Tag Archives: sick

Latin Proverb – Postquam vinum, lac Fac testamento tuo

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 70
Occupation: Musician
Residence: Austin
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/16/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Polish

Content: Latin Proverb
“Postquam vinum, lac. Fac testamento tuo.”

Transliteration –
“After the wine, milk. Make your will.”

Translation –
“If after wine, you drink milk, make your last will and testament.”

Informant – “I heard it from my father. He was quite the linguist. I’ve never heard anyone else say it, but the idea is that if you drink wine then milk, the milk will curdle in your stomach and you’ll feel very sick.”

Wine will curdle milk, so the proverb is factual. The fact that informant’s father told him the proverb in Latin heightens the humor. It’s a pretty silly, intentionally humorous quote and Latin is usually a very ostentatious language.

Eucalyptus Oil

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Northern California. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/29/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Vietnamese

Main Piece:


The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.


DD: Um my-the basic, the default remedy that my grandmother would go for is…a bottle of eucalyptus oil. And um whenever I was sick, no matter what the ailment was, she would, you know, tell me to rub it on myself. So if um if I had a headache, put a drop on like my temples or if I had a stuffy nose, put some right below my nose, if I had a stomachache rub some on my stomach, um something that-it’s crazy, my dad’s a dentist and he’s generally a skeptic of a lot of these you know, Vietnamese old wives’ tales, but this is one that he still swears by, and I think there is some method to the madness. I think um the eucalyptus oil is kinda like menthol it’s kinda warming it’s basically a natural icy hot, so I guess it does have a very you know the same like icy hot like warming cooling effect. So I think that’s why it like works for a variety of different effects.


DG: So you heard this from your grandmother?


DD: Um it’s something that like pretty much all of my family members know. Um my grandmother and my mother are the ones most likely I guess to take care of me when im sick, so um that’s where it came from I guess. And my dad, who’s a doctor because he’s a dentist, he still swears by it. Like it’s to the point where I even brought a bottle with me to college, like after a particularly grueling dance practice Ill rub it on my calves if they’re sore, or if I have a stuffy nose I’ll use some.




The conversation was recorded while sitting in a classroom during an assigned period to discuss folklore. However, the context for the homeopathic medicine to be used would be whenever the interviewee was feeling ill, whether it be a cold, or a sore muscle.




The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.




This homeopathic cure is one that seems to hold a lot of weight, as it has a similar feeling to Tiger Balm or Icy Hot, and also is one of the ingredients used in both ointments. It is used incredibly commonly. It reminds me of the use of aloe vera, where both are natural ingredients from plants, used as a soothing cure. I also found it interesting that the interviewees medically trained father believed in eucalyptus oil as a cure, despite neither of them being entirely sure of its proven qualities. I think this shows the power of hearing these cures from above generations, and also points towards it working, as they would not continue to believe in it if it did not work.


For another version of this riddle, see Eucalyptus Essential Oil: Uses, Studies, Benefits, Applications % Recipes (Wellness Research Series Book 6) by Ann Sullivan (2015).


--Informant Info--
Nationality: Paraguayan
Age: 23
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 20, 2017
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s):

My friend from Paraguay told me about this special drink which wards off illness.

Me: What is it?

Friend:”Carrulim is a drink that’s made from sugar cane alcohol, lemon, and some other herbs and spices. It started with the medicine men in the Guarani tribe, which is the tribe of people native to Paraguay before the Spanish arrived.”

Me: When do you drink it?

Friend:”Well I don’t drink it, I think it’s mostly old people and people who live in the country. But it’s only for the first day of August, because August is the month where the weather is worst and a lot of people get sick. There’s a saying that goes: August is the month when skinny cows die.” So yeah if you drink it, it’s only in August.”

Me: Have you ever tried it?

Friend: “Yeah. It’s a disgusting drink. I thought it sounded good but it tasted so bad. I probably will like it when I’m an old man- then again, I’ll “need” it when I’m an old man so I make it through August!”

Analysis: This custom harkens back to a time when people were worried about the harsh weather and how it would effect them. Today, we can control our living conditions with a button (at least in more modern countries) but back before this, people had to ward off illness any way they could. Today this custom serves more as a protection or good luck charm for older people. Perhaps it is psychosomatic– if you drink this, you will believe you won’t get sick, and if you don’t drink it, you will worry about being sick.


--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/23/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

“So the saying is, ‘Sick,’ but it’s not like, ‘Oh bro, that was sick,’ or ‘Are you okay? You look sick,’ it’s not like that. It’s kind of similar to ‘toolbag,’ you know, where it’s like you can’t really explain ‘toolbag,’ but if you see a toolbag walking down the street you’re like, ‘Whoa, that guy’s a fucking toolbag.’ So ‘sick’ is kind of like, it can be used in many different contexts, it’s kind of like ‘fuck’ can, where it’s kind of like, ‘Whoa, what the fuck!’ or it’s like, ‘Holy fucking shit, that was awesome.’ Um, so it’s something that [her ex-boyfriend] and his friends like kind of made up and I just like adopted through the years and it just like, it kind of makes you feel like weird inside, or like, ‘Whoa, that person’s getting really gross,’ or like the action that they’re doing is very . . . interesting, I guess, or like something that they said was very interesting, whether in a funny way or a bad way. So an example is, if someone said something really funny—or if someone was doing a really funny dance move, we could like point and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, ha ha ha, that person’s getting really sick right now.’ When it’s like ‘Oh, they’re doing something really interesting, like I’ve never seen that before, but we love it, it’s really funny.’ But then it can also be like, if someone says something wrong, where it’s like if [ex-boyfriend] and I got in a fight and I was like, ‘[Ex-boyfriend], what the fuck? Like you’re a fucking cheater!’ Then if [his] friends that they could be like, ‘Whoa, why are you getting so sick right now?’ . . . So it can be used to like, characterize someone’s statement, if that makes sense, or someone’s action in neither judging way or nonjudgmental way.”


The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who grew up in competitive snowboarding and has dabbled in CrossFit and other workout programs. She has been in a prominent sorority on campus since coming to USC and goes out every night of the weekend, as well as some nights of the week. I live with the informant and the interview took place in my room during one of the lengthy conversations we often have. The informant learned the use of this word from her ex-boyfriend. She uses it because she got in the habit of communicating with him and his friends and this is a common word in their group.


I think it’s interesting that this is a word that has already been adopted into colloquial usage, but which has a different meaning. Indeed, the meaning of ‘sick’ in this case is somewhere between the adjective meaning “cool” and the state of being meaning “ill.” It makes me wonder if this word first started being used as a code for people to say something was weird or interesting when everyone else around them thought they were saying it was cool. I also think it’s interesting that the informant thinks this phrase is neither judgmental nor nonjudgmental. It is as if the people using it are making commentary on someone else’s state of being, although I think there is some sort of judgment implied.

Don’t go to bed with your hair wet

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 28, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

“My mom used to tell me, growing up, to never go to bed with my hair wet. Because that is the cause of you getting sick. But I’ve never gotten sick after going to bed with wet hair. In fact, I do it a lot.”


My informant immigrated from Shanghai with her mother when she was five years old. The idea that going to bed with your hair wet could make you sick seems to be a common one among immigrants, as most children of especially Asian immigrants that I interviewed told me the same thing.

Many Asians still rely on traditional medicines, and so it makes sense that they would have traditional folk beliefs about getting sick to accompany this reliance. Especially before industrialization, a cold could turn deadly; any methods of prevention were likely taken, even if they didn’t necessarily make sense. The belief that wet hair makes you sick is likely a holdover from those days; the belief has been passed down through the generations so that, even though we now know that wet hair is unlikely to make one sick, it is still a persistent belief in many cultures.

Doctor Slang

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese-American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 29, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese

I collected these slang terms from a friend who heard it from his older sibling who works at a hospital. These terms are very indicative of the type of humor that medical practitioners have. According to my friend, they receive inordinate amounts of stress. So as to depersonalize the experience or detach themselves from getting too involved, they have to make light of it in almost an offensive way. They came up because we were just talking about unfortunate accidents that happen to people. As I was describing someone getting burned, he called the person a term that is used in hospitals. In asking where that came from, he proceeded to give quite a few terms and their meanings. My friend finds that they are very offensive and doesn’t enjoy that, and even using it for humor makes him feel slightly less human. However, he does believe that in order to maintain their sanity and ensure that they can stay healthy for themselves without being emotionally overwhelmed by anything, doctors do what they have to.

AGA (Acute Gravity Attack) – This term is used when a person falls over.

Beached Whale – This is used to describe an obese patient unable to do much for him/herself except lie there with flailing arms and legs.

Crispy Critter – This describes a patient with severe burns

LMC (Low Marble Count) – This describes a patient with low IQ.

ALS (Absolute Loss of Sanity) – This is used for an insane patient.

Appy – This is a term for a patient who is suspected to have appendicitis

BUNDY – This is an acronym that stands for “But Unfortunately Not Dead Yet.”

Dermaholiday – This is a nickname that is used for the dermatology department, which is supposedly not as busy as the other departments.

Drooler – This is a term for a catatonic patient.

Gorked – This is used to describe a person who is unresponsive and nonverbal either because the patient is sedated or because of a medical condition.

Certainly there are many more terms that are used in the hospital as part of their hospital language. I personally do not find their terms very funny. However, that is part of their job. As they get used to working there and dealing with cases, it probably becomes a part of their culture. It is something that they learn and become accustomed to in order to deal with the pressures of the environment. It also unifies the people in the field together because they speak the same language. People who aren’t inside of that field are not going to understand the terms being spoken because they aren’t acquainted with the culture of the hospital.