USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘farting’
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.

Game
Humor

Flatulence Game

“When person A farts, it is person A’s duty to call “safety” before person B calls “doorknob.”  If person B calls “doorknob,” person B can punch person A for his sinful act of farting in public.”

Duke learned this game from his friends sometime in high school.  It became a very popular game among the boys at his high school.  Boys tend to fart a lot, so this game provides them with a punishment for farting in public.
Since Duke and his friends have a habit of farting numerous times when they’re with each other, they play this game a lot.  Whenever someone farts, it’s an immediate reaction to hear the word “safety” or “doorknob” following the fart.  Duke claims that he plays this game to get a cheap-shot off of a friend’s fart.  It also provides them with entertainment as they laugh about farts and punching each other.
Even though Duke thinks that this game is stupid, he still does it.  It has become something that all of his friends know.  This game is their way of reacting to farts.  They think that there has to be a consequence for farting in public, so a punch suffices as a punishment.
I think that, in a way, this game is good for boys.  It forces them to take the blame for farting in public.  Farting in public is very disgusting and immature.  Boys need to learn to keep their gas in until the appropriate time.  With this game, maybe boys will avoid farting whenever they choose to.  However, I don’t think that boys should have a game to prevent them from farting in public.  They should know not to do it.  The fact that they need a game proves that some boys are just immature and rude.

Game
general

Game

“Doorknob… I think this was mostly a boys game… maybe not… so basically if someone farted then they had to call safety immediately, and if they didn’t and someone called out doorknob first, then that meant that everyone was allowed to punch the farter until he touched a doorknob. It was so stupid, but we all took it so seriously, and we thought it was so funny”

Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. He is from a modest Jewish family and is the oldest of three children. Eric and his friends have been close since they were in elementary school and used to make anything and everything into a game. So of course when the boys were at the summer camp Hess Kramer in Malibu, California and they learned about the Doorknob game they were instantly hooked. Eric thinks that the game was significant because it reminds him of summer camp and of course all the other games they played. I had a bunch of friends over, including many of Eric’s friends and we were all hanging out when I asked out childhood games and instantly Eric and his friends burst out laughing because they all remembered Doorknob. This was the first time that I had ever heard of the game and so they had to explain the rules to me but none of them could give me a purpose for the game. I guess when they were all in 6th grade they were so amused by the game and that was the purpose of it.

The game is apparently well known and Wikipedia even has a page designated for it… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doorknob_(game) (3.24.07).

10727 Wilshire Blvd., #201 Los Angeles, CA, 90024 birnbaum@usc.edu

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