suggests, but is obscure compared to the rest. 

Dog Guardian or God Watching over the House in the Form of a Dog While Family is on Vacation

Because this interview exchange took place with my sister, I was able to ask in-depth questions about the events and beliefs she discussed in her stories. I remember the day she describes in her interview. We had just gotten home from vacation and a little dusty white dog met us at our car. We don’t own a dog and thought the animal was a stray. I didn’t think much of that event, but this experience had a large impact on my sister, who believes this dog watched over our home while we were away on vacation.

*

My sister said that God works through people and animals, and that during a conversation with our neighbor, she learned that the animal has been seen wandering around our house in the time we were gone. Our parents feared that the house would get robbed while we were away. They prayed that God would keep the house safe and that no one in the community would notice we had left.

My sister described how our parents would hush us any time we mentioned that we were going on vacation. We couldn’t talk about it outdoors, and while packing, we always kept the car closed to avoid showing passers-by a trunk full of suitcases.

One time when my sister and mother were not on vacation but rather at school and at work, the house did get robbed. They arrived home to find the door swung open and an alarm blaring. My sister said that this was a very bad experience, and that at first she couldn’t believe that the house had been robbed. She thought someone had come home early or that someone had left the door unlocked.

My sister said that she was not sure whether the dog was God or a messenger, but she did say that she believed it watched over the house while we were gone, and that she hadn’t seen it since.

My sister also mentioned that she is training for Confirmation, a sacrament of initiation in the Catholic faith that allows high schoolers to reaffirm their belief in church principles. She said that she had not met any other animals or people that she believed had watched over her. She also said that this might be because she considers herself capable and that she wants to take care of herself.

She also said that she did not come to this conclusion right away. It was only years after this event that she came to believe the dog had offered protection. She was pleased to know that God had watched out for the house when the family was away.

*

I do not share my sister’s belief in Catholicism but I do believe in signs. I remember this event and know that the dog made us nervous at the time. It was strange that the dog went right up to our car, and I do believe I saw the animal around the neighborhood after that day. This is an example of religious folklore. There are cannon Bible stories where God talks through a donkey to get his message across, such as the story of Balaam, the donkey, and the Angel ( Numbers 22:21-39 of Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition Bible)

You can find a version of this story here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+22%3A21-39&version=RSVCE

This story also relates to conversations about whether animals have souls.

This conversation took place over the phone, and the recording is very bad quality. It is important to note that our house is visited by members of a feral cat colony and other wild animals like squirrels and raccoons. These animals were not mentioned in the interview. The house is also located less than 100 yards from a homeless encampment of about 20 people.

I find it interesting that this is the story that my sister wanted to tell me most. She knows quite a lot about folklore from playing Dungeons and Dragons (see, “How Not To Play Dungeons and Dragons” in the USC folklore archive”) but this is the first story she shared when I asked her to think of a story for this archive.

Howling Dogs

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

I: When I was younger, growing up my mother would say if you heard a dog howling at night, it was the soul of someone who was about to pass away or die or crossing to the next world. So, howling dogs at night used to scare me

M: Oh it used to scare you. Ok

I: Yes because it meant that someone was going to died and you didn’t know who

M: Oh gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. So you believed it to be true?

I: Well yeah I was little, like 7 or 8.

M: Do you believe it to be true today?

I: No, but there things in our family from Peru because we’re from you know that more of the rural areas, that there’s the belief in signs

Context: This was taught to my informant and the rest of her siblings when she was a small child. They all believed in this and even believe their mother had a ‘sense’ about these things. Her mother heard a basketball bouncing in the middle of the night (a symbol connected to the neighbors) and a dog howling and she claimed that someone in that household would die. Soon after the mother of the neighbors died of a surprise brain aneurysm. Seeing the folklore working in real time help to solidify in their belief of the howling dog as a premonition for a soon approaching death.

Analysis: In Peruvian culture especially in the more rural areas, there is a large focus and trust in omens. The belief is that the dogs have a sense about death and illness that humans don’t and thus they know when death is coming sooner than humans do. I think that allowing animals, dogs in this case, to have the power to sense what is coming allows for humans to conceptualize these deaths as a part of nature, a part of the life cycle, and that this was what was in the plans. It makes it easier to attribute to nature’s timing when ‘nature,’ aka dogs, is involved and know what is coming in advance- there is nothing to do but allow for life to take its course. Additionally, ‘seeing’ this work in real life with their neighbors, help to cement this belief in my informant when she was growing up, even if she doesn’t believe it as much now, possibly because she is in a much more science-valued country(the US).

How to stop a dog from pooping

Main Piece:

“Do you remember what your dad used to tell us when we were little, about how to stop dogs from pooping? (laughter) So, he said that when you saw a dog pooping you should stare at it and interlock your index fingers and pull on them while staring at the dog. I did it many times, and it worked! Or maybe the dog was just creeped out by me staring at it.”

 

Context:

The informant is a 27-year-old Mexican American college student. He heard this “trick” from his uncle. He is not sure why he was told this but continues to try out the “trick” to this day.

 

Analysis:

I believe that this gesture was a way to entertain us when we were children. It might just be a prank to pull on naïve individuals.