The informant is a 21-year-old woman who lives in Taiwan. When asked about some folk beliefs that she knows, she told the collector about a superstition regarding a brand of Taiwanese snacks and machines.
Collector: Do you know any folk beliefs?
Informant: Oh yeah. This happened couple days ago in the office where I’m interning for. There was this copy machine that was always jammed and apparently the manager tried to fix it many times already. The machine was jammed again and after the manager fixed it, he asked me to grab a bag of 乖乖 (kuai kuai) from convenience store.
Collector: Can you describe what 乖乖 is and why did he ask you to do so?
Informant: 乖乖 is this snack made out of corn i think. It has many different flavors and it’s really popular in Taiwan. As of why he told me to do that, it’s because the brand name 乖乖 means to be obedient. He put the 乖乖 on top of the copy machine to tell the machine to behave. I know a lot of other occupations do the same thing. I’ve seen bus drivers, scientists, and some stores on top of their cash registers.
The Taiwanese folk belief regarding the snack 乖乖 and machines is a form of homeopathic magic. By putting something that literally says “behave” on top of something that is not behaving, the performer of the magic attempts to change the current status of a machine according to his or her want, which is for the machine to stop malfunctioning. Besides magic, reception theory proposed by Stuart Hall can be utilized to further analyze the popular superstition in Taiwan. 乖乖 is a snack that is meant to be eaten; however, the consumers of the snack give a new meaning towards the product that the producer never intended for it to be. For more information and picture reference, please read this BBC article.