Tag Archives: trick

The Origin of the Echo

Context: S is a Peruvian man in his early 60s. S spent around the first 13 years living inside of Peru before moving to Germany where he lived until his late 20s when he moved to California. Although having lived in California for most of his life now, he still has a close connection to Peru and Germany through his family. 

S: “While I can’t think of much Peruvian folklore, there is one story that comes to mind about the story of the echo.” 

Intv: “Okay, I don’t think I know this story.” 

S: “Okay, well it goes something like this, There was this Prince, who was always lying. He was always getting in trouble, and lying to everyone until one day the King died. So this Prince becomes the new King. As he became King his behavior just got worse, he would send people away on jobs and when they would come back he would act confused and say he never sent them to do such a thing. But what could the people do? He was the King. Until one day, the King calls upon the high priest. This high priest knew he was going to be set up by the King, so before speaking with him, the priest went to pray to the gods, and the god of the jungle came and asked him about his problem. The jungle god then directs the high priest to a very specific tree deep in the heart of the jungle, and the high priest will cut the tree down and use the wood to make a very special box. After the priest made the box the jungle god told him ‘when you speak to the King, make sure you hold the box open the whole time. And make sure when the order is given to you and when you return it is a huge event in which everyone will be there. So the priest goes to the King, and holds open the box while he receives his mission. Then he was off. When he returned, the high priest gathered the whole town before alerting the King of his return. When the King came to see the commotion he asked ‘what’s going on?’ The high priest responded by telling him about the job that the King sent him on. The King replied saying ‘I never said any such thing, I never told you to go and do such a thing.’ Then the high priest opens the box and the King’s order comes back in the exact same words and in his exact voice. In a fit of rage the King grabbed the box and ran out to the mountains where he threw the box out. When the box landed it splintered in hundreds of directions all across the world and wherever you hear an echo, supposedly that’s where a piece of the box resides.”

Intv: “Oh wow! That’s a great story! Was this told somewhere specifically? Or all across Peru?”

S: “This is a tale from the Amazonians, so it’s probably from Colombia.”

Analysis: A wonderful legend that perhaps originated as an explanation for something that at the time we couldn’t originally understand or fathom. In these moments it’s fascinating to see how for hundreds potentially thousands of years people used folklore as a pseudoscience of sorts. Legends being used to explain earthly phenomena can be seen across different cultures around the world. Another example of one of these that I particularly enjoy is the Origin of the Earthquake from Norse mythology. See All the Mountains Shake: Seismic and Volcanic Imagery in the Old Norse Literature of Þórr. Scripta Islandica, Pg 102-110. For more information on the origin of the earthquake in Norse mythology. Taggart, Declan. “All the mountains shake: Seismic and volcanic imagery in the Old Norse literature of Þórr.” Scripta Islandica: Isländska Sällskapets Årsbok 68 (2017): 102-110.

Norwegian Tailed Woman (Huldra)

Main Content:

I:Informant, M:Me, R: Roommate

I: We had a lot of, another like woman kind of figure, which is I think its supposed to, I think traditionally she a beautiful woman but she has like a trolls tail. And like her sole mission is like to seduce man and trick them into marriage and I think she eats them.

R+M: *laughs*

M: So is she, is she beautiful and then and then she’s like really but on the like what she really is is ugly and so she tricking them or… how?

I: I think she’s  like all around just beautiful they only tell us that she has is this tail and she will like, I think there’s like some magic kind of supposed to be going on, like she will like um… um… um… oh you don’t have a word for that.. enchant? I suppose? Like The man and they will become lost in the magic that they don’t realize she has a tail because everyone knows to watch out for that tail. And then they be like too enchanted and then they’ll you know get eaten or whatever she does.    

   M: Oh okay that’s cool, a tailed lady

Context: The informant was taught this folklore as a child and was told to be weary of beautiful women and to always check for tail. This is a well known legend throughout Norway- one of the top two most known female figure legends.

Analysis: One hinderance we ran across was a slight language barrier in the last quote of the informant as there wasn’t an exact equivalent of a Norwegian word in English, so he chose the closest thing he could think of which was enchant. While this one word did not make an extreme impact on my collection, it definitely demonstrates how folklore can be lost in translation. Additionally, the woman figure is depicted here as alluring and trickery. The comment that men can be ‘tricked into marriage’ says a great deal about their views on marriage and to remember not to be hasty into big decisions. This is further displayed in their average marriage age which is just below 40 for both men and women. While America and Norway both have marriage ceremonies, they have very different meanings each country and that is expressed through the Norwegian warning of the Huldra.

For another version of Huldra, see

“Huldra – Mythical Creatures Guide.” Mythical Creatures Guide, www.mythicalcreaturesguide.com/m/page/Huldra. 

Parents Trick to Get their Son to Eat Brussell Sprouts

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.



“So I hated eating brussel sprouts when I was a little guy, I would throw them at my parents and stuff. So my parents told them they were just baby cabbages so I would eat em’. I like cabbage, but I didn’t like Brussel sprouts.

Me: Did it work?

M: Oh yeah.

Me: You actually thought you were eating baby cabbage for awhile?

M: Oh yeah, they’re like exactly the same, I didn’t have any idea there was something to differentiate them. I still think they might be baby cabbage (laughs jokingly)

Me: When did you start to catch on?

M: Probably when I was about 7 or 8, but I ended up liking brussel sprouts anyways.

Me: So your parents actually tricked you into liking brussel sprouts? That’s pretty elaborate.

M: Well, maybe. I don’t know…. if they hadn’t told me they were baby cabbages, and I just waited until I was seven or eight and tried them again, If I’d still like them. ”



As “M” was pretty well aware, being told that brussel sprouts were baby cabbage forced  him into a sort of cognitive dissonance where he changed him preferences to accommodate his liking of cabbage. As he was not able to identify that his parents were doing it at the time, he ate them. Though he isn’t sure about it, “M” does entertain the possibility that his preference to brussel sprouts may be a result of this trick earlier in his childhood.


“Knock Knock, Who’s there?………..”

This is another seemingly popular “knock knock joke provided me by my informant:

Informant: say “knock, knock”

Me: knock, knock

Informant: Who’s there?

[a long pause followed by laughter]

Informant: Yep, that’s the joke!


In this joke, the teller attempts to invert the knock knock sequence, by attempting the get the other party to tell him a joke without having a joke in mind, thus being rendered dumbstruck. It adds an interesting twist of deception to the otherwise predictable “knock knock” pattern.

If you tap the top of a dropped soda can, it will not fizz out of the can when opened.

As a child, my source first heard this superstition because he was rather clumsy and would always drop his soda cans.  He first instance he can remember where he practiced this superstition was with his teammates from his little league baseball team.  All of his teammates would tap on the tops of their soda cans under any condition, just to be sure to limit the fizz.  My source suggested that this could have been a popular trend shared by his teammates or the result of several players being chewed out by their parents for spilling soda on their uniforms.

My source doesn’t quite understand how the superstition works, but is assured that it’s effective.  After tapping the top of his soda cans he has rarely ever had a spill.  If he had to guess, he supposes that when the can is tapped, carbonation bubbles stuck to the side of the can are nudged to the top of the can, and when the can is opened, the gas is released without dragging any liquid out with it.  My source has also heard of a ‘three-tap method,’ where the can needs to be tapped only three times, but he is not sure where he heard this.

Scientifically, when a can is dropped, the carbon dioxide that carbonates the soda is forced out of the liquid and into a gas form which builds pressure in the can.   If the can is opened soon after, the pressure will be released and the gas will rush out, dragging the soda with it.  If somebody taps on a soda can, that’s an added disturbance, which would likely cause more of the carbon dioxide to be freed from the liquid, so the superstition should not work.  What does work is waiting for the pressure to be reduced. After a drop, given time, the carbon dioxide will assimilate back into the liquid, reducing the pressure and fizz when the can is opened.  Also, because of the built up pressure, the rate at which one opens a can is significant because it regulates the speed any carbon dioxide is released.  Finally, there is a theory that if you tap a can with a metal rod, it will create a vibration in the aluminum can that will cause all of the gas to move to the top of the can, reducing potential fizz, but this method isn’t proven.

From my own personal experience, I have experienced good results after I’ve tapped the top of my dropped soda can, but I cannot attribute it to the superstition.  I believe that by tapping the top of the soda can, you’re spending more time not opening the can.  As long as you’re tapping, the soda can isn’t opened, and this gives the carbon dioxide more time to be pushed back into the liquid.




Annotation: A variant of this superstition is featured in episode 513 (My Five Stages) of Bill Lawrence’s NBC sitcom Scrubs as the “John Dorian three-tap method.  Three taps and the foam goes bye-bye.”  The character, JD, then opens the can, and after a pause, all hell breaks loose and foam flies everywhere.