USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘elementary’
Humor

A Variation of the “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?” Joke

Main Text:

Collector: “Are there any jokes or riddles that you think are funny that you like to tell at school”

SM: “OO YEAH, I have one! And I think it is realllyyy funny!”

Collector: “Okay, what is it?”

SM: ” Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Collector: “Hmm, I’m not really sure. Why?”

SM: ” To get to the other SLIDE!”

Context:

The informant is a 6 year old girl who attends a public elementary school. I asked her to explain to me as best as she could the reasons why she would tell this joke to her friends. Other than saying it was funny, she said that they like to tell each other jokes at recess when they have nothing else to do and when they are bored. I also asked her where she heard this joke from and she said she learned it from another person in her class when they were playing outside.

Analysis:

In addition to this job being “funny” there are other explanations to why the timeless “Why did the chicken cross the road” jokes continued and still continue to be passed along through all of these years. To use a historical explanation, this joke/question first appeared in The Knickerbocker, a New York City magazine. The issue mentioned it as an example of a quip that might seem like a joke but is in fact a straightforward and unfunny solution. This joke was basically an example of anti humor and not too long after it was published, the line was modified and adapted to become an actual joke format, employing various puns and variations because everyone had already known the original answer to it. Because this joke plays off of the anti-humor aspect where the teller tells something that is not funny which the audience expect to be funny which creates a sense of ironic comedic value, it is important to analyze why people like to use anti-humor for their jokes and riddles in order to understand why this joke keeps being modified and told. More often than not, young children are the ones making variations to this “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke so I am going to analyze the culture of children and why they tend to use anti humor.

 Taking a psychological perspective, young children around the age where they are in preschool and shortly after learn the rhythms and formats of jokes and riddles without really understanding how  humor works, resulting in them saying nonsense like it is a joke, but it not really being a joke.
Adding on to this, kids are very reward-based meaning that they begin to realize that when people tell jokes, they joke teller is rewarded with attention and acceptance. So when these young kids tell these kids of anti-humor jokes and riddles that make no sense, they usually get a lot of positive reactions because it is “adorable” even if it is nonsensical (which also partly adds to the adorableness). This positive reaction the is fed to these young children then teaches and encourages them that it is okay to tell more jokes like these, leading to multiple forms and variations of nonsensical jokes, like we see in this collection. Another thing to understand about children who tell jokes is that kids tend to tell unconventional or peculiar jokes because they have not yet understood what exactly a joke is composed of. What makes a joke is that a joke presents some question or situation and then resolves this question. In other words, kids have not grasped the structure of a joke and therefore continue to tell jokes that make no sense to the listener. Kids are also exposed whether it be through school or their families to many jokes that they probably do not understand, so it makes sense that they think it is okay to put random things together into a joke because that is what they believe that people are doing with the jokes that they do not get.
This misunderstanding of the structure of a jokes as well as the attention they receive when they tell a bad joke accidentally leads to kids forming jokes that resemble more of a complex form of humor, that being the anti-joke. In different words, it is in the psychology and culture of kids to form anti-humor jokes and share them amongst each other and their families. For these reasons, this anti-humor then continues to be passed along from playground to home and because it is rooted in the psychology and social culture of the child I believe it will continue to be passed along for years to come.
Childhood
Game
Gestures
Musical

Down Down Baby

Main Piece: Down down baby

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk game that is passed around mainly in elementary. She is marked as HT. I am marked as DM.

HT: Down down baby/ Down down the roller coaster/ Sweet sweet baby/ Sweet sweet don’t let me go (cross arms and hit chest 4 times)/ Chimi chimi coco puff chimi chimi riiiide (tucks hair behind ear)/ Chimi chimi coco puff chimi chimi riiiide (tucks hair behind ear)/ I had a baby a biscuit/ He’s so sweet a biscuit/ Apples on the table/ Peaches on the top/ Step out baby I don’t want you anymore/ To the front (jump forwards)/ To the back (jump backwards)/ To the side side side (jump to both sides)/ To the front (jump forwards)/ To the back (jump backwards)/ To the side side side (jump to both sides)

Background/Context:

The participant is fifteen years old in the tenth grade. She grew up in Los Angeles, California, but she has Mexican parents and family. Hailey, who is marked as HT, is my sister. I was at home for my mother’s birthday party on Friday, April 13, 2018, when I overheard my youngest sister playing a hand game with my cousin. I noticed it was the same games I played in elementary, but the lyrics of the game were slightly different. I began to ask her questions about the game. My middle sister, Hailey, got into the conversation. We began to compare our elementary games. In this particular game, the objective was to be able to sing all the words and do the movements with them. This game was mainly to just pass time in recess.

DM: How do you know this?

HT: Um, I uh, I played it in elementary.

DM: Who did you learn the game from?

HT: Uh

DM: Do you remember?

HT: Not the person but I know I learned it from my friends.

DM: Uh, why did you like this game in elementary?

HT: It was catchy it was uh yeah just catchy.

DM: And at that time what did it mean to you? What did the game signify to you?

HT: It was entertaining it distracted me and yeah.

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

While I was in elementary, this “Down down baby” game was very popular during recess when we had enough time to rest but not to play full games like kickball or handball. My sister told me this game was also very popular in her recess. Although they were both similar, the lyrics are different. Today’s version is shown above while the one I did in elementary nine years ago goes as stated: Down down baby/ Down down the roller coaster/ Sweet sweet baby/ Sweet sweet don’t let me go (cross arms and hit chest 4 times)/ Chimi chimi coco puff chimi chimi riiiide (tucks hair behind ear)/ Chimi chimi coco puff chimi chimi riiiide (tucks hair behind ear)/ I have a boyfriend a biscuit/ He’s so sweet a biscuit/ Apples on the table/ Peaches on the floor/ Step out baby I don’t want you anymore/ To the front (jump forwards)/ To the back (jump backwards)/ To the side side side (jump to both sides)/ To the front (jump forwards)/ To the back (jump backwards)/ To the side side side (jump to both sides).

 

Childhood
Game
Gestures
Musical

Mailman Mailman

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk game that is passed around mainly in elementary. She is marked as CT. I am marked as DM.

CT: Mailman, Mailman here comes the lady with African booty. She could do the pom pom (arms parallel to the chest and moves them back and forth). She could do the twist twist (moves hips in a circle). Most of all she could kiss kiss kiss (two fingers on lips for every kiss said) with the red hot lips. K-I-S-S-I-N-G (open legs a little for every letter).

Background/Context:

The participant is ten years old in the fifth grade. She grew up in Los Angeles, California, but she has Mexican parents and family. Christine, who is marked as CT, is my sister. I was at home for my mother’s birthday party on Friday, April 13, 2018, when I overheard my sister playing a hand game with my cousin. I noticed it was the same games I played in elementary, but the lyrics of the game were slightly different. I began to ask her questions about the game. In this particular game, the objective was to see who could spread their legs further apart without falling down.

DM: Where did you learn this game?

CT: I learn this from one Roslyn (her friend).

DM: Where did you learn this?

CT: At school.

DM: Do you know where she learned it?

CT: She learned it from Cara.

DM: Why do you like this game?

CT: I like this game because it’s funny and that he is attracted to someone.

DM: What is the meaning of this game to you?

CT: It means to me like, like, like when, like when you wanna make someone laugh you could make them laugh by this game.

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

While I was in elementary, this “Mailman” game was very popular during recess when we had enough time to rest but not to play full games like kickball or handball. My sister told me this game was also very popular in her recess. Although they were both similar, the lyrics are different. Today’s version is shown above while the one I did in elementary nine years ago goes as stated: Mailman, Mailman do your duty. Here comes the lady with the African booty. She can do the pom pom (arms parallel to the chest and moves them back and forth). She can the twist (moves hips in a circle). Most of all she can kiss kiss kiss (two fingers on lips for every kiss said). K-I-S-S (open legs a little for every letter).

Childhood
Game
Gestures
Musical

Teddy Bear

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk game that is passed around mainly in elementary. She is marked as CT. I am marked as DM.

CT: Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground (touch the ground). Teddy bear, teddy bear turn around (spin in a circle). Teddy bear, teddy bear tie your shoe (touch your shoe). Teddy bear, teddy bear get out of school.

Background/Context:

The participant is ten years old in the fifth grade. She grew up in Los Angeles, California, but she has Mexican parents and family. Christine, who is marked as CT, is my sister. I was at home for my mother’s birthday party on Friday, April 13, 2018, when I overheard my sister playing a hand game with my cousin. I noticed it was the same games I played in elementary, but the lyrics of the game were slightly different. I began to ask her questions about the game. In this particular game, the objective was to see touch the ground, turn around, and act like you are tying your shoe all while jump roping.

DM: Where did you learn this game?

CT: I learn this from my friend Stella.

DM: Why do you like this game?

CT: I like this one cause I like jumping a lot

DM: Do you know where Stella learned it from?

CT: She learned it from Krishell.

DM: What is the meaning of this game to you?

CT: This game means to me like, to like be active and it like makes you cheerful cause like, like, like I can’t explain it but like its like really active and then like when you also wanna hang out with your friends.

DM: So it’s a fun way to be active?

CT: Yeah, it’s a fun way to be active.

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

While I was in elementary, this “Teddy Bear” game was very popular during recess when we had enough time to rest but not to play full games like kickball or handball. My sister told me this game was also very popular in her recess. Although they were both similar, the lyrics are different. Today’s version is shown above while the one I did in elementary nine years ago goes as stated: Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground (touch the ground). Teddy bear, teddy bear turn around (spin in a circle). Teddy bear, teddy bear tie your shoe (touch your shoe). Teddy bear, teddy bear I love you. Then the song would repeat in a faster pace until one missed to jump the rope. My initial thought when I heard my sister’s version of the song was “How could a kid’s game be telling them to get out of school? And where did this version come from?”. I was shocked that the song would be telling a kid to get out of school. The kids might not be thinking about the actual meaning of the song, but when looking back to it, they are going to realize what they were saying.

 

Childhood
general

Hamburger/Hotdog Folding

My sister grew up in the United States, where most kids are introduced to arts and crafts at a very young age. As many know, there are two ways to fold a piece of paper: hamburger (narrow edge to narrow edge) or hotdog (wide edge to wide edge).

Allegra: “I was introduced to the folding pattern ‘hot dog versus hamburger style’ in first grade. We were fashioning tri-corner hats out of newspaper. The first step was to fold the newspaper down along a crease to maintain its width, rather than its length. This was referred to as “hamburger style.” If the first step had instead been to fold the newspaper vertically, longer than it was wide, the instruction would have been ‘hot dog style.'”

Me: Did you notice that other teachers referred to hamburger and hotdog folding in class?

Allegra: Oh totally. It was a commonly used instruction in art rooms and day care centers that I went to throughout my childhood. A teacher would say, ‘To make a paper fan, fold the materials hot dog style.’ or ‘To begin your fortune teller, fold the paper hamburger style.’

Analysis: If I could hazard a guess, I think the metaphor works because these sandwich fixings come out of the package with a natural crease. Buns fold along a perforation for easier separation. A hot dog bun opens but does not disintegrate, much like how many paper projects require the traces of former folds to last, so that they may be used later. Two American culinary staples, same dough, two different ways to enjoy them. Hot dogs and hamburgers are also quintessential components to the American child’s diet. Notoriously fussy eaters, the one or two lunch room items every kid likes are hot dogs and hamburgers. Its an easily relatable illustration for a strange new technique, like origami.

[geolocation]