Tag Archives: pets

Zzam-Tiger

--Informant Info--
Nationality: korean
Age: 24
Occupation: Barista
Residence: Seoul, Korea
Date of Performance/Collection: 14 April 2020
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

Original Script: 짬타이거

Phonetic (Roman) Script: Zzam tiger

Transliteration: Leftover tiger

Translation: Leftover cat

Main Piece:

The following conversation was translated from its original language Korean.

All Korean men have to serve in the military, so there’s a lot of military specific stuff and language that most men know. One thing that I remember is the zzam-tiger. “Zzam” is a shortened word for “zzanban” which means leftover food. Zzam tigers are cats that roam around army bases and eat leftover food. They are called tigers because I think it’s a cuter nickname, and Koreans just love anything that have to do with tigers. Most zzam-tigers are stray cats, but quite often there are upper ranking officers who bring their own pet cats to their bases, so it’s a mixed bag. But either way, no soldier is supposed to harm or even remotely be rude to the cat. Besides risking insulting your officer’s pet, why would you just be a dick to a cat? That’s mean. Most soldiers are really nice to these cats, because they’re cute. Most zzam-tigers are treated as mascots of those bases, and all bases have at least one zzam-tiger. It’s like having a communal pet. And it’s really therapeutic to have a cat around, because these cats are really friendly. They can also get rid of rats, if your base has any. Similarly, if your base has a dog, they are called zzam-wolf, and seagulls near navy ships are called zzam-phoenix. The part of the joke is to call them stronger than they really are. It’s part of the fun.

Background:

My informant is a Korean man in his mid 20s, who had just been discharged from his mandatory service about a year ago. His base also had a stray cat that was beloved by him and his fellow soldiers. Military jargon and tales are very a large part of Korean culture, especially for Korean men, as mandatory military service is an almost-universal experience for them. It is a unifying thing that most Korean men share, and a frequent conversation starter.

Context:

The conversation took place over the phone. My informant was at his house in Seoul, Korea, and he was alone in a comfortable setting.

My thoughts:

It is common to find stories of animals living amongst soldiers all around the world. Most U.S. bases in foreign countries allow soldiers to have pets, and historically most navy ships and submarines had cats on board to get rid of rats. Animals are known for providing therapeutic presence, and for soldiers who have high stress occupations, having these animals around seem like an effective way to help them.

Naming Pets in Rural Mexico

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican-American
Age: Middle-Aged
Occupation: Teacher
Residence: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

“Actually, when we had little chicks, too, we didn’t like, like, you name your pets here, like ‘little Peter,’ or ‘Johnny,’ or ‘puppy,’ whatever you want to call them. There, we didn’t name our pets, you know. We just name them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. [laughs]

 

Not to feel bad when it was like time to slaughter them… ‘cause we grew pets for eating, you know? It was, it wasn’t like we were just playing with them, it was actual food on the line! [laughs]

 

Was that a common practice, did everyone name their pets something like that?

 

More or less, something like that. Very, very like, crazy names, like you know, like May, July, June, those. [laughs] Because they were going to slaughter them that month. [laughs]

 

There was a little rooster named father’s day [laughs] because they knew they were going to do that, ‘where’s father’s day, where’s father’s day,’ ‘donde esta dia del papa,’ you know, in Español, ‘oh you know he’s there, he’s there, and this and that,’ and sure enough, you know, time came and… cut some necks there. That was crazy.”

 

Analysis: This is a fairly straightforward but interesting and widespread folk practice in rural Mexico. Whereas pets are normally seen as members of a family in the United States, pets were instead viewed primarily as food sources in rural Mexico. As such, the cultural norms surrounding the animals are substantially different from what an American may expect. Naming animals after the date that they will presumably be slaughtered is a very efficient way of keeping the age of a pet on hand. It is worth nothing that the informant’s repeated use of the term “crazy” may be revelatory of a culture shift upon moving to the United States and owning two pets.