Context: I visited the informant’s dorm room at USC at about three o’clock, having already asked him if he was willing to participate in the collection project. He was willing, so we sat down to chat in his bedroom, alone. We began chatting, and I recorded two pieces from him. We sat in silence for a moment as I thought of more questions to ask him, and I remembered that he was an avid skier. I had been skiing since I was a toddler, and knew some folk terms from the practice. I asked him if he knew what a ‘yardsale’ was, and if he could describe it to me. Immediately, he recognized what I meant, and I began recording before he responded.
WD: What’s a yard sale in skiing?
JB: It’s like, when you’re skiing, and you eat shit, and you just lose every piece of gear.
WD: Yeah… but what happens then?
JB: So like, your skis will pop off, you definitely lose your poles, like, goggles, helmet, the whole fuckin’ deal.
WD: And then you’ve gotta figure out how to put all of it back on while on the side of a mountain?
JB: Yeah, your skis are the hard part, since they’ll sometimes literally slide all the way down the hill, and then you gotta hike to go get it. Or, sometimes, like, fresh powder gets stuck in the bindings of your skis and you’ve gotta kick it out.
WD: And you look like a dumbass in front of other skiers, right?
JB: Exactly, sometimes people will yell “YARDSALE!” at you while they pass. You look like a fuckin’ idiot, for sure.
Informant: The informant is an 18 year old, German-American student at the University of Southern California. He was born in Aptos, California, a small beach town located to the west of Santa Cruz. He is an avid skier, and has heard the term while skiing with friends in Mammoth, Tahoe and in Bear Valley. He has experienced this type of fall before, and knows how difficult it can be to reset your equipment in the middle of a ski run.
Analysis: This piece of folk language could also be considered as a joke. Experienced skiers tend to exalt themselves, especially when they see inexperienced skiers fall. The term “yardsale” refers to the image of all the skiing equipment scattered across the slope, like items set out for a yardsale. In practice, the phrase can be used as an insult, especially towards strangers on the slope. For example, if an inexperienced skier attempts to ride a hill outside of their skill range and loses their equipment, another more qualified skier may shout the phrase while passing. The inexperienced skier is then left in the middle of the hill, dodging other skiers while searching for their lost poles and skis. Yet, it could also be used as a form of relief in a frightening situation among friends. For example, if a pair of skiers are riding together through difficult terrain and one of them wipes out, their friend may shout the phrase to assuage any fears of injury their friend may have. Especially in a scary fall, the phrase can be used as a form of comedic relief to normalize the drastic nature of the tumble.