Tag Archives: folk saying

“Bread and butter.”

G is a 50-year-old Caucasian female originally from Phoenix, Arizona. G is a retired school teacher.

G offered this piece of folklore during a phone conversation. I asked G if she had any folklore she would be willing to share with me, and she offered me this superstition she remembered from her childhood.

G: One funny thing growing up was um, if you’re walking with somebody and you split a pole, you would say “bread and butter.”

Reflection: I have not heard of this superstition before, but it reminds me of other phrase based superstitions like saying ”knock on wood” or ”rabbit rabbit” to negate bad luck or engender good luck, respectively. Assuming that saying ”bread and butter” is also luck related, perhaps the phrase nullifies any potential bad luck associated with being forced to separate by an obstacle. The wording of the superstition also appears to nod to the idea that bread and butter are most ideally eaten as a pair (toast), rather than being eaten as separate ingredients. In the same way, people are implied to be better suited together rather than apart by the superstition.

“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).

“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.