Tag Archives: metaphor

Main Piece: “Just because there is a goalie in the net, does not mean that you can’t score a goal”

Background: This is a saying that the informant learned from her friends at summer camp when she was in grade school. She attended a co-ed summer camp and as a way to keep themselves entertained, the kids would have crushes and say they were dating just because they held hands on the way to the dining hall one night. Because they were at summer camp and playing sports, the kids would say this proverb as a way to indicate that even if your crush had was in a relationship with some else, it did not mean you were out of luck or didn’t have a shot. 

Context: the informant still uses this proverb in her 20s, but the intention behind the saying has changed. When at summer camp, the campers did not realize in their youth that ‘homewrecking’ is socially unacceptable. They saw were so immersed in the competitive culture of camp that a sports metaphor for the romantic and social elements of life there seemed fitting. Now, the informant uses this phrase as more of a mocking joke. She will say it to one of her friends if they see a cute guy, but he happens to be in a relationship. She does not expect her friend to take the saying seriously or act on the meaning. It is interesting how the significance of this proverb has shifted from adolescence to adulthood. At camp, the kids were genuinely encouraging fighting for their crush, even if it meant hurting someone else; now, we can tease our friends in the same context, but with different intentions.

Thoughts: I have heard this saying outside of the informant’s interview and I have always found it to be humorous and I suppose true, but not something to take seriously. What I find interesting about this proverb, in particular, is that it is dependent on interpretation. The person listening to this word of advice can either hear it as ridiculous and funny or they can take it to heart and cause issues. The impact that his proverb has left the listener as an amused audience member or a person who is about to really damage someone else’s relationship. It is very black and white how this saying is received and depends greatly on who is hearing it- as well as their age, sex, and willingness to take charge versus be passive.

Watermelon House Riddle

“There was a green house, and inside the green house there was a white house. And inside the white house, there was a red house. And inside the red house, there were a bunch of little children. What is it?

Answer: a watermelon.”

Context: The informant and I were exchanging random jokes while waiting outside of our folklore class. Having just come from another class, we were very tired and hoping to lighten the mood before going in to class. This joke is memorable because her mother told her this joke at her tenth birthday party while her family was eating watermelon.

Analysis: This riddle follows the general application and structure of riddles. Many riddles are seen as a component of children’s folklore, though not exclusive to it, and are meant to sort of be a bit of a brain teaser and led them to think more complexly and critically. These riddles are supposed to be challenging but are capable of being answered. In this case, the riddle involves an object that most people (especially children) have access to, so the answer is easily understood. Most children are initially stumped, but upon realizing what the answer to the riddle, have an “aha” moment. In my experience, and in the experience of the informant, the more you get confused by the riddle, the more you want to share that riddle and stump your peers and those around you to see if they are “smart enough” to answer this difficult and tricky question.

Along with this, the answer to this riddle has an especially child-friendly aspect to it. Food–and fruit specifically–is something that all children and adults can understand and relate to. Due to this, the riddle is especially effective. The answer is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but only those who are clever enough to crack the metaphor will be able to come up with the answer. In this way, those who fail to answer the question will carry this riddle forward as a way to stump the people around them in the way that they were tricked.

German Folk Metaphor

Context: The 51-year-old informant from Memphis, TN, and I were discussing the role of folklore in parenting. The topic originally came up when I asked him if he was ever repeatedly taught any proverbs by his parents when he was young. He told me that while his parents never told him many proverbs, there was one sentence that his father would say sometimes; it was something that the informant’s grandfather, a German Jewish Canter and Holocaust survivor, told to the informant’s father when he was a young child. While the folk metaphor may seem like a harsh threat for a father to say to his son, the informant explained that “it was normal for a German parent discipline in a rather stern manner while including this essence of subtle humor.”

Piece: 

German: “Ich schlach dich das deine zahne in arsch klavier spielt”

English: “I will hit you so hard that your teeth will play piano in your ass”

Analysis: It must be pointed out that the informant’s father and grandfather performed this German folk metaphor in two completely different contexts and with entirely different intentions. The Grandfather, having come from a more traditional time with a harsher upbringing, clearly did intend to instill some fear in his son with this sentence, but only enough fear to get him to stop misbehaving when he was doing so. The fact that the metaphor begins with a harsh threat and ends with the hilariously ridiculous image of a pair of teeth jumping around piano keys in someone’s rear end sends a message from father to son. While the father may be mad at his son, he is acknowledging to both himself and the boy that humor can be found in the situation and that no great offense was committed. On the other hand, the informant’s father recited this folk metaphor to son in order to remind himself about his childhood while also sharing the information with his son.

Caught the Sun

“Looks like you’ve caught the sun.”


 

Analysis:

While the meaning of this saying seems quite obvious—to have caught the sun is to be sunburnt, but I had never heard of this phrase before. The informant has not lived in America for longer than two years, so I thought this saying originated from the UK, however, I cannot find any evidence to its origins.

Doors and Windows Saying

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as PH.

PH: Every time that I’m blocking something, specifically when I’m like walking by the television and my mom is watching TV and then I get distracted, and I start watching, and I’m standing in front of the television, and she says “you’re a better door than window!” Like, “please move, you’re blocking my way.” But it’s like a cute thing that she says.

BD: Did she get it from anywhere?

PH: I don’t know! I think it is a normal saying, and I think her mom used to say it to her, but I’m not sure.


Analysis:
This piece of folklore is a very lighthearted metaphor. I have never heard it before, but it does make an awful lot of sense. It is interesting how the informant’s mother had likely heard it from her own mother, and I speculate this saying may be relegated to only their family. The use of doors and windows draws the mind to think of houses and buildings, which may be an effect the metaphor is going for.