The informant, then twelve years old, first heard this phrase from her uncle, whose wife was pregnant at the time. Her uncle and aunt were gathered with the family and announced their pregnancy. Later after dinner, the family was eating cherries together and was discussing whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, when the topic of twins came up. The informant’s uncle saw her aunt eating a double cherry and said, “Did you know that if you eat a double cherry while you’re pregnant, you’re going to have twins?” My informant doesn’t really believe that this is true because she does not believe in superstitions, although it is a superstition that everyone in her family likes to joke about, because it also happened to come true. Her aunt ended up giving birth to twin girls six months later. This is why the informant likes to retell the tale, because it makes the superstition much more mysterious and believable when it actually comes true.
I believe this superstition is highly unlikely to be true because the events are completely separate, and that the informant’s story just happened by coincidence. However, superstitions are always driven by the chance occurrences that happen to confirm them, making some people believe that they’re true while they may completely be random happenings. I believe the informant tells the story only to joke around, poking fun when pregnant women are around. The superstition is so seemingly arbitrary that people tend to believe that nobody could possibly create such a fantastical story up, so it must have some sort of truth behind it. This is how the superstition of double cherries is spread and dispersed.
Literal translation: “close to ink then black, near by light then bright”
The informant learned of this Vietnamese proverb when he was in third grade of Vietnamese school, while studying for a test. Again he heard it from his grandmother also, which is when he began to remember it clearly. His grandmother would tell him this proverb whenever she talked about his studies and friends at school. She would say, “gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sang,” which implies that you are what your friends make of you. If you hang out with bad friends (ink), you will become bad (black). If you have good friends (light), they will influence you to become good (bright). The informant believes this piece of wisdom because he sees it come true in his cousins’ lives. One was really wild and rebellious and when she found a boyfriend who was very religious and good, she began to change into her old, nice self. The informant likes to retell this to his friends who are Vietnamese, often making them laugh because normally one would not randomly quote a proverb out of the blue, but he likes to lighten the mood with quirky sayings.
This is a fairly common Vietnamese proverb, often used to teach younger kids to have good friends and be influenced by good people, opposed to bad friends. The original proverb is actually a play on words as well as a useful saying about choosing your friends wisely. It is slightly repetitive yet different, it also uses “đen” for black and “đèn” for light, in order to emphasize the similarities between the two phrases for increased memorability. This creates the most unique phrase that is easy to learn and easy to say. Usually it is the older generation teaching the younger generation, as it is in the informant’s case. However, the younger generation can also spread it to others. I believe they spread the knowledge because somewhere deep down they have an appreciation for the Vietnamese language and because that proverb is so true and the play on words is so easy to memorize, it remains in one’s memory, even from childhood.
Literal Translation: His eyes are bigger than his belly
The informant first heard this from his mother when he lived in North Vietnam when he was a young boy, about age nine or ten. The entire family of six had been eating dinner together for some time when the informant became full. However, he still had food left over on his plate. His mother then said to his father, “mắt to hơn bụng” and made him finish the rest of his food. This proverb essentially means that the person wants more than he can handle. The informant remembers laughing when his mother said this, because he had never heard such an odd saying. The informant remembered this proverb until now because it sounded so strange. “How can one’s eyes be bigger than one’s stomach?” he thought to himself. So whenever his children put more on their plates than they can eat he reminds them not to have eyes bigger than their stomach and makes them eat it all. He thinks this proverb is very popular in Vietnam where food is scarce because it reminds people who are blessed enough to have food on the table to not be greedy and wasteful when so many people are starving in the world.
Because the Vietnamese people are starving and hungry in Vietnam, they have learned to appreciate the importance of food and how hard it is to come by. The Vietnamese people who generally use this proverb are adults who have experienced that hunger and try to convey that experience onto their children, who generally have not experienced hunger to the most extreme yet in their lives. When people are hungry they tend to crave different types of food. “I want this and this and this and that,” when in reality they want it but don’t have the stomach room to eat all of it.
There once was a woman who lived in North Vietnam with her husband. One day he left to fight overseas when the woman was pregnant. She missed him so much that she waited for him every day outside on the cliffs overlooking the land and sea, holding their child. No matter what the weather, she remained outside waiting for her warrior husband to return home, in the storms, sun, and the rain, but he still did not return. So as she waited and waited until finally, she turned into stone, and is still waiting alone at the top of the cliff.
The informant first heard of this legend from his mother when he was living in Vietnam at the age of about ten or twelve. His loved his mother and followed her around everywhere and she would tell him stories about Vietnam and how it was created and about famous people or events in the past. The day his mother told him this legend he was complaining about having to walk outside when it was extremely hot and humid, even more so than normal. This is when she told him of the woman who would wait outside no matter what, heat or cold, just to see her husband again. The informant believes this legend is a story that serves as a model to Vietnamese women, telling them that they must remain strong and loyal to the central nit of life in Vietnam, which is the family. It is the woman’s job to hold the family together when the father is out trying to earn money to feed the family. He retells this legend primarily just to little children, as a form of entertainment and to keep them quiet and attentive during family gatherings.
This rock is called “the Statue of the Awaiting Wife” and is very famous among the Vietnamese people. It represents the strength and perseverance of the Vietnamese woman, as well as the loyalty and dedication that she contributes to the family. Though it is hard to say whether or not the rock exists and really used to be a dedicated woman and her child waiting for their father and husband to return home, it is a form of Vietnamese folklore that has been passed down through the generations for so long that it is almost accepted as true, and that is the reason why it is continued to be told and retold. I also think that in many Vietnamese legends, there are many things involved with nature and this story represents it, that we are a part of nature so it would be natural for a human to turn into stone. The stone also represents strength and resistance, as the woman was strong and persistent as she waited for her husband to return home.
My informant told me this joke as we were commenting on jokes in bad taste, such as racist jokes and dead baby jokes.
How many Vietnam vets does it take to screw in a light bulb?
YOU DON’T KNOW MAN, YOU WEREN’T THERE!
She thought it was funny because it plays off of the stereotype of the PTSD Vietnam soldier who overreacts to the slightest thing. She says that people love stereotypes, even if they know they aren’t true.
This joke takes a known form of a joke “How many x does it take to screw in a light bulb?” and throws in the vetern sterotype. This form is very easy to make blason poulaire out of because it relys on puns and stereotypes as the punchline. It is also a way to cope with the difficult issue of the Vietnam war. The punchline is a quote from Jacob’s Ladder, a thriller about a Vietnam war veteran made in 1990. The movie is about a traumatized vet who finds out that his post-war life isn’t what he believes it to be when he’s attacked by horned creatures in the subway and his dead son comes to visit him*