Tag Archives: folk saying

“Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other”

Main Piece:

Me: Can you repeat that? (Silence.)

Roommate: *laughs*

Me: Oh no! SP, can you hear me?

SP: *laughs* It cut out for a second, ‘kay? Yeah, I can hear you guys now.

Me: Can you repeat what the phrase was?

SP: “Six of one, half a dozen of the other.” Which just basically means same difference.

Me: What would you use that for in like— like saying that for?

SP: I often contradict myself, all the time, with my thinking. And I’m a bit of an over thinker—and so I think, sometimes, that phrase can get me out of my rabbit hole when I’m like— I don’t know, thinking too deeply about something…

Me: Got it. And where did you learn this phrase from?

SP: Where did I learn that? I… (She thinks.) Learned it… *whispers* Fuck! I don’t know.

Me: That’s okay!

SP: It was a very common phrase back when my grandparents were young.

Me: Okay, uhm, who would you hear say this? Did your grandparents ever say it to you?

SP: Yeah, my grandfather did… My grandfather on my mom’s side when I was young… like six. And visit them, in the summers.

Me: And do you know why? Like, in what context he would say it?

SP: Usually… when we’re fighting about something. Or like the family is bickering. And it’s like…

Me: Ah, got it. Got it.

SP: “Same difference.” You know?

Me: “Same difference.”


Performed over a FaceTime call. One of my roommates friends, a high school senior. She is in her bedroom in Alameda, California.


This was especially interesting to me because I know the components of what is being said, but I didn’t understand them without the context given by the informant. According to her, this is more popular amongst older generations in America. I thought of it as a practical saying, but hearing how her grandfather used it to settle disputes and pacify family arguments really made it special. I can see why she uses it now in her personal life as a way of anchoring herself to reality and practicing mindfulness, and I’m glad she was able to find an emotional attachment to this piece of family folklore.

Calladita Luzes Mas Bonita

Main Piece: 

“Calladita luzes mas bonita.”


“Quieter you shine much prettier.”


“You shine brighter when you’re quiet.”


My informant is one of my friends who lives in Miami, Florida, and is of Cuban and Iranian heritage. Her grandmother would often take care of her and her cousins when they were little, and the above piece is a phrase she would say to them when they were behaving poorly or talking back to her. This is also a phrase that’s recognized across Latinx cultures as a form of expressing disapproval, and criticizing one for talking too much. My informant also noted that it was usually the girls who would be on the receiving end of this expression, and not her boy cousins. 


This piece came up when my friend and I were talking about the various ways that we would be disciplined and criticized by our grandmothers and elders in the Latinx community. My friend brought this phrase to attention as one of her memories, and I immediately recognized it because I’d heard a similar version of it when I was younger.  


This phrase seems to have been a staple of my childhood, part of which was spent in Mexico when I was young. My teacher in fourth grade would tell us the variation phrase, “calladitos se ven mas bonitos,” which translates to: “you [all] look prettier when you’re quiet.” Like my informant said, this phrase was used to criticize kids who were being rude or talking too much, but in my experience, it could also be applied to older people as well. The general message also serves as a warning to remind people to think about how their public image may be affected by their constant chatter. Like many proverbs, this tended to come from the mouths of our elders or anyone who seemed to carry a wave of authority, but that perception could have come as a result of them delivering the proverb. Additionally, it’s important to examine them because they can be representative of what kinds of behavior are accepted and valued in a culture— in this case, learning to hold your tongue. 

Regardless, I do agree with my informant’s observation that girls were more likely to be chastised for speaking too much rather than boys, and as she later added, it “Speaks to, for better or worse, the culture around propriety— not only in Cuban culture, but like Hispanic cultures.” From a young age, girls are conditioned from a young age to speak quietly and not to express more than their share of words. Introverted qualities are praised, whereas boys are given the liberty to talk as much as they want— maybe not constantly, as my fourth grade teacher scolded us, but extroverted behavior was encouraged, even expected for them.

“The eye of the soul fattens your horse”

Context: My informant is a 29 year-old man who is of Cuban descent. He grew up in San Diego and still lives there. He described a common saying for Cubans that his family taught him growing up. He likes this saying because it has led him to be more attentive and focused at many parts of his life.



“‘El ojo del alma el gordo el caballo’ is a popular Cuban saying. In english it translates to the eye of the soul fattens your horse. It basically means if you care about something and you want it to grow, you have to um… keep your eyes on it and pay attention. I remember my parents telling me this when I was growing up and it has always been something that has stuck with me. I um… definitely wanna teach it to my children some day,”


This saying resonated with me as I am also a Cuban person. This was definitely a message implemented by my family throughout the years as it shaped a lot of how I thought about work and things that I care about in general. It is the culmination of hearing phrases like this that helped me to understand the world around me. This type of oral tradition is extremely impactful, especially to children, as they are so malleable. 

This is the type of phrase that the informant will pass on to his kids and so on forever as these types of sayings are very important to the culture and beliefs. Many other cultures have sayings along this message which helps explain why it is such an important message to hold. Using the horse as a reference is very interesting and also mentioning the idea of a soul as these things illuminate that these ideas might be more common for Cuban people to understand than others.

“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.

Jinx! You Owe Me a… Handstand?


Abstract: The jinx game has multiple different outcomes. In this particular instance, the person who says “jinx” last after saying the exact same thing as someone else must do a handstand no matter the location.


Background: JW is a college senior in California. He grew up in California his whole life. He and his roommates decided to add a twist to the “jinx” game by adding humiliation in the form of a handstand. After being flabbergasted when we said the same thing and he told me to do a handstand, I asked him about it further.


The game:


JW: Yeah, instead of owing me a soda or a pinch, you have to do a handstand if you’re last on jinx.




Person 1: What’s your favorite color?

Person 2 and 3: Green

Person 2: Jinx! You owe me a handstand.


Person 3 must now do a handstand.


Interpretation: Rather than inflicting pain or adding monetary value, the punishment becomes humiliation which is much more enjoyable to most crowds. At this point it does not become an individual reward for the person who said jinx first, but  a group reward in getting to see someone attempt to do a handstand in possible obscure places. Humiliation offers much more than any soda or pinch could offer. This says that our society values laughing at the others more than inflicting damages upon each other or causing financial burden. Laughing and happiness will outweigh a couple bucks and pain for most people in the world today.