Tag Archives: hiccups

A Fishy Remedy


Make your hiccups stop by saying “fish” over and over again.


When PK was younger, he had hiccups and couldn’t get them to stop, so he asked his dad what to do. He told him to say “fish” over and over again until they went away. He tried a bit, found that it didn’t work, and then asked his father a second time. His father said to try again–“it will work eventually.”

He would say it over and over and over again until the hiccups stopped. Whether or not they stopped because of “fish” or of natural causes is unknown, but PK likes to believe that saying “fish” was the remedy.


These folk “remedies” are told to children to provide an effective, lighthearted solution to their inexplicable problems. This is where folklore separates from science and biology: unofficial knowledge passed down from parent to child cannot be taught in institutions. Even if saying “fish” doesn’t actually stop the hiccups, it further establishes this sense of trust; it is comforting to know that your father has different tricks up his sleeve for each problem you encounter. The magic behind folklore rests upon our ability to believe. These ‘life hacks’ reflect a reservoir of experience and knowledge; the power dynamic between parent and child is created from the differences in our stages of life. What we learn from our parents can be passed down to our children, and remedies can soon become familial traditions. Even without fully understanding why you’re doing something, you believe in it because of parental authority and familiarity. We don’t question the logicality of folklore. Although some of these remedies may be widespread and have different variations across multiple regions, it’s almost as if your parent has this special, niche understanding of how the world works–they possess wisdom beyond standardized, common knowledge.

Cure for Hiccups

Context: M.Z. learned about this cure while growing up with his family in the American Southwest.

M.Z. : And the cure that I was taught when I was little for hiccups um which I don’t remember exactly where this came from but it was through the family was that you would put a pencil in between your teeth. You would get a full glass of water. You would then try and drink the glass of water from the back side of the glass so you basically had to turn your head almost upside down and drink the water bending over with the pencil in between your teeth.
P.Z. : From the backside of the glass… So you’re folded forwards…
M.Z. : Yes.
P.Z. : Tilting the glass up to drink out of it —
M.Z. : No, tilting the glass —
P.Z. : Oh, down?
M.Z. : Well, the, the bottom of the glass goes towards your chest because you’re leaning forward. So you had to drink it that way. And I think the key was, if you didn’t drown, you somehow were so distracted your hiccups went away.

Thoughts: Overall, this was one of the most intensive hiccup cures I’ve heard, but supposedly it has proved relatively effective. I thought that this was an extremely interesting cure, and it was one I had never come across before.

How to get rid of the Hiccups

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So you’ve obviously had the hiccups at one point or another in your life… Do you have a special method of getting rid of them?

Informant: Oh I’ve heard a bunch of things. Like, get scared is a pretty big one that people say but like i’ve never seen it work. I’ve also heard of drinking a glass of water upside down but I’d rather just have the hiccups for 5 minutes than go through the effort of doing that haha

Interviewer: Yeah I’ve heard about the getting scared and drinking water upside down tactics too from some elementary school friends. So if that doesn’t really work, what do you do?

Informant: Well I forgot who actually told me this, it could have been my mom, but any time i get the hiccups i just take as deep of a breath as I can and then hold it in for as long as possible… and if you hiccup again you just start over until they’re gone… and that tends to do the trick for me haha


My Informant was born and raised in Southern California. Her parents immigrated from Europe and she is a first Generation American. She is a model and an artist and has exceedingly liberal views. 


I talked to my informant over a facetime video-call during the 2020 Coronavirus epidemic. We had plans to meet in person, however, the quarantine made that impossible. 


It’s crazy how many different stories there are that are promised to “cure” the hiccups. I would be interested in a scientific study which tests which methods actually work (If any) and which methods are completely made up. Either way, it seems like hiccup cures are generated more within a family or smaller social group than throughout an entire society since there are not only so many different ideas, but they all vary so widely from one another as well so it seems like they were not derived from one another. 

Home remedy for hiccups by drinking a glass of water covered by a napkin

Main Piece:

Informant: Basically, you get a full cup of water, and you put a paper towel over the top of the cup. It has to be thick, so like a paper towel or a napkin. And then you have to drink through the paper towel, ten gulps without breathing. Like, big gulps too. 

Interviewer: Has it worked for you?

Informant: Mhmm, it has. It didn’t work last Friday though, but it usually works haha. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn it from? 

Informant: My mom, she always has us do it if we are hiccuping around her.

Interviewer: Do you know where your Mom learned it from?

Informant: I wanna say my grandma, my grandma has told me to do the same thing before so it was probably her. 


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. 


At a birthday celebration out house threw for my informant, she drank some alcoholic beverages and got the hiccups as a result. When I offered her my advice, she told me not to worry and that she had a trick to remedy the cure that was passed down in her family. She went upstairs to her kitchen with me, and I saw her drink the water from the cup. During our interview, I brought it up and she discussed it further with me. 


From experience with my family and interacting with friends from back home, hiccup remedies differ from family to family and cultures. Essentially, all hiccup cures aim to do the same thing by controlling the diaphragm to stop it from producing hiccups. Usually, these are different methods of breath control, and drinking a glass of water without stopping is a good way to control breathing. Doing more research, I found this method also listed in the following article listed as number 6.

The article explains this method as a combination of breath control and the fact that “you’ll have to ‘pull’ even harder with your diaphragm to suck up the water.”

Russell, Elaine, and Reader’s Digest Editors. “How to Get Rid of Hiccups: 18 Home Remedies \That Actually Work.” Reader’s Digest, www.readersdigest.ca/health/conditions/7-ways-get-rid-hiccups/.

Hiccup Remedy

Having plenty of legends collected, as this is what people usually provide when you ask them for folklore and list examples, I decided to ask a specific question, instead. Everyone I know has a specific remedy for hiccups, so I thought this would be a fruitful question. The informant gave me a funny look, but afterward I explained this was for my folklore project and she understood. GG is the informant, and PH is myself.

PH: How do you get rid of hiccups?

GG: Yeah I breathe in for as long as you can, hold my breath for as long as I can, and breath out for as long as I can.

Sometimes when I have hiccups and I’m doing that people will be like, “Are you gonna cry?” (Laughs)

If that doesn’t work, I drink a bunch of water while holding my nose

PH: Did anyone teach you this method?

GG: Yeah when I was in elementary school some girl told me to do it and it worked.