Tag Archives: folk sayings

Vietnamese Folk Speech

Tags: Folk Speech, Dites, Folk Sayings, Vietnamese


“Biết chết liền”

“If I knew, I’d die”

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Age: 56

Occupation: Business Owner

Residence: Northwest Arkansas, USA

Date of Performance: February 2024

Primary Language:Vietnamese

Other Language(s): English

Relationship: Stepfather


ND, the informant, was born in the South of Vietnam. He often uses this phrase when talking to his other Vietnamese friends about a piece of gossip.


“Biết chết liền” is another way of saying that “if I’d known, I would have died.” It is also a Vietnamese way of saying that you didn’t know about something. Vietnamese people have a very unique way of expressing themselves: their speech is typically lighthearted, dramatic, and wonderfully eccentric. Oftentimes when speaking amongst friends/ethnic familiars, they use dramatic and funny phrases to communicate.

Folk Sayings: “She’s for the Streets”

Informant Context: The informant is a 20-year-old white male from Riverside, California.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “What is a proverb or saying you might share with a guy friend when giving advice about women?”

Informant: “The other week, my boy came to me about a girl he’d been seeing. He found out she was talking to other guys. I told him ‘she’s for the streets’ and to keep it pushing.”

Collector: “What does it mean when a girl is ‘for the streets’?”

Informant: “It means they’re a hoe. That she sleeps around and she belongs to everybody. Like she is willing to do things with anyone on the streets. Kind of like a prostitute.”

Analysis: In recent years, this saying has risen in popularity among the Gen-Z and Millennial demographic. If someone’s viewed as promiscuous, younger generations will commonly deem that person as “for the streets” through online comments or folk lore. The phrase’s popularity is reflected in this decade’s pop music. One notable example is the pop song “Streets,” released in 2019 by rapper/singer Doja Cat.

“Who’s ‘we,’ you got a frog in your pocket?


When someone refers to an ambiguous, undefined “we” in conversation, one would pose the question: “who’s ‘we,’ you got a frog in your pocket?”


The informant learned this humorous saying from her dad, who himself learned it from his law school roommate. Though he attended law school in Dallas, Texas, the person who introduced it to him hailed from Southern California.


Though this saying seems nonsensical, it allows asker to pose the question “who is ‘we’?” without the natural implication of suspicion or aggression that might be invoked by the question by itself. Similarly undercutting tension, it reminds the person being asked that they have neglected to provide relevant details in a manner that is humorous and non-accusatory.

Health Superstitions and Practices

“We’re not allowed to walk around barefoot in the house because you’ll supposedly get sick, there’s another thing we do where when you’re on your period your not supposed to drink cold water, after you have something that scares you, you’re not supposed to drink water, your supposed to eat a piece of bread or something, or when a kid gets hurt they’ll like sing “sana, sana, sana, colita de rana” which I think translates to “heal, heal, heal, frogs tail” but I’m not too sure.”

Background: The informant is from a latina household and says that she heard all these things from her mother when she was younger. She says that many of the practices were to prevent her from getting sick and her parents never explained the background of the superstitions, so she doesn’t know why her parents believed in such superstitions. 

Analysis: While the informant comes from a Latina household, some of the superstitions also align with superstitions from other cultures. Walking barefoot in the house is a very common superstition in households, most of the time believing it will result in the person catching a cold or getting sick. Drinking cold water is also believed to not be good for a person’s health by many people. So pinpointing the origins of these superstitions is highly unlikely.

However, the “sana, sana, sana, colita de rana” saying does come from Spanish speaking cultures. Its English translation doesn’t make much sense, but it is used by many Hispanic and Latino families. The purpose of this saying does not have any magical elements to it and is solely used to console children who have been hurt.

Coins for the New Year

M is 54, and grew up in Manila, Philippines, and currently resides in San Gabriel, California.

M always says that during the New Year, “you must always have money in your wallet or carry coins in your pocket”. He said that this would ensure that you “always have money during the New Year.”

A saying commonly passed around Filipino families, this is a tradition that has been practiced in my family for as long as I can remember. Even if we were not carrying money throughout the day, my brother and I were each given a handle of coins to have as the New Year clock counted down. It appears that Filipino people, and other cultures and ethnic groups, regard the New Year as a deeply momentous and symbolic time. This can be seen in copious amounts of traditions practiced around that time. 

In fact, the coins in the pocket tradition are performed in tandem with other New Year’s traditions my parents have passed down, including eating noodles (for a long life), and jumping when the clock strikes midnight (to grow taller in the new year).