Tag Archives: former fakelore

Tahoe Tessie

Main Piece

LL: “Over the break, I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time. It was really interesting because a lot of the shops there sell all these items about a lake monster that is supposed to have lived in the water for years and years.”

Informant: “How long is that?”

LL: “I think she – oh yeah it’s supposed to be a female…Tessie…is supposed to be a dinosaur from one of the later periods, who survived until modern day.”

Informant: “So does it basically have the same theories as the Loch Ness monster?”

LL: “Basically. [laughter] I think Tahoe wanted its own Loch Ness, and since it is one of the deepest bodies of water in the US, they can get away with making up the crazy things that live in there.”


Tahoe Tessie represents community that created an item of “fakelore” that has been accepted by many younger people, who did not know any better. Most of the imagery of the lake monster is lifted directly from the Nessie legend, but as I learned, Tessie is mostly depicted in a more feminine nature. She is often shown as smaller in size and in the presence of children. The creature was crafted as a gentle one, which could easily be marketed to families visiting the area.

Cheburashka (Чебура́шка)

Cheburashka is a “little fellow” who looks like a monkey and a bear. He’s small and furry, with big ears, and he’s “the cutest thing ever” (according to my informant).

The image of Cheburashka (Wikimedia)

The image of Cheburashka (Wikimedia)

The character originates from a Soviet story written in 1966 and created into a stop-motion animation film in 1969 and then several animated TV series between the 1960s and 1980s. In the stories, he shows up in a crate of oranges and doesn’t know where he is or where he came from. A crocodile named Ghean befriends him and grants Cheburashka’s wish to work as a toy in a daycare center. When Cheuburashka eats oranges, he falls asleep.

The informant owns a Cheburashka doll that he got as a gift from his sister, who went to Russia recently. When you squeeze it, it sings:
“Я играю на гармошке
У прохожих на виду…
К сожаленью, день рожденья
Только раз в году.”
“And I play the accordion for all to see
Sadly (my) birthday
Is only once a year.”

These cheburashkas are popular toys, and are cultural symbols — it was even used as a mascot/symbol for the Moscow Olympics. The informant says that he looks at Cheburashka and thinks, “That’s something that’s Russian.”

I spoke to my informant during an on-campus event.

What’s interesting about Cheburashka is that, like Paul Bunyan, the character itself originated from a creator’s work. However, like Paul Bunyan, Cheburashka has become an integral figure in Russian culture, to the point where it was considered a Russian icon for the Moscow Olympics.

I think the character itself is very cute, but it doesn’t necessarily have any strong ties to other Russian folklore creatures? I did a little bit of research and beyond Cheburashka’s own published materials and Olympics iconography, it doesn’t seem to tie into anything that existed prior, which I find extremely interesting. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that Cheburashka was created as a Soviet icon, and even though the Soviet Union is no more, the character has survived into the modern Russian lexicon.


The Informant provided the following when asked to describe a tradition in which he took part:

So, every year, instead of celebrating Christmas, some families celebrate the holiday of Festivus, which is, um, basically,you get a giant metal pole, and, like that’s sort of your…. and you decorate that kinda like a tree, and you eat spaghetti and meatballs, and you have an airing of grievances, which is, you can you sit down at the table with everyone and you get to stand up and you get to just say anything you want about anybody in the room, like that’s been bugging you or whatever without any repercussions this one time of the year you can do that, and at the end of the night, the last thing you do is the oldest member of the group wrestles the youngest member of the group, and that goes until the youngest member can pin the oldest member… and that is the festival of Festivus, which is a Christmas… winter? holiday.

The informant said that every year, his fraternity celebrates this festival, and he takes part in it. Although he admitted it is originally from the popular sitcom Seinfeld, making it originally fakelore, it has since taken on a life of its own, being practiced with much more detail and variety than was originally included in the television show from which it developed. Festuvus serves as a secular alternative, or simply an addition, to the Christian Holiday of Christmas, and seems to draw on both traditional and pagan themes to create a winter holiday which will appear to a wide youth demographic.

Former Fakelore – American

The following is an instance of former fakelore that then became real folk speech. The informant learned it first from a movie but relates that he later heard it from others who had never seen the movie: “Uh, I find this one very interesting because, ’cause, I know why I started saying it but I don’t know why anybody else did, so . . . so, so, I mean I heard it from a movie—I mean it was a line from a movie that I thought was very funny, um, but then it began to come back, um, from other people who I don’t think ever saw that movie and not people who had, who had heard it from me, so I don’t quite know where it came from, exactly.” The phrase is as follows:

“So THAT happened,” with the emphasis on the “that.”

The phrase is used, according to the informant, “when something has happened that is, uh, just—it could be good, it could be bad, it could be indifferent—but when something has happened that is enormously out of place and not what you expected to have, uh, in your life, or an event you intended to be a part of, or a scene you intended to get involved with, uh, when something, when some specific event has occurred, uh, I hear people say a lot now, ‘So THAT happened.’ And the three words cover everything—whether it was good, whether it was bad, whether it was indifferent, whether it was the most positive thing, the most, the most negative thing—people just say that now. And it’s only been within the past couple of years, which again I find interesting because the first time I ever heard those three words was in a movie that’s now over a decade old.”

The informant says that he finds the phrase amusing: “I find it hysterically funny, um . . . Like I said, I have used it, uh, myself, for a long time, because, uh, for me, it equates into a, ‘Wow, I did not expect this particular piece of my life or this particular event to happen; I never expected to find myself in that scenario.’ And it was totally fucked up, totally screwed up, unexpected, and all I can say is, ‘Well—so THAT happened.”

With a little research, this collector determined that the phrase comes from the movie State and Main (2000) and is said right after the speaker has just crashed a station wagon. Thus, the statement originates as authored literature, not folklore. It could be considered fakelore because the actor is using it as if it is an established bit of slang, which clearly it was not at the time. Nonetheless, the phrase has clearly achieved multiplicity and variation (a simple Google search reveals its use with other punctuation as folklore 2.0, for instance). The informant’s assessment of what the statement means seems correct, but the downward inflection at the end also seems to imply that the speaker wants to be done with the incident and move on.


State and Main. Dir. David Mamet. Perf. Philip Hoffman, William Macy, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Alec Baldwin. Fine Line Features, 2000.