Tag Archives: folkspeech

Funny Burmese Pun

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English, Chinese

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Los Angeles, CA

Performance Date: 02/17/2024

A.N is 19 years old, and is currently a USC student who’s originally from Yangon, Myanmar. She is my current suite mate and has been a friend since middle school, since we are from the same hometown and school. I asked her if she uses or is familiar with any sayings, proverbs, jokes or folk speech within our culture. 

“Yes, when I was really young, probably when I was like in my elementary years, my family members said this saying to me really often. It’s a really funny saying, you probably know it too. Whenever I would trip or hurt myself, they say “ချီတုံးမတ်တတ်ထ ခဏနာကြပြောက်” (pronounced as “chi tone ma ta hta, kana naa kyaut pyaut”) *laughs*. It directly translates to “Poop stand up, in a bit, it won’t hurt anymore”. I think my older family members said this as a joke to make me laugh and distract me from crying out of pain right after I trip. Obviously, the saying is absurd and doesn’t make sense, but to a kid, it’s a really funny image to be distracted by. They don’t say it anymore to me because I’ve grown up but they have said it to my sister when she was younger too.”

Since I am also Burmese, I’ve heard this folk speech before. I don’t remember it being said to me, probably because I was too young to remember, but they’ve said it to my younger brother as a child. It sounds pretty jarring in English but it makes a lot more sense in Burmese, since the sentence flows like an alliteration. On top of just a joke, I interpret this folk speech as a clever word play in Burmese language, and is used by protective parents that cherish their children.

A Latin-x Proverb directed at Women

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Age: 22
  • Occupation: full time student
  • Residence: Los Angeles
  • Primary language: English
  • Relationship: Friend


“Calladita te ves más bonita”

English translation: “The more quiet you are, the prettier you look”


ES grew up here in Los Angeles, but her parents are from Mexico. The proverb pertains to her Mexican culture and household. She first heard the proverb above from her grandmother. Her grandmother would tell her “Calladita te ves más bonita” as a form of advice. ES told me, “I always interpreted it meaning that oversharing can be dangerous from listening ears, or the less you say the better.” She also told me that she remembers her and her aunt would use the phrase as a comeback in a lighthearted way to make each other laugh. ES pointed out that she never had realized it before, but the phrase is targeted towards girls/women. 


I also grew up hearing the proverb in my culture, and I greatly identified with the informants take on the phrase. When discussing the proverb with her, I too realized that it is a saying that isn’t really said to men/boys. In Spanish the ending of a word is meant to distinguish between genders. If the word ends with ‘a’ it is usually feminine. The words ‘calladita’ and ‘bonita’ end with an ‘a’ and are feminine. If it were targeted towards men, the words would end with ‘o’ and be considered masculine. Growing up, I never heard the saying told to my male companions. Sometimes in Latin-x culture, there can be a lot of toxic masculinity or “machismo.” Machismo means a sense of strong masculine pride, male overbearing control over the wife and family, and sexist ideology. Younger I didn’t really associate toxic masculinity with the saying, but now from an older, more mature point of view, I can acknowledge that it is present. ES and I were having a conversation about how in our latino culture, it is very much embedded into women from a young age to sit still, look pretty, and be quiet. Of course, we aren’t trying to stereotype our culture from this lens, we are simply acknowledging some patterns we noticed. 

“…got the keys”

Background: This is a saying that was popular in a Californian middle school in the early 2010s referencing American Pop Culture.

Informant: I remember this being a popular phrase said around my Californian middle school. It’s almost a way of saying that someone has the skills, abilities, and the intellect that others lack. May be a reference to a DJ Khaled song, but I’m not entirely sure. Overall, it’s a really jokey thing to say. For example, if the whole class was having difficulty on a math problem, but one student knew the answer, another student may remark, “he’s got the keys.”

Analysis: I believe that this saying is limited to the informant’s middle school because I have asked around other Californian students and no one has heard of the saying. The song mentioned by the informant is “I Got the Keys” by DJ Khalid featuring Jay-Z and Future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFLSOIufuhM.



J, 80 was born and grew up in Spearfish, S.D. He is the grandson of Norwegian immigrants that moved to North Dakota so they could homestead and farm in the early 20th century.


“’Uffda’ in Norwegian is an exclamation, it represents surprise, annoyance, etc. My mom and grandmother both used that word generously.” said my informant.


The term ‘uffda’ seems to be a very common stereotypical expression in areas such as Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. These regions in the US, are populated by the descendants of Scandinavian immigrants, including many Norwegians. The phrase is used to express surprise, annoyance, relief, exhaustion, disappointment, astonishment, exasperation, and dismay; and it can be used positively or negatively. It is basically the equivalent of an exclamation mark in a regular conversation; it probably has the same functionality as when we say “OMG!”. The following links and articles verify the existence of this folk speech term: https://fillmorecountyjournal.com/what-part-of-uffda-dont-you-understand/

“Bahala ka sa buhay mo”

“Bahala ka sa buhay mo,” it essentially translates to “Whatever, it’s your life; you can handle it,” in a tone that, in a way, communicates the exact opposite to whoever is hearing it.  It shows disapproval for something that a person of lesser power, like a son or daughter, is about to do.  It is the withholding of validation that hurts the most when you hear that from someone you respect.

Background: This is a proverb/saying that anyone who has had a parent disappointed in them has heard.  It’s extremely common to hear mothers say it to their children when they are about to make a decision that is frowned upon.

Context: The informant is a 60 year-old Filipina immigrant to the United States who has children of her own.  This myth was told to me during a weekly luncheon that always follows our Sunday church services.

As the daughter of Filipino immigrants, I have also been told this a countless number of times whenever I’m having a struggle of autonomy with my parents.  My experience of Filipino culture has included a highly involved family life, which often means that parents exert heightened amounts of control over their children’s lives and decisions.  While I used to resent having them dictate the actions I should take, the idea that they are relinquishing all of the control to me and having me handle my own life knowing that they do not believe I am ready to do so is also scary.  That, I think, is the saying’s purpose.  It drives home the idea that our parents are so sure of our failure that they’re willing to watch us deal with the consequences of our actions without their help.

Bahala Ka” by MC Einstein is a song that uses the proverb to give an “I don’t care” attitude to the listener from the singer’s point of view. The disappointment and lack of concern in the original proverb are then inserted into the song’s lyrics and message.