USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘humor’
Folk Beliefs
general
Humor

9/11: The TRUTH

Context: I was chatting with my roommate about his time in marching band in high school, and the following is one of the encounters he had during one of his festival trips.

Background: My roommate is a psychology minor, and one of the aspects of the subject he’s always been interested in is the part of the human brain that induces paranoia. Because of this, he’s been invested in conspiracy theories for a long time.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, B denotes my roommate)

C: So what about the van?

B: Oh, 9/11!

C: 9/11, tell me about 9/11!

B: OK! First of all, inside job. Second of all, I was in Victoria, British Columbia on a band trip, and, um, we were getting ready to march in this parade, and we saw this van driving around the– the– I guess the Parliament building? Um, and it said on the side of it, “9/11 was an inside job.” It was like a 9/11 truther van. And I thought, “Why… do you care? You’re in Canada… 9/11 did not happen in Canada.” I just thought that was interesting. I had a lot of questions, first of all… “What?” Second of all, um, like like like are these Americans doing this? Uh, if so, why are they in Canada, why are they in Victoria, British Columbia? Um… you know you’re not even near New York at this point!

Analysis: I actually debated with myself over what to categorize this piece as. The central bit of folklore revolves around a conspiracy theory regarding what “really” happened on 9/11, which is a tragic day in American history. However, the countless people who insist that 9/11 was an “inside job” (AKA a disaster orchestrated by the US government itself) have put such ridiculous and unreal theories out there, that it’s nearly impossible not to laugh at something like a “9/11 truther van” driving around. Because of this, and because of the fact that this theory is a belief shared in online communities without consideration for reality, I decided to categorize it as both Humor and as a Folk Belief.

Annotation: My roommate’s encounter is not nearly the first instance where the “9/11 was an inside job” belief popped up. In fact, in the same conversation, my roommate mentioned the documentary Loose Change as a good place to go deeper into the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.

Digital
Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

Context: My roommate discovered this meme one day, and it prompted a discussion about the various levels of depth it reached.

Background: My roommate is a self-described “conveyor of fine memes” and has a hobby of collecting, creating, and sharing Internet memes.

The Meme: The meme (attached to this post) is a play on the phrase “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” The phrased is reworked in a text explanation that laments the fact that things are not “easy peasy lemon squeezy” as once believed, but are in fact “difficult difficult lemon difficult.” This explanation is accompanied by the image of a middle-aged woman furiously gripping a laptop in both hands and biting into it.

Analysis: This became a folklore discussion as a surprise, as the further my roommate and I discussed it, the more it seemed to work as a piece of folk speech. “Difficult difficult lemon difficult” is definitely an evolution of the saying “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” which itself has an origin that feels meaningless in the context the phrase has since gained. The specific discovery of the newly-changed saying also has the context of being in meme form, memes being one of the more common areas of unauthored expression in the 21st century.

Customs
general
Humor
Legends
Narrative

The Family Car Story

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: This is a story my friend’s father like to recount at family gatherings or parties they host.

Dialogue: A large part of my family comes from this one place in Wisconsin called Steven’s Point, um, and, for a while they were… uh, I think, one side of my family was a— uh, was pretty wealthy and lived there for a while, and so, I think, when cars started rolling in across the country, um… So in the 1930s, I think, or, uh, the 1940s, my… great-grandmother, uh, she, moved to Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, uh, and, I think she was, she was starting to get kind of old, and she had to go renew her driver’s license. Now… there were only two cars in Steven’s Point at that time: the one she was driving, and the one she crashed into.

Analysis: The fact that my friend’s father likes to regularly tell this story at gatherings/parties convinced me to mark this in the Customs category, since it’s a familial custom for him to tell it. And while it’s not the most universal story in the world to tell, it feels very important in the legacy of this particular family. So it works as a more personal piece of folklore that way.

Humor

Vartan

Jesus Christ decides to check if humans recognize him… So He goes to Yerevan and asks Hagop, the first guy he meets:

JC: Do you know who I am?

H: You are Vartan’s grandfather.

JC: No.

H: May be Vartan’s father?

JC: No.

H: Then you must be one of Vartan’s relatives.

JC: No, but why Vartan?

H: Well, I am sure I have seen your portrait at Vartan’s house.

Background information: This is an Armenian joke. Hagop and Vartan are recurring characters in Armenian jokes.

Context: The informant told me this joke in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This may be my favorite out of the Armenian jokes I’ve collected. The fact that Jesus Christ comes to Earth to see how things are going, and the first person he asks doesn’t recognize him, is pretty funny. Hagop sees a picture of Jesus Christ at Vartan’s house, and automatically assumes he must be Vartan’s family member, because why else would he have a picture of a man hanging in his house?

Humor

Garabed and Vartan

G: I have heard they have increased the price of vodka.

V: Nah, that’s imposible.

G: My friend Garabed, why do you think so?

V: It’s priceless…

Background information: This is a popular Armenian joke. Garabed and Vartan are recurring characters in Armenian jokes.

Context: The informant told me this joke in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: Vartan greatly values vodka, so much so that he can’t put a price on it; it’s too good to be priced accordingly, which is why it’s impossible for the cost to increase. It’s a funny and witty joke.

Humor

Garabed and Miss Makrouhi 

MM: You have six apples and you give half to your brother Hagop, how many apples will be left?

G: That’s obvious! Five and a half apples, Miss Makrouhi.

Background information: This is an Armenian joke. Hagop and Garabed are recurring characters in Armenian jokes.

Context: The informant told me about this in a conversation about Armenian folklore

Thoughts: This plays on the definition of the word “half.” It can either mean half of the entire set of apples, which means three apples, or mean half of an apple. Garabed uses this to his advantage, trying to keep as much apples as possible, and to give less apples to his brother. This is a common trope between siblings, kind of like a sibling rivalry. I think it’s quite a witty joke.

Humor
Narrative

Juha and His Sheep

Juha had a white, cute, chubby sheep, and he used to love him a lot. Juha’s friends wanted to trick him, and to slaughter that sheep for them for dinner. They told him that the end of the world will be tomorrow, and there is no point of keeping his sheep, and that they should their last picnic and enjoy the meat next to the river. So Juha slaughtered the sheep, and he started a fire to grill it. His friends went to swim in the river, and they were laughing and joking about him. He got upset, and he threw all their clothes in the fire. When they came back, they were upset at him, and he told them: “Why do you need their clothes if tomorrow is the end of the world?”

Background information: This is a traditional story heard throughout the Middle East. Juha is like Charlie Chaplin in a sense – he always does funny stuff and gets into funny situations, and is a recurring character.

Context: The informant told me this story in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: It’s interesting to see the amount of stories and jokes that revolve around this Juha character. To have one main character seems to make it easier to relay jokes and stories – no background information or context is needed, since it is always Juha. He gets into funny situations all the time, so it makes sense that these things happen to him. I feel bad for the sheep, though – getting it killed for something to laugh about is a cruel joke! Juha definitely and rightfully got back at his friends.

general
Humor

The Coffin

A man asked Juha: “What do you think is better, to walk behind a coffin, or in front of a coffin during a funeral?”

Juha replied: “Be wherever you want, except inside that coffin.”

Background information: This is a popular joke heard throughout the Middle East, starring a recurring character, Juha.

Context: The informant told me this joke in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is quite humorous, a bit of dark humor. It deals with funerals, but makes a joke out of it, saying the worst place to be at during these events is inside a coffin (because that obviously means you’re dead!).

Humor

Hagop and Dr. Vartan

Hague goes to Dr. Vartan.

V: You are such an educated person, why did you go to a witch doctor?

H: I don’t know.

V: What was the stupid thing he advised you to do?

H: Well, he said to come to you.

Background information: This is an Armenian joke. Hague and Vartan are recurring characters in Armenian jokes.

Context: The informant told me this joke in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is a funny joke, in which one person’s questions backfires on himself and leads to him being insulted to his face. Dr. Vartan wonders why Hague was stupid enough to go to a witch doctor, whose practices Vartan doesn’t believe in (it makes sense – the doctor would obviously think he knows more, since he is formally educated in medical matters). He then asks what was the stupid advice given (since he doesn’t believe in the witch doctor’s powers), and Hague fires back and tells him the stupid advice was to go to Vartan. It is a witty joke, and a clever and inadvertent way to insult someone.

 

folk simile
Folk speech
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

“Hacer Conejo”-To Rabbit

“Hacer Conejo” – an expression meaning to bail out on the check at a restaurant incorporates folk simile, folk gesture and humor. Holding up two fingers (index and middle fingers in a spread out V) behind your head means you are thinking about doing “conejo” and lets the others in your group to get ready to run without paying the bill. It is also a way to freak out a friend who is still eating and scare them in to thinking you are about to bail out. When I asked my grand Aunt Marlly, who had married my Grandfather’s brother, she said she had never hear of the story and the expression that it sounded rather sordid. I realized that the story was attached to what social economic level you grew up in. My grand aunt came from an upper class family, while my Grandfather and all of his brothers came from a poorer lower class family where being able paying the bill was not always possible. My Grandmother came from an impoverish class that would never even think about eating in a restaurant in the first place, but she was aware of the expression and knew people who had gotten away with it. The trick was to be a very fast runner and not to have eaten too much.

Analysis: This folk simile, to my maternal grandfather, is more of a humorous gag expression, meant to scare or outrage the other diners you were with. Making the gesture is a way to get a point across without tipping your hand. I personal think is kind of funny, especially when I explain it to other people. In the U.S. the folk gesture of the rabbit ears made with the fingers has a different meaning and when I explain what it means in Colombia, I usually get a laugh or extreme fascination.

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