Tag Archives: test

The Science Bunny


A: I mean if you’re looking for a real piece of folklore, I have a science bunny. You remember the science bunny.

ME: science bunny?

A: the science bunny goes in the pocket of lab coat

ME: ohhh!! (I remembered the science bunny at this point) 

A: every time I have a biology lab or any time that I’m in my lab coat really. Which is a lot. I was in it like uhh probably eight hours a week this semester.

ME: where did you get this bunny?

A: it was a gift for Chinese New Year that was sent from my aunt who’s not my aunt. So she sent me a little–

ME: like a family-friend aunt?

A: a family-friend aunt. 

ME: I have those too

A: and then they had like, the ears had like lanterns and some stuff on them. So but then it was so tiny that I could stick it in my pocket. And then whenever we had exams, my friend and I (who is in biology and chemistry) wed take out the bunny– Cause usually we’d be sitting around each other in the exam room– the bunny, all the knowledge all the science knowledge it’d absorbed by sitting in my pocket, it was going to give back to us. So, that is my little superstition. I’m also convinced that somebody lives in my basement at home, secretly. But that’s not a superstition

ME: well that’s a legend, for another story

A: that’s a legend

ME: interesting, you’ll have to tell me more about the basement guy later. Uhh, the bunny… why do you think you do the bunny? Does it help?

A: I don’t know if it helps, but I think it’s fun to have traditions because it became kind of a little point of comradery. And the fact that one friend would always bully the bunny, so then I would bully the friend. And then also like my other friend, he always just liked seeing the bunny. It was kinda a thing we could all rally around. So it was like every time the science bunny came out… one of my friends was like o my gosh you’re such like a, you’re gonna be such a pediatrician. You with your little bunny. You carry a stuffed animal with you. And I was like aww. And it’s kinda cute, you know it’s just something to hold on to. So yeah…

ME: I appreciate this, thank you

A: glad to get your homework done


This tradition was shared with me by a friend and USC peer while waiting to collect boxes in preparation for move-out.

A grew up in Missouri, USA. A was at the time of sharing a pre-med student.


Good luck charms are quite common. Seeking good luck on academic tests and challenges is similarly precedented. The science bunny reminded me of a rabbit’s foot: a common good luck charm. I don’t think A’s use of the science bunny was directly influenced by ideas of rabbits’ feet, but it’s interesting on a basis of convergent practices.

The idea that the bunny might absorb knowledge from observing labs and then return the knowledge to A and her friends is also interesting to me. Despite A not fully believing it this seems to be an instance of magic.

A finds meaning in this practice because it brings her closer to her friends. “It was kinda a thing we could all rally around.”

A guest is equivalent to God


“A guest is equivalent to God”


NT is my roommate at USC and a very close friend. Her parents are originally from Southern India and moved to the U.S. thirty years ago. As a family, they have moved around a bit and have lived in New York and Michigan, and now reside in Texas.

NT- There is one saying that I feel like my mom has burned into my brain, “Athithi Devo Bhavaa.” She would always say it in Hindi, but the English translation is “A guest is equivalent to God.”

Interviewer- Would she say it only when specific people were coming over?

NT- No it didn’t really matter who was coming. But if she knew someone was planning to drop by, she would always shout the phrase in Hindi as a reminder to me, especially since I am an only child (rolls her eyes).

Interviewer- Do you know of a specific origin of the phrase, or does it just come from the cultural view of how important guests are?

NT- So there’s like a story in India that apparently some of our Gods will periodically go in random people’s houses and see how they are treated. It’s like a test to make sure you are being kind and welcoming to everyone.


This folk simile originated in India as a reminder to treat everyone well. Interestingly, the phrase instructs one to treat guests not just as they would want to be treated, but as a God. This implies that one should put their guests’ wants and needs above their own, as they do with their higher powers. The second element of this folk simile is the proverbial warning attached to the origin story. It implies that any time, a test could be administered to you unknowingly, likely with consequences if you fail. The possibility that a person or a family could receive a punishment directly from a deity, is a motivator to treat everyone very well. The phrase is told even to small children, which indicates how serious it is in Indian culture.

“Made You Say Pink”

My informant (18), from Maryland, describes a riddle that she and her friends performed in middle school: “It’s not really a joke, but it’s more like a challenge, like a “are you dumb” challenge. So it’s like I bet I can make you say the color pink ‘okay’ okay so then you’re like ‘what’s the color of the sky?’ ‘Blue’ ‘What’s the color of this chair?’ ‘Brown’ ‘What’s the color of my hair?’ ‘Black’ ‘What’s the color of the grass?’ ‘green’ ‘Ha, I told you I could make you say green’ ‘no you didn’t, you told me you would make me say pink’ and that’s how you make them say pink”

“And so it’s like this little thing that my swim friends and I, back in the past, like middle school? We would just always perform this on each other to like try and get the other person and just to make them seem, you know, like it’s more of like one of those ‘stupid tests’”

The informant began by saying this was a joke, and then changed to calling it a challenge, and finally called it a “test”. I think this piece is actually a kind of riddle, because it tests the wits of the person it is performed on, but instead of wordplay, there is a “trick” meant to catch the subject. Because this is used within the informants team, it might imply that performing this trick affords the performer a kind of social capital in the group when they are successful, suggesting that intelligence is valued in the group.

Student inadvertently solves never-before-solved math problems

My informant told me about a story she heard about a student waking up late and rushing to their final, then frantically trying to finish the three equations on the board. The first two weren’t so bad, but the third was difficult. He finally finished and turned it into the professor only to find out later the third was actually not part of the test. Instead, it was a problem that had as of yet been unsolved. He had figured it out, though. My informant likes it because she thinks it would be cool to accidentally become famous like that and because it relates to one of her favorite movies, Good Will Hunting, since the main character in it easily solves equations no else could.

I like how the story reflects how we believe what we hear; when we are told something is impossible, it will seem much harder in our mind. But when we think something is supposed to be solvable, it may be easier to figure out, even if it’s never been done before. Limitations we place on ourselves are often illusory.

I looked into the story and found that it is actually based in truth. In 1939, George Dantzig arrived late to his graduate statistics class and saw two problems on the board, not knowing they were examples of problems that had never been solved. He thought they were a homework assignment and was able to solve them. He found out the reality six weeks later when his teacher let him know and helped him publish a paper about one of the problems.

Annotation: Cottle, Richard, Ellis Johnson, and Roger Wets. “George B. Dantzig.” Notices of the AMS 54.3 (2007). Web. April 23 2012.