A certain Mr. Thoms in the middle of the nineteenth century first used the term “folklore” as a substitute for “popular antiquities.” Popular antiquities? Wow. Seven syllables swapped down for two. Works for me. The definition of “folklore” according to the Folklore Society of London about 1890 is: The comparison and identification of the survivals of archaic beliefs, customs, and traditions in modern ages.” Again – Wow. That’s a mouthful and then some.
Another guy, A. H. Krappe, in The Science of Folklore (1930) wrote: “folklore limits itself to a study of the unrecorded traditions of the people as they appear in popular fiction, custom and belief, magic and ritual,” and went on to talk about how folklore reconstructs spiritual histories for people.
In my Handbook to Literature edited by Holman and Holman, folklore includes myths, legends, stories, riddles, proverbs, nursery rhymes, charms, spells, omens, beliefs of all sorts, popular ballads, cowboy songs, plant lore, animal lore, and customs dealing with birth, initiation, courtship, marriage, medicine, work, amusements, and death.
Wikipedia goes further, stating that “Folklore is the body of expressive culture, including tales, music, dance, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, customs, and so forth within a particular population comprising the traditions (including oral traditions) of that culture, subculture, or group.”
Now. Wasn’t that fun?