USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘childhood game’
Game
Humor

Oreo Practical Joke

As a practical joke on friends and family Grant as a child would lick the inside of an Oreo out and refill it with white-colored toothpaste. He would then put them back inside the Oreo container and offer them to people.

 

Background: Grant is a twenty-two year old raised in Los Angeles, CA with one younger sister.

Context: Grant told me this joke over lunch talking about funny things we would do as kids.

Analysis: In my opinion, practical jokes are so heavily connected to youth and a lighthearted motive that usually they are just funny and not something to ever get upset over. Especially with the practical joke Grant would play, it is ridiculous to be genuinely mad; more so than getting angry, you just want to get them back with another practical joke. Practical jokes have always been something I find intriguing because I could never think of one off the top of my head or ever have the courage to play a practical joke on another person. I think practical jokes are a compelling element of folklore because the willingness to play a practical joke and which practical joke you choose is a revealing element of someone’s character

Folk Dance
Kinesthetic

Risque Hokey Pokey

“There’s this song called the hokey pokey, and you kind of do it with your friends in a circle, usually at a party. You basically go along in the lyrics and they go (she pauses for a few seconds to recall the lyrics), ‘You put your right hand in. You put your right put your right hand in, and you shake it all about,’ and you keep doing that with each arm, leg, and after that you can start, like, doing different things, like you could do your butt, or you could do your nose (she pauses to think of other examples). There is a specific order you’re supposed to go in, and you’re supposed to go right hand, left hand, right foot left foot, head, butt, and then whole self, but usually if you’re with friends you’ll start shouting out really stupid things, like your elbow, etcetera, and there are risqué versions where people shout out stupid stuff.

Background Information and Context:

“[You play while] gathering with friends, and it’s a really big cultural thing. It’s like one of those [games] that everyone knows. Everyone did the hokey pokey, and it’s really easy to join in because you learn it when you are really young. The first time I did the hokey pokey was in elementary school, like first or second grade, but last year I was walking with my friend, and I said, ‘put your left hand in and shake it,’ but then she started doing it, and then I joined in and another friend joined in. We were just standing outside New North doing the hokey pokey, but we did the risqué version because, you know, college students are stupid.”

Collector’s Notes:

I was surprised to hear about the hokey pokey not once, but twice while collecting items for the folklore archive. I hadn’t heard of anyone doing the dance since I was in elementary school and did the dance, myself. I was even more surprised to hear of a risqué version of the dance given the childish connotations I had with it. Thinking about it now, this parody is not too different from those one will find of childhood shows on YouTube, adapting original material for a more sexual connotation. The purpose is usually humor, and the act of doing a risqué version of any childhood activity could be considered a coming of age of sorts. It is significant that, here, at college, one can engage in content that was once taboo, and there is no parental or teacher supervision that can stop that.

Game

Red Rover

The informant is my mother, who was born and raised in North Vancouver, Canada. She has two older brothers, and both of her parents immigrated from the United Kingdom when they were adults. She worked in accounting until she retired at the age of 50. She is widowed and has two children: myself and my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy.

This is a popular children’s playground game that she played when she was younger.

“Well, Red Rover. You stand in a line, holding your arms together, and then you call someone over and they try to break through the line. “Red Rover Red Rover we call…Jennifer over.” And then Jennifer will come running through and try to choose the weakest spot between the arms that she thinks she can break through, and… if she breaks through, I don’t what, I don’t remember what happens if you break through. I think you get to go back. If you don’t break through, you have to join the line. You’re part of the row—you’re part of the line.”

What’s the goal of the game?

“To be the last man standing, to be the person who breaks through all the time. To be the strongest [laughs].”

Analysis:

This common children’s game may seem fairly innocuous, but I think that it sheds a lot of light on social hierarchies in North American societies. The goal of the game is to keep breaking through the wall of people standing before the player. Not only does this mean that the social currency gained from winning the game is given to the “strongest” player, but it also establishes that one should be looking to break through barriers; those who don’t become part of the conglomerate. This may reflect some of the social values found in capitalist societies.

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