Tag Archives: life lesson

Mexican proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Restaurant worker
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/16/2020
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s):

Main piece: 

“El que mal obra, mal le va” 


He that wrong does, wrong you goes

Full translation: 

He who does wrong, wrong he does 

Background: My informant was my dad. He was born in Mexico City but moved to LA at the age of 15. He brought this proverb up during a conversation we were having about a family friend’s mild car accident. When I asked him when he learned this proverb, he said he’s known it since he was 7 and that his dad told it to him when they were both working at a donut house in Mexico. 

Context: My dad was telling me about a close family friend who got into a car accident, a very small and almost insignificant hit. However, the victim here was requesting $25,000 in medical expenses 15 months after the accident. He was telling me that based on the description of the accident, such as speed and car damages, his friend couldn’t have seriously hurt the other person. My dad called him a fake and dishonest person and said this proverb to encourage me to always be honest and have word. 

Thoughts: This is a very wise proverb. I even consider it as advice because there are so many dishonest people nowadays who take advantage of circumstances and individuals. Sometimes it’s tempting to do wrong for one reason or another but I believe there is always a solution to problems and that a person’s word and credibility is most important. So this proverb teaches me that I should maintain good and life will eventually reward me and those who do wrong will do poorly in life.

Buddha Crossing the River

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Occupation: Student
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


The informant is a student at USC studying Bio-Chem. In this account, he recalls religious stories that he heard.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).


C: Do you have any stories like from your childhood or from growing up? Anything you might want to share?

S: Yea… I’m Buddhist. Kinda forced into it I guess. Both of my parents are from Burma, I guess.

So when I was in elementary, my parents wanted me to hang out with my Burmese friends but I didn’t speak Burmese. There was a session with the monk but during break or down times, they would tell us stories and stuff.

It was told by a monk. So… I don’t remember the lesson but, most of the stories are about Buddha.

So there’s this one story I remember:

So one day, Buddha was hanging out with his apostles when this one guy said he knows a monk that surpassed him or something.

He was like, “Where? Bring me to him.”

When we went to the monk, we has all frail and sickly.

The monk told Buddha, “I can walk on water. This was done by strict meditation and following the teachings while starving.” This was obviously a lie.

The monk continued, “You’ve only started your path. I’ve gotten this far already.” He was basically challenging the Buddha.

The monk said, “I bet I can get across this river.”

Buddha: “Why would you do that?”

Monk: “It just proves I’m much stronger. Can you do the same thing?”

So Buddha accepted this bet and the monk proceeded to give a ferryman one penny and crossed the river with on a ferry.


S: This story isn’t verbatim, but I guess the lesson that I learned was this: Buddhism isn’t a superstitious religion. It’s very grounded. Each city it went and added their own superstitions to make it different and “holy.”

Buddhism is about self-actualization and helping others but it gets muddled in all the lighting candles, and like all the rituals and stuff.



It’s interesting to hear religious stories, mostly because of the lessons or explanations that they teach. In this case, the story explores the idea of what Buddhism is or isn’t. It also teaches a fundamental idea in folklore in that, each group makes variations or changes to something that they learn in order to adapt it as their own. This is the same case in religion as each group adds on their own superficial things which may distract or draw away from the core beliefs.

Turkish Maturity/Repetition Proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Turkish
Age: 23
Occupation: Customer Support
Residence: Boise, ID
Date of Performance/Collection: March 14th, 2019
Primary Language: Turkish
Other Language(s): English


D, a 23-year-old, Turkish male who grew up in Turkey until he turned 8 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Boise, Idaho, but spent a lot of time with his mother, who only spoke Turkish until Devran was 16.

Background info:

D’s first language was Turkish. He and his mother would converse this way, despite him being fluent in English. His mother would tell him stories and folklore from Turkey, as she was very proud of her heritage. This is one of the Turkish proverbs in their household.


This is a Turkish phrase that D’s parents would say around the house when he was younger. He would also repeat this to his younger siblings when they would act up to try to show them that they are misbehaving. The following is the context for which it was said.

Me: “Are there any other phrases or sayings that your parents would say to you? Or Turkish phrases you would hear them say to themselves?”

D: “Um… Well, my brother, sister, and I were always misbehaving. When we would act out, my mother would not punish us with the traditional spanking… Instead, she would try to show us what we were doing wrong and ask us whether or not we would want to be doing this when we were old and gray. One of the phrases in Turkish that she would use was ‘İnsan yedisinde ne ise yetmişinde de odur’, which means that people who repeat bad actions at a young age, without realizing that they are bad, will continue them for the rest of their life.

Main piece:

Turkish: “İnsan yedisinde ne ise yetmişinde de odur”

English Translation: “What a man is at seven, he is at seventy”


I later asked him if he could relate this phrase to any other common phrases he knew. He could not think of any, but it got me thinking about why this phrase existed. It speaks of childish behavior in a negative light, and almost ties it directly to immaturity, which I understand for the most part, but feel it is a bit overextending. Not all childish behavior is bad, and I think that is why his parents would use this phrase sparingly, to not discourage the good behavior. I think that this phrase is important in their family dynamic and in Turkish culture because they seem to value self-improvement over discipline. Showing someone their actions are wrong seems more important than punishing them for it. I have heard the American phrase “remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence,” and I think it follows their family values as well.


Rise and Shine

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Samoan American
Age: 19
Occupation: USC Student Athlete
Residence: USC
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Samoan

The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head. 

“Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe”


“Something my parents expressed to me when I was a kid goes:

Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe meaning: The early bird gets the worm.

I can apply this to most every aspect of my life, so it has really  helped me mature as I’ve grown. To me, well you can have your own interpretation of it but to me, it means literally the one who rises early will have the most success. I translate this into meaning that if you work hard, and out work everyone and anyone you will be rewarded and be just fine in life. I use this with my school work, with football, with almost about anything. I believe that everything takes hard work and nothing good is going to be easy to get hence, Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe. ”


The statement “The early bird gets the worm” is nothing new for our culture. This statement I have heard by my parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, you name it almost anyone (old enough to know its meaning) has heard this proverb before. It essentially means to most people the person who arrives to any location, event, opportunity first has the best chance for success in that area. The informant meant in his translation that he makes she he works the hardest so he can essentially “arrive first” and have the best chance for success.

It is interesting that a very common proverb in America would be used in another culture as well. As phrases.org.uk says, “The early bird gets the worm” originates from the Latin phrase Carpe diem which means “seize the day”. Both of these proverbs are advice on how to attack our days and make the most of our lives by working hard.

Abuelo Antonio

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Cuban American
Age: late 20's
Occupation: USC spanish professor
Residence: Los Angeles area
Date of Performance/Collection: April 15, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

The informant’s family originated in Cuba. Her mother was born and raised in Cuba but her father was born and raised in America. Her Cuban culture and background comes from her mother’s side and folklore that her mom picked up over the years and shared with her. The folklore from this informant comes from family stories that are shared amongst the family as lessons or as advice. 

“Live Like Abuelo Antonio” 


“My Abuelo Antonio was an early member in my family who grew up in Spain but eventually moved to Cuba. While he was living in Cuba he was extremely poor and he and his wife were going through some rough times. They had no money for food and all they could afford were scraps of bread. Every morning, Abuelo Antonio would put out scraps of bread on the ledge of their house porch and would wait for the pigeons and doves to come take the scraps of bread. When the birds would arrive he would trap them and kill them so he and his wife could have food to eat. Abuelo Antonio was an extremely caring, loving and a giving person who was seen as a saint and it hurt him so much that he had to kill the birds. When he and his wife were able to have enough money to live more comfortably and actually buy food, he swore that for the rest of his life he would feed the birds every single day until the day he finally did die.

When I was a child, my mother would tell me that story which had been told to her by her mother and told to her by her mother and so on, as a reminder to always I guess give back in life, and to put out good vibes and oras into the world. Another lesson that comes from this story is to live how Abuelo Antonio would have lived. That became sort of a thing in my family, everyone wanted to live like Abuelo Antonio, it is sort of a life goal to be like him and we really look up to him, and people use it as a from of advice to others in the family. They would say Live like Abuelo Antonio. Yeah its pretty neat I guess that my family has sort of our own legends and myths that make proverbs.”


When I thought about folklore before, I didn’t realize that folklore could be held within and amongst family members. The specific informant gave me folklore that isn’t necessarily known widely by lots of people but rather held in her family and it is significant to her and important to the family because it actually means something to them. It is a story that advises them on how they should or shouldn’t do things.

Abuelo Antonio sounds like an incredible man and saint. His struggles and the way that he approached them shows to me that he is someone to look up to. The informant expressed to me that he was a saint and I could tell by the way she spoke about him. Having a figure like him to look up to and try to live like is probably beneficial in a family. If they all look up to the same person and base their life after the same person there are probably a lot of similarities within the family.




--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 40's
Occupation: Head Track and Field coach at USC
Residence: Los Angeles area
Date of Performance/Collection: April 15, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The informant was born and raised in Colorado. She all her life has used proverbs that her grandmother taught her to develop relationships. Her grandmother helped in assisting her by giving her proverbs to live by that apply to any situation and any human.

A dog that brings a bone takes a bone


When I was a lot younger and still in my adolescent years, I would try and keep up with the latest drama and gossip. I was all in his business or her business and always had the latest gossip. So and so would tell me something about someone and I would talk to my grandma like oh so and so said that she’s been doing a,b,c and my grandma would respond with A dog that brings a bone, takes a bone. At first the didn’t really mean much to me, I had to experience it on my own to have a full understanding of what she meant. A dog that takes a bone brings a bone to me means that if someone is coming to you with gossip, they are going to leave with something about you and talk about you to other people the same way the were talking to you about so and so. I just always have kept this in the back of my mind when someone is gossiping  about someone else to me. I realize that if i egg in that conversation, there might be something that I said that would give the person a bone to run off with. I guess what I get from this is be aware of conversations you engage in and how much you trust to tell people.”


A dog that brings a bone takes a bone. I haven’t heard this before, so it is new to me. When to informant was explaining it to me I think she could sense my confusion probably by my facial expression and thankfully she continued to elaborate until she thought I could make sense of it. I think this just goes along with the proverbs about being careful who you trust and spend your time around. Not everyone in this world has good intentions and I think that in informant’s grandmother kew that and she was wise enough to share them with her granddaughter to hopefully help her in life. A dong that brings a bone takes a bone puts an all new perception of people and relationships into my head. It makes sense that a gossip who gossips to you is most likely gossiping about you, so it is important to choose carefully who you also yourself to be around.