Tag Archives: splitting

Splitting Poles and Friendship

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/3/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Transcription

Collector: So yeah, I remember when we were hanging out that you, like, had us walk around the poles if we both went on opposite sides of it. Is that something you do with everyone or, like, how did you learn that?

Informant: Yeah! So, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, my best friend did it because she was superstitious. And she was superstitious because her mom was, so like it kind of passed on to me. But now it’s basically conditioned in me so I always do it.

Collector: so what does it even mean to split the poles?

Informant: So if you’re walking with someone or a group of people and you pass by a pole or trash can or anything that’s an obstacle, you all need to walk on the same side of the obstacle or you will split with the person who walked on the other side. And by split, I mean no longer be friends. Like there will be a big fight in the future or the people will just stop talking with each other. So you have to walk on the same side because then you’ll lose each other.

Context

Collector lives with the informant and is best friends with her. The practice was viewed many times as they were together and the collector wanted context for it. This explanation was prompted by the collector’s question about the origins of the custom. At this point, the custom is a habit for both the informant and the collector, who both make conscious efforts to walk on the same side of the pole. If one of them is on the wrong side by accident and realizes after the fact, they will go back and walk around on the correct side of the pole to undo the mistake. 

Analysis 

In this case, I feel that the act of “splitting the pole” is seen as homeopathic magic, as the physical, bodily splitting represents the metaphorical and emotional split as well. However, in this case, it isn’t a representation of the person that is being performed upon, but instead the people themselves representing a future version of themselves. The tangible, current action of walking on either side of the road is a representation of the future emotional split that could happen as a result of the gesture.

Pole Splitting

--Informant Info--
Nationality: African American
Age: 16
Occupation: student
Residence: carson, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

What is being performed?
DA: Well, you know how two people that are walking together are never supposed to split a
pole?
AA: I’ve heard that.
DA: I almost split a pole yesterday. Dad went one way and I went the other when we got close
to the street sign outside the house.
AA: If you split the pole is it instant bad luck?
DA: Of course not, but it catches up with you the way karma works.You split a pole and you’ll
find yourself in bad luck eventually.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Where did you hear this?
DA: I’m pretty sure dad told me this when I was 10 years old.
AA: Where is dad from?
DA: He’s from Los Angeles but grew up around his family from Texas and Oklahoma.
AA: What does this mean to you?
DA: Now it’s kind of funny, but when I was really little it was a serious to me.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
Leila Atkins brings this up every time she’s walking with friends and they approach a pole. She
hardly performs this outside of the context. Most of the time she performs it as a warning to
people about to split a pole or right after they have done so. It is something I have also heard of
and still hear of in college.

Reflection
This is something that I have encountered and actively avoid in my lifestyle. I mostly do so out
of kicks and not serious belief, but still recognize that it has a pretty good effect on my life.

Splitting the Pair

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese and Korean
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The Main Piece
“I never gave another person shoes for any sort of present, then they’ll run away from you.” There is a common belief that by giving a person shoes it will later lead them to leave your life. Although this is simply a superstition, it has caused many people to second guess what kind of gift they want to give anyone who’s relationship they hold valuable. After all, it is a simple act to get the person another gift that could potentially save them from leaving your life.
Background Information
My informant is my roommate, Sarah Kwan, a current undergraduate student at USC. She had heard about this unspoken rule from her friends back in China. The word for pair in Chinese also means “the splitting of two,” this definition lead to the belief that if one was to give a person a “pair” of shoes, then it was as if they were splitting apart as well. She told me that at first she questioned this because people were technically giving the pair together, thereby not actually splitting the two, but as time went on she began to simply accept the superstition. “I didn’t want to chance anything, it wasn’t like the world was going to end if I never got my friends shoes. I could always get them something else.”
Context
My informant is Sarah Kwan, my roommate and personal friend. Sarah gave me this piece of advice as we were shopping for my friends present. I thought shoes would be a great idea to give my friend because this way he could use it every day. She was shocked to hear that I had never heard this superstition before and strongly recommended that I also not chance anything with my friends.
Personal Thoughts
I personally am not too superstitious, but I can understand why obeying such a simple task is accepted and performed. Friendship is highly valued, not monetarily, but on an emotional level so why would anyone want to put something like that at risk. I thought the shoe superstition sounded unnecessary at first, but I can see where it highlights values such as friendship.