Tag Archives: folk speech

“A pearl necklace on a pig’s neck” (돼지 목에 진주목걸이)

Main Piece : 

“돼지 목에 진주목걸이”

Original Script : 돼지 목에 진주목걸이

Phonetic (Roman) Script : Dwaeji mok-eh jinju mokgul-ee

Transliteration : A pearl necklace on a pig’s neck

Full Translation : One must live within one’s means

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, and I will be identified as E in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was translated into English. 

S : So what do you think what it means by a pearl necklace on a pig’s neck?

E : Maybe that it doesn’t go along well? It doesn’t fit?

S : Basically, yeah. A pig will never wear a pearl necklace and even if it did, it won’t know the value of it, whether it is high or low. This proverb means that one must live within one’s means and know their own value. If one doesn’t live within their ‘range’ but only seeks for valuable objects, they will only look like a pig with a pearl necklace. 

E : Haha, I think that’s a very straightforward explanation of it – a pig with a pearl necklace.

S : It’s supposed to give that direct meaning, I guess.

Analysis :

This proverb shows the difference of a human and an animal and that they have different values for objects. While a human might admire expensive cars and jewelry, an animal would not value those objects but would rather value a good meal. This hints at a humor by comparing two unlikely matters; an expensive pearl necklace and a pig, which is an animal that is usually perceived to be dirty. 

“You hide your head but not your bottom” (頭隠して尻隠さず)

Original Script : 頭隠して尻隠さず

Phonetic (Roman) Script : Atama kakushite shiri kakusazu

Transliteration : You hide your head but not your bottom

Full Translation : You think you have hided your wrongdoings perfectly, but everyone knows that you did it

Context : 

My informant is a high school student who was born in Osaka, Japan. She graduated elementary school in Japan but soon moved to the United States for English education. She still uses Japanese in her home and uses and knows a lot of Japanese proverbs and idioms that are still widely used in Japan. Here, she is describing a well-known Japanese proverb. She is identified as Y, and this piece was collected over a phone call. 

Y : I think I learned this one when I was in middle school. So, “頭 (Atama)” means head in Japanese and “尻 (Shiri)” literally means butt, haha. And “隠す (Kakusu)” is a verb that means to hide. The proverb is directly translated into “you hide your head but not your bottom”. Since the person hiding can’t see what others are doing, the hider thinks that no one knows what he or she has done and acts like they didn’t do anything wrong too. But in fact, everyone knows what’s going on and it’s the hider himself that doesn’t know what’s going on. 

Analysis :

The proverb makes the audience imagine a person hiding its head in a hole or in a corner while exposing its curled-up body completely. Because what they see is darkness in the corner and avoids people’s attention and judgement from it, they think they have kept their mistake undercover and no one knows about it. However, in fact, everyone obviously knows what is going on but just acts like they didn’t see it. This proverb reminded me of a personal memory of mine when I was playing hide-and-seek with a young cousin. She would hide behind the curtains but her leg would be still exposed under the curtain. However, I had to act like I couldn’t find her and ‘lost’ the game because I couldn’t find her in time. She giggled and thought I wasn’t able to find her at all. This proverb can also be translated that the person hiding isn’t smart enough like a young baby to know that everyone knows the truth.

“Eating from the same rice pot” (同じ釜の飯を食う)

Original Script : 同じ釜の飯を食う

Phonetic (Roman) Script : Onaji kamano meshiwo kuu

Transliteration : Eating from the same rice pot

Full Translation : Joining as a new member of a community

Context : 

My informant is a high school student who was born in Osaka, Japan. She graduated elementary school in Japan but soon moved to the United States for English education. She still uses Japanese in her home and uses and knows a lot of Japanese proverbs and idioms that are still widely used in Japan. Here, she is describing a well-known Japanese proverb. She is identified as Y, and this piece was collected over a phone call. 

Y : Basically, eating from the same rice pot indicates that they are sitting in the same space while eating and are familiar with each other. Sharing a meal shows that they are friends and are in the same boat. If you think about it, not a lot of people get to share the rice from a single rice pot; it’s either your family or a person who lives with you. It’s this straight-forward.

Analysis :

This proverb was very easy to understand and personally relatable because there is a Korean version of this proverb. The Korean version of this proverb also translates into “eating from the same rice pot”. I’m not sure where it was first introduced from, but this shows that Asian cultures have a similar understanding of proverbs. Also, I thought it was interesting how it was ‘rice pot’ out of all foods that a person can share; it adds an Asian aspect to it. It also implies how sharing of foods means that they are ‘on the same boat’. 

The sharing of food (or drinks) is also related to the ‘Sakazuki’ ceremony, which is a ceremony of Japanese yakuza (Japanese gang) performs when a new gang member joins in. They share a cup of traditional Japanese alcohol, sake and the sharing of the drink means that the new member is now an official member of the yakuza family; the member must show absolute loyalty to the family and the boss must protect the member under all circumstances. 

A detailed further description of the Sakazuki ceremony and the importance of creating bonds between yakuza members could be found in this article, “Insider Outsider: The Way of the Yakuza” written by Jacob Raz.

Ojinnaka-Folk Title/Name

Context: This name was given to my dad by my grandfather or his father. This name is a title given to sons who have surpassed the expectations of their father. 

  • The name Ojinnaka means that he is greater than his age-mates because of his father. Meaning that the greatness of his father is passed down to his son.
    • Thoughts: This was something that I never knew about so learning about the significance of my dad’s given name was really eye-opening. Like I stated before with my mom, names in my culture are very significant because they are given on the basis of a wide variety of things. Names can be given based on traits and characteristics displayed during the time spent in your mother’s womb, you could be named based on the day you were born, the environment you were born in, or as a thank you to God for bringing you into the world. Every name has a meaning and is something that is very important when it’s given. My dad’s name was given to him by his father because he made my grandfather proud and wanted to mark this by bestowing the name Ojinnaka to him. I enjoyed learning about this because it really opened my eyes and made me value my name even more. Names are really cool because they carry so much weight in a variety of contexts and cultures. I believe all names have meaning and value, and learning about this reassured that belief.

White Rabbit

White Rabbit is the first thing said on the first day of every month. It is meant to bring good luck and prosperity for those who participate. If words have already been spoken on the first, White Rabbit is not said.

The informant learned it from her family, specifically her dad, when she was younger. Her whole family participates. She follows this because she believes that if anything could possibly bring her good luck, it is worth doing. It is meaningful because she knows her family does it and it is something that she can share easily with her friends.

There are other additional forms of this same piece of folklore performed in different manners. Some other words are said instead of White Rabbit. My own family says Rabbit Rabbit on the first of every month. I learned it from my father, who learned it from an old colleague at work.  Possible origins of this tradition could be the concept of the lucky rabbit’s foot, traditionally from a white rabbit. It could be a manifestation of this but in a less brutal manner.

“Fish” as folk speech to describe femininity in the drag community

Main Piece

Informant: In the gay community, fish or being fishy refers to how uhh accurately a drag queen presents as a biological female, I guess. This is hard to explain because I use it all the time, haha. Usually we say “oh, she is serving fish” or “oh, she is fishy” which is usually positive, and it is like saying they would pass as a woman because they are so fishy. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this term?

Informant: I picked it up from RuPaul’s Drag Race, which popularized a lot of the drag slang today that has kinda started getting popular in popular culture. 


The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC studying Lighting Design. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well.He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ identity, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.


The informant and I typically watch RuPaul’s Drag Race at our off-campus house when it is airing on TV. There are several terms that we use, confusing many of our other housemates and one of the one this informant uses the most is fishy. In our interview, I asked him to define it and provide a definition and some context. 


A lot of the folk speech and terms used within the queer community has stemmed from the club and ballroom culture of queer POC’s in large Metropolitan cities such as NYC during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Many of these terms are used today, and as queer POC’s both the informant and I continue to use these terms around other members of the communty as signifiers of our personal identity and our belonging in the community. The lingo also provides a special codified language that others outside of the community might not get as well, providing a sense of security and privacy in a subtle way.

“Hotty Toddy” Ole Miss Greeting

Main Piece: 

Informant: Hotty Toddy is a saying that represents an Ole Miss rebel. 

Interviewer: What does the phrase mean? 

Informant: Hotty Toddy is a rallying cry, an identifier as to who you are and who you support, it crosses boundaries in ways that only sports and the unconditional love of a team or a college can. If you say Hotty Toddy you are showing your support for the Ole Miss Rebel community

Interviewer: When did you first use or hear the phrase? Do you still use the phrase even though you are no longer a student at Ole Miss?

Informant: I heard the phrase when I first attended Ole Miss and started using it immediately and felt connected to the community. And yes of course! I scream hotty toddy when I am excited or cheering on or complimenting a friend. I will continue to use the phrase for the rest of my life!

Interviewer: When was the last time you said Hotty Toddy or encountered the phrase? 

Informant: Recently in NYC I heard a stranger yell “Hotty Toddy” my way when wearing an Ole Miss hat. I yelled it back and felt an immediate connection. This made the large city feel smaller because I knew my Ole Miss family extended to NYC as well. 

Background: The informant shares that she learned the saying from peers and word of mouth from her time studying at Ole Miss. She explains the phrase represents a community around the school. The phrase is used as a greeting. She used the phrase as a student and continues to use the phrase in different scenarios. 

Context: The information was collected between informant and interviewer as an interview recalling times the phrase was used. The informant is a recent graduate to Ole Miss and recalls using the phrase numerous times. 

Thoughts: This saying “Hotty Toddy” has varied meaning and is used in many different scenarios. The phrase is used as a greeting, cheer, or secret message. “Hot Toddy” has changed over time. The first documented evidence of the phrase (then written as “Heighty! Tighty!”) appeared in a November 19, 1926 copy of the student newspaper, The Mississippian. Although originated in sports, the saying has expanded beyond sports and campus connecting the Ole Miss community in weddings, funerals, on social media platforms, and every day life. 

“Ping” as Computer Science lingo

Main Piece

Interviewer: What does ping mean?

Informant: To check nn on someone, or following up with someone. If I were waiting for someone to send me a new version of their code, I would say “I am going to ping them” which basically means the same thing as “I am going to follow up with them.” 

Interviewer:Where did you learn it?

Informant:I learned it from the coding community, very much so. 

Interviewer: Do you use it frequently?

Informant: Uhhh…yeah actually I just used it in an email. I guess I use it so frequently I forgot that I use it in the first place if that makes any sense, haha.


The informant is a good friend and housemate of mine, and is a junior at USC studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. He is originally from Manhattan Beach, CA and has been coding ever since highschool. He has had several internships with different computer science companies such as Microsoft and is very involved with different coding clubs on campus. 


One day while we were at home my informant used the word “ping” in front of me and I had no idea what he meant. During the interview I asked for more context on this word and when it would be used and where he learned it from. 


I think that much of the folk speech used between computer scientists is heavily dependent on the different technology that they use. Always focusing on efficiency and collaboration with larger coding projects, students and computer scientists alike use words and folk speech in order to communicate with more ease and to form a sense of community within the coding community.

“Sah Dude?” As a Greeting

Main Piece:

Informant: “Sah dude?” It is basically saying, what’s up, dude? Usually there are some kinda handshakes involved, usually like a hang lose, or a rock on sign. 

Interviewer: Who used this?

Informant: Usually teenage young adult men. A lot of the guys with trucks that I went to school with. I think that says enough, haha. 

Interviewer: Did you ever use it? 

Informant: No. I mean I did on occasion, but I would say it back sorta like in a mocking way. I was also kind of a tomboy so maybe that is why they always did it with me as well? The people who used it the most were on the Dive team at my high school, at least when I was there. But now I see a lot of people at school use it, a lot of the frat bros use it when they see each other at parties and I have started using it a little bit more because of it.


My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 


My informant took me back to her hometown the week of her birthday to visit her family and to get her tire fixed. She wanted to show me around the city before we went back to LA, and decided to stop at a local strawberry farm. The worker there was a good friend of hers from high school, and when they saw each other they greeted each other by saying “Suh Dude?” Remembering this instance, I brought it up with her when she was willing to interview with me and explained the greeting to me. 


I find it interesting that this folk greeting seems to be very popular at USC and the greater Los Angeles area among young men. It is easy to say where they got the saying from, as it is a condensed way of saying “what is up, dude?” and is probably much more convenient for them to say. Usually, this greeting is accompanied with some sort of handshake between males, leading me to believe it is an indicator of masculinity that is being expressed in this greeting. Although my informant is a female, she has expressed that since she is a tomboy they usually greet her the same way. 


  • Context: The informant (T) is a 56 yr. old woman originally from Philadelphia, PA. She owns a shore house in South Jersey where she and her extended family spend the summer. She explains to me the term Shoobie and the negative connotation it holds among the inhabitants of Philadelphia and South Jersey. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of a previous encounter she had had in which she used the insult “shoobie” against someone. 
  • Text:

T: “A Shoobie is somebody that would come down from the… Philly… Philadelphia.. to the… the shore… and they would bring their… all their stuff; their lunch, their suntan lotion in a shoe box. And that’s what… they would walk onto the beach with their shoe box for the day and that’s how they got their nickname Shoobie.”

Me: “So whose a Shoobie now? Who says that? Like who do you call a Shoobie?”

T: “A Shoobie now is basically somebody who… still comes down for the day…”

Me: “Comes down where?”

T: “Comes down to the shore for the day… comes down to the beach… or Shoobies are also people who just rent a house for a week.”

Me: “And what’s the shore?”

T: “The shore is the beach… in New Jersey?”

Me: “Like anywhere in New Jersey?

T: “I don’t know if Shoobie goes past, like, Atlantic City, like north of Atlantic City… I don’t know… because I don’t live there.”

Me: “Is it like a good thing to be called a Shoobie?”

T: “Uh-uh. No. You don’t wanna be called a Shoobie.”

Me: “Have you ever called someone a Shoobie?”

T: “Yes.”

Me: “Who’d you call a Shoobie?”

T: “This girl that was on the beach one day who was using really foul language around my parents.”

Me: “Have you ever been called a Shoobie?”

T: “No, I actually haven’t.”

Me: “Are you a Shoobie?”

T: “No. I’m the least amount of a Shoobie!”

  • Analysis: Growing up going to the Jersey Shore, I had always known the term shoobie, and I had always known I never wanted to be one. To be called a shoobie is to say you don’t really belong on the island – you’re not a local. In my town, there is even a restaurant called “Shoobies” in reference to the colloquial term. I think the reason such a term was created was in order to create an in-group and an out-group. It separates those who own houses at the shore and those who rent a house at the shore or just drive down to the beach for the day. It is looked down upon to have outsiders on the beaches, because most of the beach towns are small and everyone in the town knows each other. Different shore towns also have different reputations. For example, you are more likely to find a shoobie in Wildwood or Atlantic City than you are in Stone Harbor or Avalon, so the term is more commonly used as an insult in the towns with less shoobies. As the informant explained, the history of the word comes from day travelers coming to the beach for the day with their lunch in a shoe box, which interrupts the local life. To be considered a shoobie is to be considered lower class, and ultimately unwelcome.

For more about Shoobies, visit…

Ravo, Nick. “FOR EARLY TOURISTS, A TEPID WELCOME AT JERSEY RESORT.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 1987, www.nytimes.com/1987/02/16/nyregion/talk-long-beach-island-for-early-tourists-tepid-welcome-jersey-resort.html.