USC Digital Folklore Archives / Humor
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Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cagatió – The Shitting Log in Catalonian Culture

The informant is a good friend and has family in Catalan. Below, she describes an incredibly unique Christmas tradition:

“There’s another Catalonian tradition that most kids partake in, which is the Cagatió, or the Tió de Nadal. Which is a log with a face painted on the front and two little legs, which wears a little traditional Catalan hat called a Barretina. And it’s kind of like, the set up is somewhat like leaving Christmas cookies out for Santa. So for a few days leading up to Christmas Eve, you leave cookies out to make it fat and so for a week before you’re feeding it constantly every night. The parents, after the kids go to bed, they eat the cookies. And of course they tell the kids ‘Oh no, the Cagatió ate your cookies and he’s really happy and thankful and he’s going to get very fat. And so for discretion, of course you put a blanket over the back of the Cagatió. And to not hurt the Cagatió you take wood spoons from the kitchen and all the kids go to the sink and run the wood spoons under the warm water to soften them. While the kids are doing that, the parents hide little gifts under the blanket of the Cagatió, so like stocking stuffers but in the butt of the Cagatió, and so they tell them to come back out and so they take the wooden spoons, which are now soft, and you proceed to like whack it while singing the traditional Cagatió song, which is basically, in translation ‘Poop log, poop. If you don’t poop gifts for me, I’ll keep hitting you with this stick’. When you finish the song you take the blanket off the back of the Cagatió. And so basically you keep going back to the sink, you do this four or five times until he stops giving you presents. The parents put fewer and fewer gifts under the blanket each time to simulate the Cagatió running out of poop.”

So what is it again?

“It’s a log. It’s literally a log with a face painted on it. That was a favorite tradition of mine. My family has multiple sizes of Cagatió (laughs). We have a big one for the living room and also a travel sized one.”

Below is a translation of the traditional song:

 

“Caga tió,

caga torró,

avellanes i mató,

si no cagues bé

et daré un cop de bastó.

caga tió!”

ENGLISH:

 

“shit, log,

shit nougats (turrón),

hazelnuts and mató cheese,

if you don’t shit well,

I’ll hit you with a stick,

shit, log!”

 

Analysis: This is a very ancient tradition in Catalan and I’ve never heard of anything quite like it. The use of an actual shit log is very fascinating. The gifts that come out of the log are usually communal and small gifts, such as candies or small toys. The log almost takes on a personified character and specifically signifies a Catalonian person.

Humor

A Colombian Paisa Finds A Genie

This is a Paisa (Northern Colombian) joke I collected from a relative. Although the joke was performed as being distinctly paisa, it exists in multiple languages. In any case, it’s an excellent joke:

Below, the original Spanish followed by a complete English translation

Un paisa está haciendo un agujero en su jardín para plantar un árbol cuando desentierra una lámpara mágica.  La frota y le aparece un genio que le dice, ‘Te voy a conceder tres deseos, pero a tu vecino le voy a dar el doble de lo que tu me pidas.’  

‘Humm, mira, quiero una rubia que este buenísima y que pese 65 kilos; que le des a mi vecino cien millones de pesos, y que me des a mi un susto que me deje medio muerto….’

ENGLISH:

A paisa (Colombian countryman, cowboy) is making a hole in his garden to plant a tree when he finds a magical lamp in the ground. He rubs it and a genie appears, who says: ‘I am going to give you three wishes, with the exception that I’m going to give your neighbor double of what you ask me.”

‘Hmm, look, I want a 100 pound ruby that’s absolutely marvelous, that you give my neighbor a million pesos, and that you give me a scare that  scares me half to death’

Analysis: Any good paisa joke is based up in the mountains, or in the great outdoors where one works on the Finca, or Ranch. The joking hostility of the joke is quite interesting as the Paisa is known archetypically as a neighborly, kind Colombian. I love the joke and its play on words.

Customs
Game
Holidays
Humor

Pickley Christmas

The informant is a sophomore at USC from Long Beach, CA.

I was discussing folk traditions with the informant after class one day and she offered me a particularly odd Christmas tradition that she has in her own family

“Every Christmas day my mom hides a pickle ornament, a green pickle ornament. It used to be that it was supposed to be hidden over in the tree, and then whoever finds it gets the prize. But now, it’s hidden anywhere because of course it got too easy, but my whole family does that, and I’ve done that since I was little and I don’t know where it comes from.”

Here she describes a tradition surrounding a pickle ornament that seems intuitively quite odd. After some research I found a variety of explanations. Many believe the tradition to have originated from Germany, and to be referred to as Weihnachtsgurke. The truth is that this is an invented myth!

In reality this may well be a great example of fakelore – of a clever effort to unload and boost sales of a particularly eccentric ornament. In my discussion with her, she seemed to believe that this tradition was isolated and invented, yet it turns out to be quite a widespread tradition in America, and it even seems to have spread to its purported origin of Germany after the fact. The person who finds the Christmas pickle is believed to receive good fortune all year or an extra present. Berrien Spring, Michigan, a cucumber production center, was known as the Christmas Pickle capital of the world from 1992 to 2003. What an odd designation and interesting little tradition. The oddity of the ornament certainly adds to the tradition’s mystique, and thus its continue prominence.

Humor
Riddle

The Difference Between God and A Surgeon

The informant is a junior at USC from Chicago, Illinois studying dentistry.

After a discussion of the meaning and purpose of folklore I asked him if he knew of any folk practices or sayings related to his profession. We arrived at this question because he comes from a family of dental practitioners. He has been shadowing various oral surgeons over the past year and described an incident that occurred over the past summer.

He was shadowing a successful oral surgeon in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He was observing his first intense oral surgery as it was occurring.

Mid surgery, the surgeon whom he was shadowing looked up and recited the following:

Do you know what the difference between God and a surgeon is?

(After a pause) God doesn’t think he’s a surgeon.

He couldn’t help but break into a fit of laughter as the surgeon returned to his procedure.

 

This is an interesting little joke that is variously ascribed to a variety of high skill professions such as lawyers and pilots as well. There’s an interesting duality here in that a high level of intelligence, skill, and grit is necessary to become a surgeon, and yet of course there are problems in thinking so highly of oneself. Thus, I sense a bit of ambivalence in the joke that is highly contextual. For example, if the surgeon performs a high-risk surgery correctly and says the joke, there’s a bit of pride in the sense of peril and gamble that the surgeon competed against. On the other hand, if the surgery were to fail and the joke be told (rare or strange, of course), the attention would then shift to the absurdity of such risk, of the sense of avoiding the unavoidable failure and the conceit latent in thinking so. Beyond this startling ambiguity, there’s also a sense of science superseding faith. The surgeon steps in and saves a life when there is no hope, thus affirming his or her self as a miracle of science is performed.

Humor
Proverbs

Jokes spotlighting concerns about masculinity

Informant is a 77 year old male, American, grew up working in his father’s bakery in Boyle Heights.

His father, who came of age just before WW2, shared a wealth of proverbs and dites with Informant, mostly disparaging toward women or somehow engaged with how to be a manly, which might have been of great concern during a time when women were flooding workplaces while men were fighting overseas.

Informant: If I missed an opportunity or something, he’d say to me, “Alan, if you fell into a barrel of titties, you’d come out sucking your thumb.”  I know he got that from his boxing buddies but it’s a little late to ask for details.

His favorite joke was, “You know why cavemen dragged their women around by the hair, right?  It’s because if you drag em by the feet, they fill up with dirt.

There’s more, but I can’t tell you, it’s too–it’s too much.

general
Humor

Lebanese Donkey Joke

My informant heard this joke from her father.

So there is this gypsy that used to go around and buy donkeys. You know the gypsies are seen as kind of tricky. He bought this donkey from this man. He goes… uh… to another village to the bazaar. The gypsy was selling the donkey over there and he sold it. So this man so now he needs a donkey. So he went to the bazaar to buy a new donkey. So he found this donkey and oh my god he liked its color; it was blue and red. He said “I’m gonna buy this donkey.” He bought it for five times more than the donkey he sold. So he bought the donkey and was riding on it home. And you know the donkey knows it’s way to the house. This donkey was going without even directions, without gps. Just going right, left, right, woooo! So this guy came down and find out his pants are all red and blue. So he looked at the back of the donkey. And it was raining when he was riding. So what happened is the gypsy painted the donkey and sold it for more. Hahaha! He bought the same donkey!

My informant is from a Lebanese family. She is a college student at the California State University Northridge. She is very close with her father, often helping him run the family store. We sat down at a coffee shop to talk about folklore from her family.

The Lebanese culture has a lot of donkey jokes. It was interesting to see how the stereotype of gypsy gets passed down into this story. Gypsy are for the most part seen as subhuman. Another interesting thing is the simplicity of the joke.

 

Humor
Proverbs

Salvadoran Joke Proverb

” No te mais, aquien temio”

Literal Translation: Do not be afraid, of he has been afraid

Joke translation: Do not be afraid, of he who has peed on you

The literal translation comes from the proper Spanish from Spain. The way it is used in El Salvador is they make the last word into two words turning it into “pee.” This joke is usually told to  friend or close family member that is having a bad day or is anxious. My father heard this joke from his friends.

I asked my dad for some folklore while walking to the store.

My informant is a building engineer. He migrated to the United States form El Salvador when he was 16 years old. He grew up in a city in El Salvador. Lots of the folklore he has heard has come from his family.

What is interesting about this piece is how a slight shift in space of a word can change the meaning of the whole proverb. Salvadorans are known for being jokers. They like to call it being “trucha.”

Humor
Proverbs

Salvadoran Proverb for Women

“Las muchachas anda tan caliente, que cuando se orinen haste el sacate agarra fuego.”

Translation: Young girls are so hot (horny), then when they pee even the grass catches fire

This proverb was told to my informant by his wife. It represents the stigma that comes with women having free sexuality. it is usually told to daughters as a warning.

 

My informant is a building engineer. He migrated to the United States form El Salvador when he was 16 years old. He grew up in a city in El Salvador. Lots of the folklore he has heard has come from his family.

What is interesting is that this proverb really attack female sexuality. There is this idea in Salvadoran and most Hispanic culture that there are only two women; saints (women that are pure and do not have sexual urges) and whores (women that give into their sexual urges).

Humor

Jar of Butter

This is a joke told by my friends dad:

Uh… There is this guy, lets say his name was Ali Babah. So he …uhhh… he was planning, he has this … he had a cow or whatever you know. He was, he was trying to…. I mean, he had accumulated one jar of butter. He took him like maybe, one or two years to accumulate to make you know this big jar of butter. And he was hang it behind it. He was sitting down and ….. and he was planning out his life, you know his future. So he said “you know what, now is time since I have this big jar of butter I’m going plan on marriage now, you know. (Laughs) You know what I’m saying! So …. He was trying to like sort, you know, the wife and the kids he’s gonna have. He planning “ I’m gonna get a nice wife, pretty wife that she understands me. I understand her. And we gonna plan and having you know some kids. The first kids, if it’s a boy I’m gonna teach him very well, send him to school. And make him obedient to me. And if he listens to me, and if he’s going to be obedient I say ok. And if he isn’t” … He was carrying a stick and “im going to beat the shit out of him,!” he broke the jar of butter and it fell and everything fell… hahaha!

general
Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Mullah Nasruddin

Informant: My friend’s grandfather is originally from Tehran, Iran. He moved to California as an adult but retold some of his favorite stories he heard from his parents as a child.

Original Script: “Mullah Nasruddin is a character who appears to be a joke but he tells the truth through satire and stuff like that. so, at times in some stories he’s hilarious, in some stories he’s an idiot, in some stories he’s wiser beyond belief. So it’s the same character but he goes through different iterations, so he’s definitely a folk character in Persian culture.”

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: This is an introduction to the trickster character “Mullah Nasruddin”, who recurs in many Persian folktales. He is an interesting character in that he does not fit any universal archetype, but rather fills what ever character type the story needs, whether it be clever, dull, or anything in between.

Citation: for more Mullah Nasruddin tales, see Suresha, Ron Jackson. The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero. Maple Shade, NJ: Lethe, 2011. Print.

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