Tag Archives: folk saying

“Bread and Butter” (Splitting the Pole)

• saying/banisher of bad luck

Many people subscribe to the superstition that “splitting the pole,” or in other words, walking on two different sides of a (usually tall and inanimate) object, i.e. a pole, is bad luck–sometimes promising a split in the pair’s relationship, poor fortune, or even death for one or both parties, according to different beliefs. 

Of course, for various reasons, sometimes it is impossible for two people to avoid splitting the pole, in which case one of them must say “bread and butter” to undo the bad luck. This is presumably tied to the idea that splitting the pole will cause the two to separate in some way, and butter can’t really be separated from bread once spread. 

While there is limited written documentation/proof, because the superstition around splitting the pole seems to have originated among Black Americans, many point to the context of slavery, the life-or-death need for enslaved people to stay together and seek protection in numbers, and the ever-present threat of external parties dividing them from loved ones. 

However, “bread and butter” makes even physical separation powerless, restoring the protective powers of community, especially in travel. 

Black is Sweet

Text: “The Blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

Context: The participant recounts that this proverb has been told to her from a very young age. She remembers the first time she heard it was at a family gathering and she asked for an explanation. Her aunt explained to her that it was a saying that recognizes black beauty and contradicts the negative stereotypes that are put forth onto the Black community. She specifies how it can be used to also counter negative stereotypes within the Black community, relating to colorism.

Analysis: This proverb helps uplift and promote a positive self-image within the Black community. As they have been prosecuted and deemed as inferior by many people due to the complexion of their skin. Elaborating on the participants’ mention of how it also relates to colorism within the community, that tends to favor people with a lighter skin tone, this proverb sheds light that black is beautiful. While also recognizing that people of darker complexion should be prideful of their skin tone. Although this proverb is used within black communities, the plague of colorism and prejudice is also relevant in other POC communities.

Hakuna Matata Hakuna Haraka- Proverb


Hakuna Matata Hakuna Haraka


No worries, no hurries


“I know you heard this in the lion king but they only say half. The original proverb is a common Kenyan saying you use to tell people to enjoy life. The second half that Disney missed is actually the key part! Kenyans are fun people who love to party so we aren’t meant to rush or worry. We would use it whenever someone was stressing out or worrying to try and calm them down.”


Hakuna Matata is a well known phrase from Disney’s Lion King, and as the song states it means no worries. The second part of this proverb explains that by not hurrying or rushing things you can achieve a life without worries. This proverb has significant cultural importance as it serves for a micro chasm of the attitude of many Kenyans. This proverb is similar to western proverbs such as “stop and smell the roses”. Furthermore  Hakuna Matata has become a proverb that is known throughout the world and not just in Kenya.

Good enough – Proverb


“It’s good enough for who it’s for”


“I learned this proverb from my dad and it seems to have spread throughout our whole family. I know this may seem like a simple ‘good enough’ but we use it anytime someone may be worried about their work. Off the top of my head I remember using it jokingly with our grandpa the other day when I was mowing the lawn for him.”


This proverb has a very small folkgroup being essentially just my family. Despite this, like other proverbs we use it all the time to give a statement social credit. Since the proverb could be considered an oicotype of “it’s good enough” it’s familiar enough that most people are able to understand its meaning. The situations in which the proverb are used are typically humorous or self deprecating as in doing making your bed hastily and then saying “well it’s good enough for who it’s for”.

Arbol Torcido Saying

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Age: 50
  • Occupation: N/A
  • Residence: Los Angeles 
  • Primary language: Spanish 
  • Relationship: mother 


“Arbol que nace torcido, jamas su tronco endereza.”

No literal english translation

 Closest english translation to the phrase above : “tree that is born crooked, its trunk never straightens 


EP says the saying has different meanings; she states, “Puede ser una persona o cosa que estaba hecho mal desde el principio, jamas va ser derecha o jamas se va corregir.” It can be a person or thing that was made wrong from the beginning, it will never be just. The informant says it’s a “refran” or “dicho,” which in English means it is a proverb, a saying, or a riddle. She first heard the saying from her parents when she was about 5 years old. She said at first she didn’t know the significance or true meaning of it until it was explained to her. However, she told me that it was also one of those things that was common sense because you could put two and two together when it is said in a certain situation. She also remembers hearing the proverb told during specific situations. An example she provided me with was of a son who was always reckless as a child and continues to live a reckless life. 


I had never heard this proverb before, and at first I was confused because of how the words are phrased in Spanish. Once the informant further explained what it meant, I was able to draw my own interpretation of the proverb. I believe the saying refers to a person who is believed to be unable to change due to the way they were raised or grew up. I believe that from a young age, the way we are educated and what we learn from the people surrounding us leave an impact on us. There are various factors that will help shape who you will become when you grow up. A crooked trunk will never straighten because it was born that way. This could be interpreted in the context of a person that holds negative values and attitudes from a young age. This individual will find it more difficult to change these bad characteristics and habits because they have been instilled into their being. Adopting new habits and values is always possible, but it will be more of a challenge to do so. The person must be willing to change and put in the effort to become better and “enderezer”(straighten).