Tag Archives: Turkish

Evil Eye

Main Piece. 

Informant: Yeah so in Turkey the evil eye, which is called I’m blanking on the name, it’ll come back to me. But it’s like yeah, it’s a form of protection. It protects you from you know, the evil but like more specific cases like if someone is like bad-mouthing you like talking behind your back that people in Turkey believe that if you have like an evil eye in your house or in your car or anything like it’ll protect you from-from things like that. You know it comes in different colors. It’s it’s-it’s supposed to be hung. Yeah, like in your car. People have bracelets rings they get tattoos of it. But in your home a lot of like Turkish like bazaars like the markets. They will hang it so they make like they put them in like birdhouses to like they put the evil eye design in like different like domestic objects, so that you can hang it it always has to be hanging that’s that’s something I mean, I guess like via tattoo then. I don’t know how that counts. But but in terms of like the jewelry or like the object itself, it has to be hanging because it like hangs like over you. So you want to hang it like above a door or like the entrance to your home like you walk in and it’s right there. 

Informants Relationship to the Piece. 

My informant was taught this by her parents and recalled a story of the time her mother had given her an evil eye for her car. 

Informant: When I first got my license, I was going to drive for the first time by myself in a car. She had me hang an evil eye chain on the front mirror as like protection and then when I got in a car accident, she actually was like ‘It’s because that was in your car and it protected you’, because I didn’t have any injuries. And it’s really crazy how people believe it. But my mom believes in it very much so and because of that, it’s like yeah, it’s really been passed on to me where I have one hanging right there (she points to her wall where she has a small evil eye chain-hung”


The informant is one of my friends, a 20-year-old Turkish-American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some superstitions she believes in. 


I definitely grew up seeing a lot of my friends wear an evil eye and seeing vendors who sold jewelry that contained the symbol, but I never really knew what it meant, other than being a pretty symbol. I think it’s interesting how the main purpose of the evil eye is to protect you from people bad-mouthing you behind your back, but for my informants’ family it’s become a catch-all symbol for protection, especially for their children as they begin to leave the house and become more independent, the evil eye becomes a way for the parents to keep an “eye” on their children.

Timur and the Swimming Challenge — Turkish Joke

Main Piece:

But just there’s a guy [Timur], he’s another hero or something. And so this guy is again, think of it as a city— a modern city— and they live next to the beach. And so this guy is like, talking about how good he is at swimming and he’s like, “I’m such a good swimmer, I know so much about it.”

And then his friend next to him is like, “Alright, then go swim.” 

And they’re like okay, so they both go to the sea, and he starts swimming, and then his friend is like: 

“Hmm okay this guy can swim. Well, obviously I’m better than this guy.” So he’s like, “I can jump from a diving board into the pool. I know we’re at the sea but not only I can swim in a pool, but I can jump into it from a diving board.”

And so Timur is like, “Okay, let’s see you do it.” 

So [the friend] goes and jumps from a diving board, and [Timur’s] like:

“Well I can jump from a ten foot diving board.”

And he’s like alright— well his friend— is like, “Well go do it.” 

So [Timur] goes up ten feet, goes to the board, he jumps and he successfully lands! 

And [his friend] like, “What the fuck, what’s going on? How?!” And then he’s like: “Okay well guess what, Timur? I can jump from a two story building, and I’ll be just fine!” 

And Timur looks at him and he’s like, “Go do it, dude.” 

And [his friend]’s like, “Alright.”

So he goes up and he goes to the two story building. He’s looking down, and he’s like, “Alright, I’m gonna do this.” And he jumps… and he makes it! He’s perfectly fine. 

And Timur’s like “Huh? That’s B.S! I don’t know what happened there!” 

And he goes to his friend and he’s like, all mad and he’s like, “I don’t understand this. I can jump into a freaking wine bottle from twenty feet high!”

And his friend’s like, he just stands there for a second, and he’s like, “Do it.” 

And [Timur’s] like “Fine!” So he goes up twenty feet and getting ready and into position, and he jumps! And his friend is furiously looking at him, and as he’s jumping down, he looks at the bottle and he says, “I hope you freaking die!” And he kicks the bottle!


My informant is one of my friends from high school, and is of Turkish heritage. Growing up, he often remembered hearing various Turkish sayings and narrative stories from his parents and extended family. This is another popular character he heard about, a guy named Timur, although my informant notes that Timur isn’t actually Turkish, yet he still appears in the stories and jokes. This was another of my informant’s favorite Turkish joke stories, and when I asked him what the lesson was, he said the point is to not be gullible like Timur, and not to be arrogant, or it’ll have negative consequences. 


This came after my informant gave me another piece of folklore for the archive, and I asked if he had any other jokes, because I really enjoyed the first one he gave me, to which he then provided the above piece.


What I liked about this piece is that we once again see the way that humor is being used as a way to teach lessons to anyone listening to the story. The increasing absurdity of the challenges between Timur and his friend serve as a way to exaggerate the way that people in real life tend to try and make themselves seem bigger than they are, all out of arrogance and a need to be the best at everything. At the same time, it’s a lesson in learning how to be modest; if Timur hadn’t bragged about his swimming skills, he wouldn’t have met his unfortunate end, and his friend wouldn’t have turned on him. I think it was clever to see that these lessons were taught by heightening the comedic scenarios, because it makes us reflect on what we know is real and what’s not.  Additionally, the telling of this story— or at least the way my informant told me— shows that this joke can be rephrased in order to appeal to different kinds of audiences without losing the meaning of the lesson.

Nasrettin and the Villager — Turkish Joke

Main Piece: 

So there are a couple stories and jokes about [Nasrettin] and his interactions with others, so one of them is one villager comes to this teacher and he’s like, “I hate my house, it’s so tiny I can barely sleep. I don’t have enough room to go to my kitchen, it’s like next to my toilet— whatever.”

And so [Nasrettin]’s like, “Alright, well don’t you have a barn?”

And he’s like, “Yeah I have a barn.” 

And then he’s like, “Alright, take your chickens. Put them in your house, it’s gonna get better.”

So [the villager] takes his chickens and puts them in the house, and he comes back the next day and is like: “This is worse what’re you talking about?”

And [Nasretting] says, “Keep going. Don’t you have goats?” 

“Yeah I have goats.”

“Okay. Put them in the house.” 

[The villager]’s like, “Alright, fine.”

So he goes through the barn and he takes the goats, and puts them in the house. So now he has chickens and goats, and the next day he’s even more infuriated and he’s like: 

“Yo, what is this? It’s terrible, I hate my life!”

And then [Nasrettin]’s like:

“Alright, now take your cows and put them in your house.” So [the villager] takes his cows and he puts them in the house and he’s like, 

“I can’t even get in anymore!”

And [Nasrettin] says, “Alright, you feel all this crap?” 

“Yes, I do.” 

“Now, take [the animals] all out.” And [the villager] takes them all out. And then he says, “Now just go and enjoy your home.”

And the guy goes, “Oh my God, there’s so much space now!” 

And that’s the joke.


My informant is one of my friends from high school, and is of Turkish heritage. Growing up, he often remembered hearing various Turkish sayings and narrative stories from his parents and extended family. This one features a popular character, a wise village teacher named Nasrettin. When asked about the lesson behind the joke, my informant responded, “the idea behind that is you won’t understand what you have until you lose it, so in this case the villager doesn’t understand that his house is actually not as bad as he thought once he literally had no space to go inside.”


This piece came up when I was asking my informant about what kind of Turkish folklore he knew. I initially asked if he knew any proverbs, but he said that in his experience, Turkish culture had a lot of jokes in narrative form, and provided me with this one, which is one of his favorites to tell. 


Apart from being genuinely hilarious, I liked how this joke had both a narrative, and a lesson to be learned at the end. With jokes, I usually thought that they were only supposed to be entertaining at the expense of someone else without providing a lesson, but that’s not the case with this one. Based on what my friend told me about knowing more jokes than proverbs, I think it’s interesting to see how humor in his culture (or at least in his experience) is used as a tool for fun and for education. For younger audiences like kids, this narrative has a moral lesson at the end, but for older generations, I think it makes them more aware of how important it is to be grateful for what they have, lest they want to be turned into the butt of a joke. Furthermore, the way that embarrassment through humor can be used to condition peoples’ behavior is fascinating, because in many cases, it can be more effective than other methods because it relies on the impressions you make on those in your peer group, which can either lead you to be accepted by them, or ostracized. Lastly, while I haven’t heard anyone else tell this joke, I liked how we can tell that it’s being performed by someone from a younger generation, based on the slang that my informant used in his telling. It makes me wonder how an older person in the same cultural group would tell it, and in what kind of language. 

Ne Ekersen, Onu Bicersin — Turkish Proverb

Main Piece: 

Ne ekersen, onu bicersin.


Whatever you plant, you grow it.

Full Translation: 

It means like whatever you plant— [a friend] explained it better — it’s like whatever you plant, that’s gonna grow. So if you start a relationship bad, then you’re gonna end up with a bad relationship, or if you start a relationship good, you’ll have a good one in the long run. 


My informant is one of my friends from high school, and is of Turkish heritage. Growing up, he often remembered hearing various Turkish sayings and narrative stories from his parents and extended family. When I asked him what he thought the meaning of this proverb was, he said that the “idea is being nice to others because they’re gonna treat you the same way.”


This piece came up when I was asking my informant about what kind of Turkish folklore he knew. Coincidentally, us and some other friends were talking about a similar variation of the proverb a few days over, so this gave him the opportunity to share the version he’d grown up hearing in his family. 


The version of this proverb that my friends and I were discussing the other day was “you reap what you sow,” but it was still interesting to hear another variation of the same saying, and even more that it still kept to the symbolism around gardening and farm work. However, I think that this Turkish proverb had a different context than the other version I know about. The way I heard it, the context for “reaping what you sow” had to do with situational conflict— a scenario that was a consequence of the person’s own actions. Here though, we see that the conflict has to do with a person’s relationship to someone else, and I think it’s important to note how the meaning changes with the context. In the version I heard, I interpreted the proverb as a warning against being irresponsible and neglecting your responsibilities. The way my friend described his version though, it seems that the lesson here places a responsibility on having cordial relationships with others, and being considerate of how first impressions can affect your bond with someone going forward. Without having asked, I’m not sure if which values this reflects in Turkish culture, but it’s still interesting to examine how proverbs and their meanings can differ slightly based on the interpretations of different people.

Bir Elin Nesi Var, Iki Elin Sesi Var — Turkish Proverb

Main Piece: 

Bir elin nesi var, iki elin sesi var.


What’s wrong with one hand.

Full Translation: 

Informant: So all this means is um, it means that a person alone can’t do anything. Like one hand alone can’t make sound, but if you have two hands you can clap. And all that means is if you’re alone, you can’t do much, and you’ll need more people to help you with like, bigger, more daunting problems in life.

Collector (me): So is it like learning how to work together? Is that the gist of it?

Informant: I’d also say it’s about being more open and accepting, I guess. 


My informant is one of my friends from high school, and is of Turkish heritage. Growing up, he often remembered hearing various Turkish sayings and narrative stories from his parents and extended family. He told me that this was a saying often directed to him growing up, and while he couldn’t find the words to provide a full translation, he tried to explain the meaning behind the proverb. To him, this proverb means learning not to try and do everything on your own, which he admits has been something he’s fallen into the habit into as the semester carries on. 


This piece was provided by my informant when I was asking him about the kinds of Turkish folklore he grew up hearing. I listed various examples, and even mentioned the Turkish riddles that we studied in lecture, but he wasn’t familiar with them, and instead provided a saying that he knew of.


What immediately caught my attention to this proverb is that I’ve heard so many different versions of it— In Spanish, English, etc, and I think it speaks a lot to the way that folklore is composed of multiplicity and variation, even across entire cultures! I thought it was interesting how this version used the clapping gesture as a metaphor to explain what two people can accomplish if one person allows them to help. What I liked about the construction about this proverb is that the clapping sound could be representative of praise, or celebration— and since this saying is about allowing others to help you accomplish difficult tasks, I think it’s symbolizing the rewards you’ll get later in life after you learn to be accepting of help. During this time we’re going thorough, I think it’s especially important to keep in mind that we’re not going through these struggles on our own, and that things will get better if we let others lend a hand.