Author Archives: Tiffany Luke

Chinese-English Spider Joke

蜘蛛是什么颜色? 白色. 是白的.
Translated: What color is a spider? White. It is white.

This joke was heard at a Christmas party for a company that was predominantly made up of Chinese people.  This joke requires an understanding of both English and Chinese in order to fully understand the punch line.  At first, the question seems relatively easy as it is just asking the audience what color is a spider.  Audience members tended to yell out colors such as black or brown.  At this point, the informant would yell out “白色” (pronounced “bai se”), which means white in Chinese.  Then after hearing the confusions from the audience members, the informant would say, “是白的” (“It is white” in Engllish), which is pronounced, “Sh bai de.”  As an English speaker can see, that particular phrase sounds like the word “spider.”

My informant told me that he heard this joke first when he was learning English after coming toAmerica.  He told me that he felt a sense of accomplishment when he was able to understand the punch line as it marked his achievement in English comprehension.  For me, this poem is a symbol for the blending of English/American and Chinese culture since the two respective languages are necessary for this joke.

White Elephant – Christmas Game

-Each person has to bring in one present that is worth $20
-Once a present has been taken three times, the present can no longer be taken.

1) Everybody picks a number out of the hat. That number determines the order for gift picking
2) The first person picks a present from the gift pile and opens it.
3) When it is the second person’s turn, he or she can pick to open another present from the gift pile or pick the gift that the first person opened.
-If person #2 takes the gift from the first person, the first person has to open another present from the gift pile.
4) After that, each subsequent person has the choice of either choosing to open another present from the gift pile or taking one of the opened presents from the previous people.
-If a person’s opened gift is take, then that person then also has the choice between opening another gift or taking another person’s gift.
5) The game ends when the last gift is opened.

My informant told me that White Elephant is a Christmas tradition at her household.  She adopted this tradition after she attended a Christmas party seven years ago at a friend’s house.  She liked the game so much that she decided to incorporate it into her Christmas celebration.  Every Christmas, my informant hosts a Christmas dinner for her entire extended family.  This game was quickly accepted by everyone and has now become a yearly tradition in her household.

I believe that this game must have started as a way for people to save money on buying gifts.  My informant told me that after adopting the tradition, all of the family members have stopped buying gifts for every single relative.  Instead, they have all just focused on finding that one gift for the white elephant game.  At the same time, my informant believes that the game is a great way to bring people together as it is very fun to see what gifts are taken and the reactions of those who gets their gifts taken.

Currently, NBC has ordered a new game show based on this game that will be hosted by Howie Mandel.

Hibberd, James. “NBC Orders New Howie Mandel Game Show: ‘White Elephant'” 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.

Chinese Hansel and Gretel

(Translated from Chinese) Once upon a time, there were these two children, a brother and a sister.  The brother and sister had both been very bad children so their mother sent them out into the forest and told them not to come back until they had learned their lesson.  The children wandered around. It became very dark, and they began to look around for shelter.  They came upon this little house and knocked on the door.  An old grandma answered the door and let the two children stay in the house.  She led them upstairs where there were two separate bedrooms and told them that they each could have their own bedroom.  The brother and sister went into different rooms and went to bed.  A couple hours later, the sister heard a really loud crunching noise (made a crunching noise).  She tried to ignore it, but the crunching was so loud that she went downstairs to see where the sound was coming from.  Downstairs, she saw that the old lady was eating something, and the crunching was coming from the old grandma chewing.  The little girl asked, “Granny, what are you eating?” The grandma replied, “I’m just eating some peanuts, go back to bed.”  The little girl went back to her room but did not go back to bed.  Instead, she waited for the grandma to go to bed and then, she came back down to inspect what she was eating.  When she looked into the bowls, she saw small, little bones.  Horrified, she ran back upstairs to find her brother but found that her brother was nowhere to be found, only his clothes were laid on his bed.  The sister was able to figure out that the old grandma had eaten her brother.  She quickly ran out of the house and back home, where she told her mother that she had learned her lesson and begged her to take her back.  The mother let the daughter back in the house, and the girl was never disobedient again.

My informant has told me this story quite frequently when I was child.  This story was usually told at night as a bedtime story.  She told me that this story had been passed down through the family as her grandmother had told her when she was younger.  I asked my informant what her interpretation of the story was, and she replied that it was a way to teach children to be obedient to their parents.

After rehearing this story again, I realized that there is definitely a connection with “Hansel and Gretel.”  Some common elements include the presence of a brother and a sister, the setting in the forest, and an old woman who likes to eat children.  However, there are some major deviations such as the fact that the brother dies, the mother is the one who sends the children out, and the old woman does not die in the end.  While “Hansel and Gretel” served more as just a fairytale, this story had a pretty clear lesson to it; listen to your parents, or else you will be eaten by an old lady.

Anti-Joke – Why was the little boy crying?

Why was the little boy crying?
Because he had a frog stapled to his forehead.

My informant told me this joke after I had been venting about how bad my day had been.  At this point, she told me this joke.  After she delivered the punchline, I was at first taken aback by how violent the answer was. But then, I started to laugh at how far out and unexpected it was.  I asked her where she heard this joke, and she told me that she had heard it from school.

This joke is an example of an anti-joke.  An anti-joke is characterized by having the question be one that can have many different answers to it.  Another characteristic is that the punchline is usually not funny.  However, the unexpected nature of the punchline is really what makes the joke humorous.  This form of jokes probably developed as a way to add a twist to the stereotypical jokes that are out there.

Japanese Ghost Story

So a group of Japanese boys decided to play hide and seek in their school at night.  One of the boys was trying to find a place to hide when he saw a woman with long dark hair in a white dress.  He got really scared so he ran into the bathroom and hid in the fifth stall.  All of a sudden, he heard the bathroom door open and looked under the stall door.  He saw the feet of the ghost woman.  The woman then opened the door to the first stall. Nobody there.  Closes it.  She opens the second stall. Nobody there. Closes it.  She opens the third stall. Nobody there. Closes it.  She opens the fourth stall. Nobody there. Closes it.  The boy was so scared and waited for the door of his stall to open.  When it did not happen, he decided to stay in the stall until somebody came to look for him.  Eventually, he fell asleep and when he woke up, realized that school had started.  He got off of the toilet and tried to open the stall door.  But the door would not budge.  Then he looked up.  The woman had been hanging over the door and staring at him the entire time.

My informant told me this story during a sleepover.  It had been pretty late at night and really dark.  I asked her where she had heard it from, and she replied that her mom had told her this story when she was young.  My informant told me that she interpreted this story has a lesson to not hang out late at night.

After hearing this story, I noticed that this story has a connection to Hanako of the Toilet.  Hanako of the Toilet, is a very popular Japanese urban legend about the ghost of a little girl named Hanako who haunts school bathrooms. With the story of Hanako and my informant’s ghost story, I believe that they are both conveying how the bathroom is a very vulnerable place to be in alone.  The restroom can be considered to be a vulnerable place because people usually go alone and are half-naked when there, making it a perfect place for something to take advantage and attack people.  Both of these stories enhance the fear of dangers that can occur while using the toilet.

Black Magic

In order to do Black Magic, you are going to need two performers.  Performer #1 is the asker while performer #2 is the guesser.  Performer #1 tells the audience the he/she has a telepathic connection with #2 and tells #2 to leave the room.  #1 then tells an audience member to pick any object in the room.  #1 will then say that he/she be able to transmit what the object is to #2.  After the audience member picks (we will say a chair for this example), #2 returns to the room.  #1 will then start asking questions such as, “Is it this shirt? Is it her hair?” #2 will then respond with “no” until finally #1 will ask “Is it the chair?” and #2 will say, “Yes.”  At this point the audience member will be shocked that #2 was able to figure out the object.  The trick here occurs when #1 is asking the questions about what the object is; the object that is named right before the chosen object is always predominantly black in color.  For example, #1 will ask, “Is it her shirt?” and points at somebody’s black shirt.  The color black is the cue that the object in the next question is the chosen object.  If people ask for hints as to how the trick work, just tell them to think about the name of the game.

My informant told me about this game during a dinner party.  On this occasion, my informant wanted to play this game but unfortunately for her, nobody else in the group knew about it.  She decided to tell me about it so that I could be performer number two. We both performed the game a couple times with the other people in the dinner party, and everyone was constantly throwing guesses for how I was able to correctly ascertaining the chosen object.

I asked my informant where she got this fun party game from and she said she had learned about it from her cousin at a family reunion party.  Her cousin had wanted to convince her younger relatives that she was psychic and she used this to do so.  Hearing this, I speculate that this game is probably derived from fake psychics who wanted to prove their ability.  By practicing this activity, the “psychic” would then be able to convince customers that there “powers” are real.

Rainbow Superstition

If you see the reflection of a rainbow on the ground and cross over it, you would turn into the opposite gender.

My informant told me about this superstition when we were talking about the weird quirks that our mothers had.  She told me that when she was a child, her mother had told her about this superstition.  Hearing this, she would always avoid stepping over reflections of rainbows because she did not want to turn into a boy.  When I asked her was her interpretation of this superstition, she told me that she thinks it derived from the belief that rainbows have magical qualities.

I do agree with my informant that this superstition has an association with the belief that rainbows are magical.  However, at the same time, I definitely think there is a connection between this superstition and homosexuality.  Currently, rainbows are commonly associated with the gay rights movement.  This superstition seems to reflect a fear of becoming a member of the opposite sex and gaining the traits that are associated with the opposite gender.  With this interpretation in mind, it is easy to see why the LGBT community has chosen the rainbow as a symbol to demonstrate their non-fear of crossing gender roles and stereotypes.

Car Game – Jello

To play Jello, all you need to do is to let your body naturally sway with the movements of the car.

My informant told me about this game while we were sitting in a car full of people.  She told me she had learned about it from her best friend while they were riding the bus.  After talking about it, we started to play Jello.  I noticed while we were playing that there is a competitive nature to the game; the people in the car would also use the force of the car movements to powerfully shove people really hard to one side of the car.

This game was probably developed as a way to make a car ride more interesting and fun as it gave passengers something to do.  At the same time, a typical car ride is filled with a lot of movement.  From my experience, whenever I sat in a full car, I would be constantly leaning and bumping into the people sitting next to me every time the car turned.  Either, I or the other passengers would be constantly apologizing for invading each others personal spaces.  By playing Jello, this awkwardness is eliminated as it is completely okay to lean on other people in order to participate.

Cure for Menstrual Cramps – Bananas

“My mom always told me to eat bananas when I’m cramping”

My informant told me about this cure when I asked her for advice concerning my own menstrual cramps.  She went further on to explain that when she was a young girl, she noticed that her mother was constantly buying bananas even though her mom hated the taste of bananas.  One day, she finally asked her mom why she kept on buying bananas.  she told my informant that her mother, my informant’s grandmother, had told her that the bananas help to remove cramps.

After hearing about this method from my informant, I actually ate a banana, and to my surprise, the cramping stopped.  At first, I believed that this was possibly the result of the placebo effect since my friend had assured me it would work.  However, after conducting research on the matter, it turns out that bananas contain a high amount of potassium, and potassium has been medically known to reduce muscle cramps.  This case is a great example of folklore medicine finding scientific backing and turning into a form of published media.

Punch Buggy

Whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle car, you have to yell “Punch Buggy” and punch another person.

I found out about this game when I saw my informant’s girlfriend yell out, “Punch Buggy,” and proceeded to punch him. I asked them what this punching business was, my informant informed me of this game.  I asked him where he had learned this game, and he told me that his cousins had taught him.  On the other hand, his girlfriend told me that he had learned of this game from the recent commercials made by Volkswagen that featured this game.

Currently, the true origins of this game are unknown.  However, they have been able to determine that it probably started around the 1960s.  My theory on how this game began is that it might have started as a marketing ploy from Volkswagen to popularize their Beetle car.  Eventually, the game became so widespread that the original origins became obsolete.  In 2009, Volkswagen utilized this game into their commercials which only helped to further popularize the game.