Toboggan in reference to a hat
Toboggan is a term typically used in reference to sleds, however my informant who is a man in his early 50s from southwest Virginia told me that in his hometown of Bradford, Virginia, the term is only used to describe a winter hat. It was not until he went to college in Virginia but outside his hometown did he learn the usual use of the word. Furthermore, the informant claims that this use of the word as a hat is unique to only a small Appalachian community consisting of his hometown and a few other nearby areas.
This story was shared with me during an encounter with my informant wherein I asked if he had any examples of local Appalachian folk culture. The conversation occurred in his backyard alongside family and friends.
While this piece might not be as groundbreaking as other examples in this collection, I find the parameters of this unique saying fascinating. First of all, toboggan is generally understood as some sort of sled. This begs the question of why, regionally, it changed to another winter-based object. Furthermore, the area affected by this saying is rather small. According to my informant, the use of the word is regulated to small communities in the Appalachian area. So much so that when he went to college, still within Virginia, using the word toboggan as a hat seemed ridiculous. This, in my opinion, shows extreme examples of regional distinction as only someone directly from one of those typically isolated communities would refer to toboggan as a hat.
My friend was born in the U.S. He is currently a second year at USC.
The riddle goes like this:
Q: There are three people who were abducted by an alien. They are each blindfolded and put in a straight line. They are told that there are two black hats and a white hat. Each one of the abducted people is wearing either a white hat or a black hat. The last person in line can see both people’s heads in front of him, the second person can only see the first person’s head, and the first person can’t see anything. The alien then says that if they can guess the correct color of the hats, then they will be let free. Who speaks up and what answer would he give?
A: The person standing last in line would speak up only if he sees that the hats in front of him are the same color. If the colors were opposites then person in the middle would speak up. The middle guy would know that the person behind him is quiet because the hats in front of him are two different colors. By this deduction, the man in the middle knows that whichever color hat he is wearing is the opposite of the hat color he sees in front of him, and the same as the color of the hat color behind him.
Me: Where did you hear this riddle?
J: My friend, Daniel Chun.
Me: When did you hear it?
J: I heard it about a month and a half ago. After sophomore accountability, we were just chilling in another friend’s room.
Me: Do you guys do this often?
J: Oh yeah, we just chill, share stories, talk, and stuff.
It should be noted that there was a similar riddle to this one about hats and prisoners but without aliens.
This informant is my roommate, who grew up in Laguna Hills. He played baseball up until high school, when he quit to play lacrosse.
Baseball has a ton of superstitions and lots of players do weird shit, like never wash their socks if they are on a winning streak or something, but the “Rally Cap” is known by all players. It doesn’t matter if you are in Little League or the Majors but if your team is losing and you need a good inning everyone wears their hats upside-down, which is suppose to make your team play better or hit homeruns or something.
I know from my few years in Little League that the rally cap is a very prominent folk belief in baseball regardless of how effective it really is. While neither my informant nor myself know how it originated, I can guess that it stuck into the baseball culture because of the “hat’s” importance to the sport. Many people refer to hats as “baseball caps,” regardless of the embroidering on them and hats really aren’t worn in any other sport, making them unique to baseball. From this perspective it sort of makes sense that a folk belief like this stuck for good. Altering an item of clothing that embodies baseball seems natural, especially when a hats appearance is so easy to change by flipping it.