Tag Archives: Southern


1. Text (folk metaphor)


2. Context 

My informant heard this phrase often from her grandmother. They were born and raised in the south, Louisiana specifically, before moving to Texas. She recalls an old saying that states that you don’t let your boyfriend or husband carry your purse for that mean he’s “hen-pecked.” She further elaborated on how hen-pecked often referred to when a man “is not the head of household”, but the woman is and “as a woman, you have taken his power from him.” She heard this when she was a child growing up as a black woman in the south during the 80s. 

3. Analysis/YOUR interpretation

From my understanding of the phrase, it seems to be rooted in southern misogynistic beliefs. My informant was raised in a rural Texan community after her family moved from Louisiana. As someone who was born and also raised in Texas, I am aware of the stereotypes, traditions, and customs commonly associated. Being the head of the household typically entails the male figure is seen as the provider, masculine, and generally opposite of many stereotypical feminine traits associated with the women. So when a man holds his wife’s purse, these shared belief systems may consciously or subconsciously take hold resulting in narrow-minded beliefs. During the time my informant recalls these ideologies, hegemonic masculinity in the black community was apparent. Hegemonic masculinity at its core refers to the belief that men’s position in society remains dominant. This is often seen as the social pressures men have faced of being expected to depict a perfect “expression” of masculinity. The term hen-pecked means not seen as masculine but seen as subservient to one’s wife and therefore not upholding the hegemonic masculine standards. This is an oikotype of the original meaning. Hen-pecked originally came from the way hens are constantly pecking at the ground for food and the way a wife or girlfriend may nag at her significant other resulting in the man complying with the wife. It seems the term became used more generally not only referring to the woman pecking/nagging their partner, but anything done by the man which could be seen as subservient to women.

“Naked as a jaybird”

1. Text (folk simile)

“Naked as a jaybird”

2. Context 

My informant heard this piece frequently from her grandmother. She grew up in rural Tennessee, a small town with a population of about 900 people. If you’re going outside and looked like you’d be cold based on what clothes you have on, she’d often heard her grandmother say “Put some clothes on, you’re naked as a jaybird!” When asked, my informant made me aware that the phrase is not said in a joking manner, but rather just a normal, everyday phrase. When the phrase is used, she recalls that it is said in a more serious tone and in a way that doesn’t embrace nakedness as natural, but it is taken more negatively seeing it as a shock factor.

 3. Analysis/YOUR interpretation

The folk simile “Naked as a jaybird” to me, originally, seemed to imply one is fully nude. According to my informant’s rural Tennessee background, however, it is not used by her family in the same way. This is a prime example of Von Sydow’s proposed oikotypes as the meaning of this folk simile where one does not need to be fully nude, is a local variant of the original meaning that implies one is fully nude. The implication that the idiom does not always refer to a nude body, is a logical extension of the comparative method. The phrase is likely heard in more rural areas where there is more of a connection between animals and humans as opposed to cities. There also are no sexual connotations meant to go with this phrase, it is simply meant in a harmless way to say that someone simply isn’t dressed properly and should put on more clothes. When I first heard this saying, I immediately associated it with being another way to say that a person is nude but did not associate any sexual connotations. When you hear the phrase “naked as a jaybird”, are jaybirds naked? Birds don’t have clothes hence they are always “naked” and relating nakedness to a bird, lessens sexual connotations.

“Closed mouths don’t get fed”

1. Text (proverb)

“Closed mouths don’t get fed”

2. Context 

The informant heard this from his father numerous times growing up. He and his father use and interpret this proverb as a way of saying you need to speak up for what you want because if you don’t ask, nobody knows that you want or need anything. My informant heard this proverb from his father. He characterized his father as assertive and outspoken. Growing up, it was encouraged in the informant’s household for them to speak up to be heard and use their voice, don’t be passive. He came from a large, loud family where it was uncommon for people to engage passively with one another. Almost everyone had a voice and wanted to use it, because after all, “closed mouths don’t get fed.”

3. Analysis/YOUR interpretation

I have heard this saying numerous times growing up from my grandfather and from adults in my family in general, though I’ve never heard the saying outside of the south. This is an example of a proverb, it’s a piece of metaphorical advice often given to more stereotypically soft-spoken or passive. While I’ve heard of the proverb and understand the meaning behind it, I recognize I don’t usually appreciate it when this is said to me as I feel as though it can sometimes come off as disingenuous and has a more negative connotation to me. In saying “closed mouths don’t get fed”, I interpreted it as if you don’t speak up for yourself and voice your opinion on what you want, how will anyone else know what you want or need? While this piece of advice does have some truth to it, the saying itself doesn’t seem like it would be taken as exceedingly positive when told to a more passive person. For people who are more extroverted and who thrive in social situations or gain energy/confidence from social interactions, speaking may be as necessary as eating for them, hence the comparison of closed mouths not getting food. In line with Alan Dundes’ definition, this proverb, like many others, is concise and expressive of my informant’s worldview. This proverb in particular is expressive of an assertive, outspoken view where speaking up, gets your voice heard. 

Radiator Ghost

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 53

Occupation: Teacher

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as DS and the interviewer as K)

Background info: DS is a mother of 1 who grew up in the southern area of the United States, moving to Los Angeles in 2020. She remembers both being told this story and experiencing it herself.

K: Ok, so what’s the name of the folklore, where did you hear it from, and what’s the context of the performance? Like uh…under what uh circumstances is the story told?

DS: Well, it doesn’t really have a title, does it! I suppose I would call it the radiator ghost as that’s where she lived. Uh I heard it from my momma originally when I was a girl but I met the ghost a few times. I tell it to scare my kids but also teach em that sometimes whats scary on the surface ain’t so much when you look into it.

K: Ok cool, whenever you’re ready.

DS: Well, it’s simple, ain’t it. In my home I grew up in there was one of them old fashion uh radiators that would burn the hell outta you if you touched it *laughter*. Uh, when I used to walk down the hallway at nighttime, cuz the radiator was right next to the bathroom, I used to get this REAL bad feeling when I go too close to it so I always avoided it. One day, when I was about 10 or 11, I hadn’t felt the bad feeling in a while. I realized at that point that uh..the ghost was protecting me till I wasn’t stupid enough to touch the radiator. *laughter*

I liked hearing this more common ghost story, especially that it had a more happy ending! The idea of a ghost that is trying to help a child is really sweet, and it also makes sense for that culture. Southern culture is very stereotypically helpful and kind, so a southern ghost upholding those standards follows perfectly. Even if it’s something psychosomatic, meaning the informant’s mother told her about the ghost so she imagined it, the ghost and its personality make sense. I do want to note my personal bias here, in that I believe in ghosts so that affected my interpretation of the folklore and possibly the informants telling of it, as they could see my positive reactions as they were telling me.

Chitlins & Sals in Southern Food

Main Piece:

Me: So, what are these foods that you’re describing?

DH: Uhm… Sals is leftover pig parts— I don’t know what parts specifically. Uhm, it’s good… Chitlins is really more of a Southern delicacy now, but it used to be… I’m pretty sure that’s just pig intestines and all that, right?

Me: I believe so. Yeah.

DH: So, the reason that black people eat that is, you know, back in slavery, the owner would give you whatever they had left… You gotta eat something… I’ve never eaten chitlins, but…

Me: Have you had family members who have eaten it?

DH: My dad. Uhm, mostly every family gathering—you know like Christmas, Thanksgiving—they’re gonna have that at somebody’s house.

Me: … It’s interesting too, because I’m pretty sure my mom eats chitlins as well and so does my dad, occasionally.

DH: It’s really more of like a Southern thing.

Me: It’s interesting how it’s evolved in that way.


This was performed over FaceTime with one of my best friends from high school, who is African-American. She lives in Brandon, Mississippi, a small town right next to the state capital of Jackson and is a freshman studying Communications at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.


As my friend said, this most likely derives from Slavery Era practices in the American South. When slave masters were finished with their meals, they would give the scraps to their slaves. This included all the undesirable parts of a pig, and so this adaptation to ‘eating anything’ and making the most out of a bad situation was most likely necessary for survival. It was probably passed down through generations and developed as a cultural delicacy amongst black southerners. This is evidence to how people take traumatic experiences from their collective histories and evolve it into a way of embracing one’s past and culture. It has now developed more as a general Southern delicacy, right along the line with gizzards. Food that is so rich in history like this, that was once used as a way of division, is now being used as a point of connection amongst communities.

See more on ‘Ethnic Folklore’ below:

Oring, Elliott. “Ethnic Groups and Ethnic Folklore.” In Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by E. Oring, 23-44.Logan: Utah State University Press, 1986.