Folk speech
Humor

Barking Spiders

The informant is a Film Production and Biochemistry major at the University of Southern California, where he is in his third year. He is originally from Washington state, and his family moved there from North Dakota. Before North Dakota, his family lived in various parts of Eastern Europe. The informant says that is very much influenced by his grandfather, who is a professional storyteller.

This piece refers to the informant’s grandfather’s habit of blaming barking spiders for his flatulence.

“My grandfather has a way or just, making his own like versions of the same dad jokes. I’ve never heard him do “pull my finger” but the few things that he always complains about is barking spiders. Or, that he stepped on a frog when he’s passing gas. I don’t know, I just always loved the idea of barking spiders, and just how farcical it was. Like he would fart and say, “Oh, fucking barking spiders.” Or, no, not fucking, he’d just complain about the barking spiders.”

Analysis:

This plays on the taboo nature of human bodily functions, where farting is thought of as gross and something that should only be done in private, so there needs to be something else to blame for the function. In this case, the fictional barking spiders. Someone present for performance of this saying would understand that barking is associated with dogs, and that spiders are silent, so the noise cannot have literally come from the barking spiders.

The informant also refers to “dad jokes,” which refer to crass jokes or really cringeworthy puns that are stereotypically associated with fathers. The “pull my finger” refers to another folk practice associated with farts, where someone asks another person to pull their finger, and when they do, the other person releases the fart. The informant’s description of barking spiders assumes that knowledge; it’s common folk knowledge for people of his demographic.

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