Tag Archives: folk metaphor

Stars In Your Eyes – Proverb

“वह लड़की जिसकी आँखों में सितारे हैं”

“Vah ladakee jisakee aankhon mein sitaare hain”

“The girl with stars in her eyes.”

Origins: Indian


The informant was taught this specific Hindi phrase by her grandmother. They recall hearing this phrase “since [they were] a baby” and “can’t remember the first time” they were introduced to this proverb. The informant elaborates, “My Nani taught me the Hindi phrase. It’s what her father would call her.” Furthermore, Nanaji, their Nani’s father, “was a poet. He told her the story of how stars were good acts materialized, and that’s why Nani was the girl with stars in her eyes.” Growing up, the informant’s “grandma always told [them they] had stars in [their] eyes.”


Being told one has “stars in their eyes” symbolizes all of the good that another person has worked for, manifested in front of them. The informant’s personal story of an older generation saying this phrase to members of the younger generation is telling of the sacrifices that families make to see their children succeed. This is reflective of the inherent importance that is held for trying to give younger generations better lives than those who have lived before them. Also, this proverb creates a folk narrative that emphasizes the impermeability of family ties. Similar to the stars, the notion of the goodness wished for the next generation shines bright. Stars, in this case, personify the beauty of creation and the underlying interconnectedness resounding from loved ones.

“Bowling cows.”

E is a 35-year-old Irish female originally from Cork, Ireland. E currently runs a bed and breakfast with her husband outside out Cork, Ireland.

E performed this folklore over breakfast in the dining area of her bed and breakfast. I asked E if she had any Irish folklore she would be willing to share with me.

E: My husband has this saying, it’s an old Irish thing. Um, if-if you eat all your dinner basically and you’re full of, you’re gonna-you’re full of energy and now you’re feeling really strong and all that, and “I could bowl cows against the hill!” Is what it is, this old saying he has. And he was telling my German friend recently he was just-basically is you feel.. really strong that you could take on anything you could do anything. “Bowl cows against a hill” like in other words you’re gonna just, push the cows up the hill kinda thing. But, it doesn’t really make sense but it’s just a saying you know?

Reflection: To me, E’s saying invokes the same kind of emotion as other sayings like ”I’m on top of the world” or ”I feel like a million bucks” to express the feeling of self-empowerment one feels after eating a good meal. Even though E asserts that the saying doesn’t make sense to her, it at least makes sense within a geographical and cultural context. As E and her husband both live in a rural farming community and tend to livestock themselves, it makes sense that E’s husband’s expression of strength would have something to do with exerting power over something he toils over on a daily basis (cows).

“When the tiger used to smoke” (호랑이 담배피던 시절)

Main Piece : 

“호랑이 담배피던 시절”

Original Script : 호랑이 담배피던 시절

Phonetic (Roman) Script : Horangee dambae pidun shijul

Transliteration : When the tiger used to smoke

Full Translation : Long, long time ago… 

Context :

My informant is an adult male who was born in the Gangwon Area of Korea, which is located on the East side of the peninsula. He received Korean education throughout his life and he now works in Korea. Here, he is describing a commonly used proverb that is used in the Korean society. He is identified as S in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was translated into English.  

S : So ‘호랑이가 담배피던 시절’ is one of the most famous opening lines of Korean folk stories. The storyteller, or whoever narrates the story would start off with this opening sentence and continue telling the first chapter of the story. It is similar to how Disney movies start with “once upon a time..”. They never identify the exact year of what’s taking place, but only hints that it is a very long time ago. 

E : Is the author for this opening line known?

S : I don’t think so. I’m not an expert on this, but because this is a very widely used opening in countless folk stories, I think it is unknown and will be hard to find who started this. I don’t think the author for “once upon a time” is known too. I’d be surprised if the author is known. 

Analysis :

I think this particular folktale opening reflects a very Korean aspect as they introduce the tiger out of all animals. Tiger has been a national animal of Korea for a very long time and a lot of the ancient folk drawings or cultures include, or is related to tigers. Tigers in Korean folklore hold a great importance and has been used in various occasions such as the Olympic mascot. Also, when we explain smoke, it doesn’t mean Western cigarettes, but it is most likely believed to be ‘곰방대(Gombangdae)’, which is a traditional smoking device of Korea made out of wood and metal. This opening lets the readers imagine a tiger, sitting in his house like a human, and smoking, using Gombangdae. The triggering of the imagination of the readers gives off a mystical feeling to open the scene. 

This article highlights how Korea used a white tiger as a mascot for their 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and what tiger means in their culture.

The OJ Simpson Metaphor

The informant (A.H.) comes from a Black Christian family. A.H. does not identify with Christianity.

Now well retired from the game at 54 years old, A.H. played football in the NFL from 1983 to 1987; first drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, then transferred to the Seattle Seahawks, and finally the San Francisco 49ers. Since then he has coached youth football teams, and works now as a financial analyst. A.H. was over house for dinner one Monday evening, and after our meal I interviewed him for football specific occupational folklore. I asked about the superstitions, traditions, and legends A.H. had come across during his career as a professional player.

A.H.: “I remember growing up I was a huge OJ Simpson fan. I think every kid my age that grew up in my area that wanted to be a running back wanted to be OJ. And I remember reading in an article somewhere that he never ate before games. He had said somewhere that he wanted to know what it was like to be hungry, and he thought that it would transfer over into games. I think I might have been in high-school when I read that. It affected the way that I ate, like I would never eat the night before the game or morning before the game. The interesting thing is when I coached, I passed that on to the players that I used to coach. He said something like, if you didn’t eat it would make you like a hungry dog. You would play better. Every guy has his superstition before the game… So I saw one of the kids on Facebook that I used to coach… A lot of those kids are coaches, and they’re passing that stuff on now.”

I found A.H.’s story compelling, because what began as Simpson’s individual superstition was perpetuated by his success, and eventually A.H.’s success. As seen with the OJ Simpson metaphor, a young generation of football players dons the occupational superstitions of their predecessors as a rite of passage in the hopes to achieve similar success on the field. A.H. was well spoken, and seemed to enjoy revisiting memories of his time in the game. He was equally, if not more enthusiastic about the legacy he left behind as a coach.
Not only does A.H.’s story provide an occupational superstition, but also a new interpretation of a popular metaphor. Specifically, in English speech, ‘hunger’ serves as a metaphor for desire or motivation. In this particular superstition, the hunger metaphor is associated with the desire to win the game. For a popular example of the hunger used as a metaphor for motivation, see Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games.

Taking someone to the Squash Courts


At the boarding school Cate, “taking someone to the squash courts” meant you were going to hook up with someone. Not that people take others to the squash courts to hook up with, but once upon a time people did that. At least that’s what people say.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who graduated from this boarding school (Cate). His knowledge of this phrase dates back between 3 and 11 years ago, though it is reasonable that it has existed for longer. The squash courts at the school were a very secluded and private place.


American culture has a huge phobia of sexuality—it is extremely taboo. Whereas in other cultures that coveted spot is taken by violence, American children are taught to hide their sexuality. As a result, different pockets of the country choose to make euphemisms to describe the act, acknowledging it while at the same time making it a more speakable act. In my opinion is essentially equates to using “He who shall not be named” in place of Voldemort (in reference to Harry Potter). Even hook up is a vague term as it implies a consenting, physical act between two individuals, but does not describe the nature or extremity of the act. I believe that the term “hook up” is so colloquial as slang for engaging in an act of intimacy that it has become necessary for teenagers to water the phrase down further, so as not to make themselves feel dirty while talking about the act.