USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘competition’
Humor

The Jungle Joke Competition

Interviewer: What’s the jungle joke that you mentioned earlier?

Informant: Ok, so, the king of the jungle, a lion, decides that he wants to hear the best joke in the jungle. He gathers all of the animals of the jungle around him and announces that whoever tells a joke that gets everyone to laugh will win. But, if their joke does not make every single animal laugh, then they will be killed.

The elephant immediately begins to tell his joke, thinking that he will no doubt win the competition. After he finishes, the crowd is silent. No one thinks the elephant’s joke is funny, and so the king of the jungle murders him.

Next, the parrot comes forward. The parrot tells his joke and half of the crowd erupts into laughter. The other half is silent though, so the king of the jungle kills him too.

Then, the giraffe steps forward. The giraffe pauses, then begins his joke. When he finishes, every single animal in the crowd laughs – except one, the turtle. The king of the jungle pauses for a moment, waiting for the turtle to join in, but the turtle never does. So, the giraffe is killed too

Finally, the jaguar strides forward and tells his joke. The jaguar, who mostly likes to hunt, doesn’t know many jokes, and his joke is terrible. Only one animal laughs – the turtle.

After the King of the Jungle kills the jaguar, he asks the turtle why he laughed. The turtle says “the giraffe’s joke was hilarious!”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This joke was told in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.

Background: This informant heard this joke from his parents, both of whom are from Chihuahua, Mexico. He enjoys it and remembers it because of the turtle and his delayed reaction. He and many of his friends and family use “Don’t be the turtle” to chide someone when their reaction is delayed or they did not respond to ones question or statement.

Analysis: I personally enjoyed the joke a lot. It doesn’t rely on wordplay or any sort of cultural knowledge, all the listener has to know is that a turtle is slow – this makes the joke relatively accessible. At the same time, the use of a somewhat brutal method of punishment, that is, death, for a bad joke, also makes the stakes higher for the animals and adds to the hilarity of the situation, since, at the end of the day, death is a ridiculous punishment for not making everyone laugh. I also found it interesting that the motif of threes finds its way into this joke as well. Though there are four animals, the giraffe, the animal to tell the best joke, and whose joke elicits laughter from the most animals, is the third to tell a joke.

general

Pre-Competition Cheer

“Basically, when I was doing cheer, whenever we had a competition we would stand in a circle and put our arms around each other’s shoulders, and then we would rock back and forth and yell “S-T-O-R-M-E-L-I-T-E” because that was our team name. And then we would put our hands in the middle, go up and down five times, and then we’d yell break. If we didn’t do that five times, or if we didn’t spell Storm Elite, we would lose. But if we lost, at least we had done it, so we lost because of something else, not because we didn’t do it.”

Background Information and Context:

The informant’s cheer squad performed this ritual at each competition, right before they stepped on stage. The informant cheered for two years in Wisconsin when she was 15-16 years old. This was a private team that she paid to join, not a school team. They did dance, stunts, and tumbling, but no actual cheering.

Collector’s Notes:

This is definitely not the first time I’ve heard of this pre-competition good luck tradition. It’s a great example of multiplicity and variation. My own high school tennis team did a “Terriers on 3! … 1-2-3! Terriers!” before matches, putting our hands in and breaking just as the informant’s cheer squad did. What I find most interesting about this example is that, although forgoing the cheer would lead to a loss in the eyes of the informant’s squad, doing it and still losing didn’t necessarily take away the validity of the superstition. Pre-competition traditions are often not logical or actually lucky, but, nevertheless, they serve the additional roles of getting the athlete in the right mindset and instilling a sense of team comradery.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Lucky Bracelet

“I had this bracelet that I got from a gas station, and it had a little four-leaf clover, and for some reason – well, I was really young when I did archery, like 10 – I was like, ‘This is good luck, and if I ever don’t compete in it, then I’ll lose,’ and, for some reason, every time before I’d shoot I’d rub it once and them pull my bow back. [The superstition] was so strong. I was like, ‘this is my good luck charm,’ but [the competitions] were small. Well, it was a state competition, but there weren’t that many archers at the time, and so I kept winning – I guess I was good at it but whatever – and I was so convinced. One day I lost it, and I was like, ‘oh my god,’ I was so stressed, and that was that.”

Background Information and Context:

“I guess I picked it up because the four-leaf clover is supposed to be lucky, but it being in the bracelet in my favorite color and being the only one at the store, it felt like fate (she said the word in a mocking tone).” As the informant said above, she bought the bracelet at a gas station while on a road trip, and the ritual of rubbing it was done while competing in archery, just before shooting. I had asked her to share another pre-competition ritual to follow up one about cheerleading that she’d shared in a prior interview.

Collector’s Note:

Athletes and competitors having tokens of good luck is certainly nothing out of the ordinary, but I found it interesting that the informant kept pointing out how illogical the idea was (e.g. by using a mocking tone or adding “for some reason”). Tokens of good luck are so interesting because the power they hold lies largely in the owner’s beliefs and personal associations with the object, and suggesting that the object is mundane can be a huge insult. It is also interesting to note how symbols travel. Although the symbolism of the four-leaf clover comes from folk tradition to which the informant does not have a personal or inherited connection, it has become something of common knowledge.

Folk speech
Riddle

Three Lightbulbs, Two Rooms, One Answer…

Folk Piece

Question: There are two rooms, one room has nothing but three switches. The other room has nothing but three light bulbs. You can only enter each room once. How do you determine which switch corresponds to which light bulb? Also: the walls aren’t transparent.

Answer: Flip one on, wait a couple minutes, repeat. Feel the heat of the bulbs in the other room.

 

Background information

The participant likes this riddle because it’s a bit longer than most of the ones he tells. I talked a little about his story in my post ‘A Dog Walks into a Forest…’ But essentially, he likes these riddles because they remind him of him and his dad growing up telling them to one another. He also said “Usually I’d ask riddles that have more to do with word play, I don’t know. But this one is just like a fun variation on that and makes the person think a little bit harder.

 

Context

I actually guessed this one right, and he was pretty impressed. He asked, “You hadn’t heard that one before?” It was originally being told in a battle of wits between him and a friend of mine, who were asking riddles to one another trying to out-riddle the other. He usually will tell it if someone else will tell one first, or he might do it just to break the ice between he and someone he knows.

 

Analysis

Just like the other riddles, this one was told as a back-and-forth exchange between two informants. What I find to be most interesting is the competitive aspect of this folk telling. The informant actually seemed to be legitimately surprised, and even almost a bit annoyed, that I had known the answer. As with traditional riddles, like this one is, there are traditional answers. Typically, those answers are not supposed to be easy to think of; they wouldn’t be considered good riddles if they were. Riddles almost give the person telling them the power to drive the conversation; only they know the answer, or other people who may have heard it.

 

Also intriguing is the competitive aspect between the two participants. I asked for different riddles, or jokes, but it seemed that just as one ended, another began. I didn’t say that the best one won some sort of prize, or that the most clever would be included. However, it seemed that they were more interested in telling one another these riddles than to me. Why might this be?

I would argue that these participants had learned these riddles throughout their childhood and early adulthood; to them, they own their histories and the memories of them. These riddles, actionable to recall at any time, act as a way to show the history of their wits. Whoever is able to stump the other repeatedly, or has more clever riddles, is the one that has had superior intellectual exposure to riddles. It’s common after someone tells a riddle to say “Ooooh, that’s a good one!” This qualification of which riddles are the most clever can act as an actual social agent in determining the wits of an individual.

Folk speech
Riddle

Where’s that Polar Bear Going?

Folk Piece

Question: You’re standing in a room which is centered perfectly on the south pole. You see a polar bear walk by the window. In what cardinal direction is the polar bear?

Answer: North. It can be northeast or northwest.

 

Background information

“I don’t even know where I heard this. Probably when I was in middle school? I don’t know, I definitely remember telling it to people in high school – it’s one of my favorite riddles. It’s just like, simple, but sort of like fucks with your mind a bit? You can almost, like, feel your head spinning as you think about it”

 

Context

“I usually tell this story only when other people bring riddles up. I don’t, like, just casually whip out some riddles because I want to. But they are fun and entertaining, I guess.”

 

Analysis

This, along with “A Dog Walks into a Forest” and “Three Light Bulbs, Two Rooms, and One Answer…” were part of an exchange between two informants that went back and forth with riddles they knew. While the first informant had familial connections to the riddles he was telling, this informant seemed to have less attachment to his riddles. Still, however, it was a point of pride for him when no one could answer. For more analysis on what this competitive aspect of riddling might mean, reference my post “Three Light Bulbs, Two Rooms, and One Answer…”

As for the piece itself, I think it’s interesting that this riddle would probably have been easier in years past. As we become more removed from our transportation and travel around our world, so too does our sense of direction become lost. I know many people who do not know the difference between East and West. While that is certainly not standard, and not a good thing in any way, it was still interesting for me to have to mentally orient myself on a map on the South Pole, spinning my head around trying to make sense of it all.

 

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Competition to see who loved the other the most

Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.

Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.

 

“J: So when I was growing up, and, to this day, my Grandma, what she liked to do was, she liked to challenge me to see who loved each other more and we would do that by someone saying “I love you” and someone saying “I love you more”, and someone would say I love you the most.

J:So what would happen when we were kids, when we were at the pool, is we would try to figure out who loved each other the most, so instead of just saying it more we had to wait five minutes before some could say it again in order for the time to reset. So we’d be doing something, we’d be swimming in the pool and than all of a sudden someone would be like “oh I love you the most” and they would love you the most for those five minutes. And, ever since, ever to this day everytime we finished talking we’d always just go “I love you the most”, “nope, I love you the most” and try to say “No, I love you the most I’ve loved you before you were born”, so it’s something that we do with our family.

Me: Um, when you say, wait five minutes, is it sort of like the first person to say it wins? Or is it that, they sort of, for that entire five minute period they are the winner and then they until they are “challenged again”?

J: It was just kind of like you just couldn’t say it right away and whoever did it was the winner for that five minutes. It would restart five minutes later. Whoever could say it than obviously loved the other the most because they were paying such close attention in order to tell the other person.

Me: So let me get this straight, somebody would say “I love you the most” after a sort of like ‘escalation’, and than you’d wait five minutes…

J: It went to the point where you didn’t even have to start it off, it just began when you said “I love you the most”.

Me: Okay , so who started that tradition?

J: My grandma.

Me: And did she do that with her, uh, family as well with her Great Grandparents or… did it happen spontaneously?

J: Uhhhh…  I think it kind of just happened spontaneously, I wasn’t alive for my Great Granparents on her side of the family, it would have been a long time ago. ”

Analysis: The game appears to be a game that reiterates the loving feelings among family members while allowing friendly competition between family members, this sort of ‘endearing competition’ allowing family members to prove their caring for one another. The tradition, started by his grandmother, who is American born (as he told me after the interview), had parents that were Ukrainian, so the tradition could have been generated or duplicated in the United States or Ukraine. His grandma’s use of the game allowed the use of the game to reiterate the feeling she has for her grandchildren, and the competitive aspect could help motivate the children to play along, while allowing them to express admiration for each other and her. As “J” described it, all members tried to answer first, and the competitive aspect was taken seriously.

 

Game
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pre-Soccer Game Ritual

“D” is a 19 year old female student at The University of Southern California. She is a Chemistry major and interested in pursuing Pharmacy after college.  She is Vietnamese on both sides of her family and describes herself as very close with her sister, whom she shares many Folkloric traditions with. She played soccer up through high school and is currently active in the rugby community.

 

Transcript:

“D: Okay so before each game I would have, it sounds really weird, I would have a chocolate mocha and than I would have to put on my socks left first, than right second. I would also have to put my right cleat on before my left, and my left before my right, in reverse order basically.

Me: Was this because it happened sometime in the past and it worked?

D: It was because it was like a habit, and we won and I kinda just stuck to it.

Me: Do you think there is any validity to that helping you during the game?

D: No, it’s just a superstition. Like I would jump like three times before the whistle blew.

Me:  Was it just you do did the team sorta, did the team sort of condone it?

D: The team had their own little things to do, we’d all like get in a circle before and we’d like talk, we all usually said the same things, like to pump each other up and we’d do like a team sprint to like win.

Me: Do you remember when that started, you had to have noticed that and decided to do it again at some time.

D: It was probably when I was like 10 or 11, when soccer really started to get competitive rather than like recreational.

Me: Okay, so when you played recreational you didn’t have any superstitions?

D: No. It didn’t really matter because I beat everyone”

 

Analysis:

The pre-game ritual is a well known superstition used to enhance one’s luck in a game prior to the game, they are widely used by profession sports teams (Barabbi, 2014),( Yeager, 2014) and non-professionals alike. “D”s attempt to replicate prior conditions that allowed her to win in the past points at an attempt to replicate a past event that had a favorable outcome, possibly by keeping as many variables the same as possible. Though she does acknowledge it plays no effect on her performance, her continued use of the ritual points to it being reinforcing in some respect. Its use after she considered soccer to be more competitive likely means she did believe it to garner some sort of advantage at the time she conceived of the ritual (Tobacyk & Shrader, 1991).

 

 

Work Cited

Barrabi, T. (2014). World Cup 2014: 8 Weirdest Pregame Rituals And Superstitions. International Business Times. Retrieved 30 April 2015, from http://www.ibtimes.com/world-cup-2014-8-weirdest-pregame-rituals-superstitions-1603838

Tobacyk, J., & Shrader, D. (1991). Superstition and self-efficacy.Psychological Reports, 68(3c), 1387-1388.

Yeager, S. (2015). Pregame rituals of the pros. Retrieved 30 April 2015, from                                                                                                                   http://espn.go.com/espnw/training/article/6857252/pregame-rituals-pros

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