Tag Archives: folk saying

Chinoisms: Canning

Context & Analysis

The subject often mentions her mother’s “Chinoisms”, or unique sayings that her mother learned when growing up in Chino, CA. Below is the subject’s direct quote on the origin of her mother’s proverbs:

            “So my mom comes from Chino [California], and so she has a plethora of sayings that I didn’t even know what they meant earlier, I just said them until I got older and I was like “Oh! That actually makes sense!”

This proverb seems to suggest that the subject’s mother came from a background that was very conscious of food waste. The reference to the process of canning also implies that this saying could have originated before the refrigerator was the primary method of preserving food.

Main Piece

When you—when we’re eating food and we can’t finish it we say “Eat what you can, can what you can’t” so like you can’t eat what you can’t eat, so like you put it in a can if you can’t eat it, so like you’re saving it.”

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

Context: My roommate discovered this meme one day, and it prompted a discussion about the various levels of depth it reached.

Background: My roommate is a self-described “conveyor of fine memes” and has a hobby of collecting, creating, and sharing Internet memes.

The Meme: The meme (attached to this post) is a play on the phrase “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” The phrased is reworked in a text explanation that laments the fact that things are not “easy peasy lemon squeezy” as once believed, but are in fact “difficult difficult lemon difficult.” This explanation is accompanied by the image of a middle-aged woman furiously gripping a laptop in both hands and biting into it.

Analysis: This became a folklore discussion as a surprise, as the further my roommate and I discussed it, the more it seemed to work as a piece of folk speech. “Difficult difficult lemon difficult” is definitely an evolution of the saying “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” which itself has an origin that feels meaningless in the context the phrase has since gained. The specific discovery of the newly-changed saying also has the context of being in meme form, memes being one of the more common areas of unauthored expression in the 21st century.

“Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand’s doing”

The informant is originally from Fullerton, CA and her mother is from New York who would tell her this line.  Both women are Jewish as well.

The informant explains that as a teenager growing up as young woman and beginning to first start dating young men her mother would always tell her: “Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand’s doing.”  The informant explains that her mother would give her this advice with the idea that you should go out with multiple guys at one time as long as you do not let the two different guys find out what is going on.  She explains that she gave this suggestion because the mother didn’t feel as though a girl should have to just date one guy if she was interested in multiple.  The informant explains that this applies more generally to going out with two different groups, but not letting the other group know what you’re doing.  The informant explains that her mother still passes this advice onto her grandchildren.  The informant explains that she first heard this saying from her mother and is not sure whether the mother created the line or heard it from someone else.

This saying gives an interesting outlook on what values or interests the mother who passed this information down to her daughter and grandchildren has.  It is clear that within her view, it is best to not limit oneself when looking for dating opportunities.  It would be interesting to take a survey of a number of people and ask if they approve or disapprove of this saying.

The informant explains that her daughter has heard her grandmother give this advice and that she is slightly annoyed because she doesn’t like her daughter playing with the emotions of multiple guys.

“Put your foot up on the barstool”

Informant explains a line that her mother told her when she was beginning to go out at night to bars and interacting with men.  The informant explains her mother would always ask, “Did you put your foot up on the barstool?”  The informant explains that this was a way of mother asking whether she had tried or met different guys at the bar or whatever places the informant went out that night.  The informant does not know whether the mother created this saying herself or heard it somewhere else.  The informant explains that her mother continues to ask her grandchildren whether they had “put their foot on the barstool” after a night of going out.

This saying collected from the informant is interesting as it relates to young women meeting men when they go out for the night.  The question and saying indicates the older/parent generation’s interest in the younger generation’s interactions with men.  It indicates the great interest parents have in their daughters meeting someone who they may potentially marry.  It also displays young women’s interest in putting themselves out there to meet someone special.

“Malian Folk-Saying: Part Two”

            The informant was born and raised in Bamako, Mali until the age of ten, when she and her family moved to the San Francisco area. Half-French and half-Malian, the informant has lived a diverse life full of unique and varied cultural activities. She visits both Paris and Bamako during vacations and maintains a strong connection with family in both countries. She is fluent in English, French, and Bambara, which is the primary language spoken in Mali and part of the West African Mande language family. Related dialects are spoken in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, similar enough so that the informant felt confident that people living in those countries would understand the saying.

            She learned this Bambara folk-saying from her father, who in turned learned it from his mother. It is used more frequently by older generations than the other folk-saying she shared, “a dgelly mandi.” Her Malian grandmother, who she described as “critical and grumpy, kind of like how you would imagine a village’s token crazy grandma,” uses the saying all the time to describe people she doesn’t approve of, especially in reference to her nephews’ and grandsons’ girlfriends. Within the informant’s family, although the saying is intended for cautionary purposes, her grandmother’s liberal use of it has given it more of a comedic effect; she said most of her family members now groan, laugh, or roll their eyes and say, “Not again!” when her grandmother recites the phrase.


            “A ka fanga bê bin kênê djeni” is Bambara, too, which in English means, “She could burn fresh grass,” and, you know, fresh grass doesn’t burn. So, basically, it’s meant to say “She’s too difficult to deal with” or “She’s impossible.”  


            Particularly interesting is that both Malian sayings offered by the informant are structured through the feminine pronoun, although it can be used to reference both genders. The most likely hypothesis, then, is that men in the village first used it to describe women, although perhaps the saying was authored by a jealous wife or frustrated mother. Like “A dgelly mandi,” this folk saying, too, could be easily used among town gossips or among close friends and family.

             The emphasis the informant’s father placed on visualizing Malian proverbs is quite interesting in this case; it is nearly impossible to read with translated saying without imagining a woman walking by a plot of green grass and having it immediately burst into flames. This adds a layer of spirituality and mystique because then the saying suggests that this woman, or person, has a sort of (evil) power that others do not possess. Although the saying is not taken literally, it is not difficult to imagine that it may have first arisen from a spiritual or magical belief.