USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Joke’

Salvadoran Joke Proverb

” No te mais, aquien temio”

Literal Translation: Do not be afraid, of he has been afraid

Joke translation: Do not be afraid, of he who has peed on you

The literal translation comes from the proper Spanish from Spain. The way it is used in El Salvador is they make the last word into two words turning it into “pee.” This joke is usually told to  friend or close family member that is having a bad day or is anxious. My father heard this joke from his friends.

I asked my dad for some folklore while walking to the store.

My informant is a building engineer. He migrated to the United States form El Salvador when he was 16 years old. He grew up in a city in El Salvador. Lots of the folklore he has heard has come from his family.

What is interesting about this piece is how a slight shift in space of a word can change the meaning of the whole proverb. Salvadorans are known for being jokers. They like to call it being “trucha.”


Jar of Butter

This is a joke told by my friends dad:

Uh… There is this guy, lets say his name was Ali Babah. So he …uhhh… he was planning, he has this … he had a cow or whatever you know. He was, he was trying to…. I mean, he had accumulated one jar of butter. He took him like maybe, one or two years to accumulate to make you know this big jar of butter. And he was hang it behind it. He was sitting down and ….. and he was planning out his life, you know his future. So he said “you know what, now is time since I have this big jar of butter I’m going plan on marriage now, you know. (Laughs) You know what I’m saying! So …. He was trying to like sort, you know, the wife and the kids he’s gonna have. He planning “ I’m gonna get a nice wife, pretty wife that she understands me. I understand her. And we gonna plan and having you know some kids. The first kids, if it’s a boy I’m gonna teach him very well, send him to school. And make him obedient to me. And if he listens to me, and if he’s going to be obedient I say ok. And if he isn’t” … He was carrying a stick and “im going to beat the shit out of him,!” he broke the jar of butter and it fell and everything fell… hahaha!


I have to go to the bathroom.

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”


“Banana who?”

“I have to go to the bathroom”

This knock knock joke was collected in a second grade classroom in South Los Angeles. The active carrier of this joke was a student in that classroom who heard it from her neighbor while playing one day. After finishing the joke, the entire class burst out in laughter at the nonsensical punchline. It should be noted that the joke told to the class right before had a logical punchline, but did not receive such an enthusiastic response. The less successful joke was “Don’t trust atoms, they make up everything”.

There are a few reasons why this joke received such a great response compared to the one that preceded it. First of all, it was clear that the majority of the young students lacked the scientific background that was required to understand the joke. The bathroom joke did not require the application of any outside knowledge. Second, the unexpected nature of the punchline was worthy of a greater response than a logical joke would, regardless of what it actually was. There is something about being caught off guard that makes any story or joke more worthy of a response. Perhaps the most obvious reason that the knock knock joke was considered to be funnier is the fact that it contains a mention of a bathroom. Bathroom humor is inherently funny to a large portion of the human population, regardless of age.

This joke is a derivation of a classic joke in which the second, third, and fourth lines are repeated as many times as the performer sees fit before replacing “banana” with “orange” and ending with “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana”. The countless versions of this joke are examples of the multiplicity and variation that is characteristic of folklore.

It is important to note that this joke had been passed on from child to child. The student who shared the joke initially heard it from her neighbor while playing. She then shared the humorous passage with her classmates who received it with enthusiasm. This piece of folklore circulates exclusively within groups of children and would not have elicited the same genuine response if performed in front a group of adults.


Un dólar y pico

Informant: Liz is a 24-year-old student born and raised in Southern California. Her mother is from a town near Guadalajara, Mexico. Liz returns to Mexico sometimes to visit family, but speaks Spanish at home.

Main Piece:
Original: “¿Cuanto le regreso el cajero al pato después de que le dio 5 pesos por una volsa de semilla de 3 pesos 25 centavos? Le regresó un dólar y pico.”

Translation: “How much did the cashier give back to the duck after he paid 5 pesos for some seed that cost 3 pesos and 25 cents? He gave him a dollar and change.”

Per the informant, “the joke is funny because, in Mexico, pico can mean either ‘change’ or ‘beak’, like a duck’s beak. So it’s a pun, although it doesn’t translate that well into English”

Background Information about the Performance: The informant was told this joke by her cousins when she was in Mexico.

Context of Performance: This joke is told between people when bored or just as entertainment.

Thoughts: I thought this joke was interesting because it resembles another joke in English, namely: “What did the duck say to the waitress? Put it on my bill” or something similar. That such a joke can exist cross-linguistically is notable. The joke is also a good example of how poorly puns translate into other languages, as this joke makes very little sense in English.



Pointy Thing Joke

Informant is USC sophomore in the film program.

The subject is the “Pointy Thing” meme which has circulated through the USC student body this year. I ask informant to pull up his Facebook account and log into a group with about 15,000 members where students make and share memes with each other, usually about the school or the different majors.

Scrolling through a number of posts liked between 500 and 3,000 times, he arrives at one which depicts a man in a white T-shirt with one arm in the air. The president of the University is photoshopped in place the face, and “Pointy Things” are raining down across the image*.

“Pointy Things… they’re legendary. What can I say?” he tells me. “They just got put up this semester. They’re these pointy obstacles by all the USC gates. And they’re a waste of money because they don’t have a purpose, but we all got together to make fun of how ridiculous it is.”

The image has about 5K reactions in the Facebook group. I think it’s cool how all these USC students can come together in a group to make jokes with one another about the school they share. In a way, it’s kind of unifying.

“Yeah, they went all out. Pointy things in the Matrix was done, somebody 3D printed a pointy thing. Beating a dead horse at this point but people will like it if you make it” he tells me.

*The image was based on the popular Salt Bae meme, in which Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe is seen sprinkling salt in a fancy manner.

Folk speech

Ukrainian Driving Joke

Informant is a 19 year old college student who grew up to the age of 11 in a small village outside Kiev, Ukraine. He speaks in a mild Ukranian accent and currently attends Rutgers University. This is a joke he tells which according to him “only makes sense if you grew up in Ukraine.”

“In other countries, the sober driver goes in a straight line and when you drive drunk you swerve. In Ukraine, the drunk man goes straight and the sober man swerves!….. Get it? Because of all the potholes.”

Although I didn’t get the joke at first, I do like it. I assume the joke is a bit of an exaggeration, but already I have some idea about the quality of infrastructure in his birth town. Informant says he got the joke from his dad, who is sitting in the other room and does not speak English. Although my informant was not very old when he left Ukraine, he says he was old enough to remember “sights and sounds” from when he was younger.


Cup of water and broom prank

Informant is a junior at Penn State University who grew up in NJ. Informant tells me that they heard about the prank first from a camp counselor, and then on a TV show which they can’t remember.

The following is a description of the prank and how to pull it off:


“So, it’s pretty easy. All you need is a cup of water, a chair, and a broom. And somebody else in the house with you… to prank of course.

First, you take the chair and hold the cup of water to the ceiling so the rim of the cup is on the ceiling. Then, take the broom and use the stick part to press the bottom of the cup to the ceiling, holding it there. Now you can move the chair back… or have a friend do it or something, because you have to keep the cup on the ceiling.

Next, you just wait until somebody walks by. Ask them if they could hold the broom for a second so you can run and grab something, or go to the bathroom, or whatever you want to say. The idea is that if you get them to hold the broom and walk away, they have no choice but to just stand there or have a cup of water fall on them. It’s foolproof!”


This prank is pretty sinister because of how easy it is to set up, and how dire the circumstances become for the poor soul who falls for it. Ideally this is a prank you would pull on a close friend or family member. Although the intent can be lighthearted, I would imagine this would really drive anybody crazy– especially if he or she had something else to do before being either drenched in water or reduced to standing under the cup helplessly.

“It has to be somebody you could afford to anger and disappoint, like your brother” my informant tells me, giggling.




The Polite Moose

“So Connor, Dave, and (insert the name of the person you’re telling the joke to; we’ll say Jack in this case) went out camping.  They went out camping, just in the woods.  They’re sitting by the bonfire and the Park Ranger stops by to, ya know, make sure Connor, Dave, and Jack are following the rules of the park.  And they talk for a little and everything is all good, but just before the Park Ranger leaves, he says, “Just a heads up, you know, nothing too bad to worry about, but like there’s a Polite Moose that lives in this forest and every now and then he might come into somebody’s camp and uhh…..  I don’t know how to say it, but ya know, like he fucks one of us.  But like, so many people here, nobody heard of Moose in long time, so like, nothing to worry about.”  So ya know, like the boys have fun, they drink a little, and then they all go to their tents, uh, for the night, and Jack was really concerned about the Polite Moose, like ya know, he’s gonna come fuck him in the middle of the night.  So they were drinking like wine or champagne earlier, so he says, ya know, I’m gonna put this champagne cork up my butt, so even if like I’m sleeping and the Moose comes and wants to fuck me, ya know, he won’t be able to penetrate me, ya know.  So the other one’s are sleeping in the middle of the night, it was very dark and quiet… All of the sudden you hear from Jack’s tent “(sound of cork being uncorked, then in a very deep voice) Good evening, Jack.”



This joke relies heavily on the delivery, therefore it’s tough to get it fully across on paper.  During the punchline, the teller will stick his finger inside his cheek and then pull it out quickly, making a popping sound.  Then he will make his voice substantially deeper and say “Good Evening, (whoever he’s telling the joke to)”  I first heard this joke as a 16 or 17 year old while I was working my summer job.  Every summer since I was 16, I’ve done valet parking at a resort on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  The rest of the valets and I have a fair amount of downtime during the 8 hour shift, so we just tell jokes and stories to pass the time.  This joke belongs to my boss and good friend, Rado.  Rado is originally from Sofia, Bulgaria.  He came to the US a little over 10 years ago.  It was tough to get his Bulgarian accent to translate onto the page, but listening to him tell the joke in imperfect English is hilarious.   


Church Joke

Main Piece: Joke


“So this man gets up Sunday morning and is getting ready for church. He looks everywhere in his apartment for his hat but can’t find it. He decides to go to church and possibly steal one from the cloakroom.

When he gets to church, he sits through the service and afterwards as everyone is leaving, he goes up to talk to the priest.

‘Father, I was really inspired by your sermon today. I couldn’t find my hat this morning and I was prepared to steal one from the cloak room and your sermon on the 10 Commandments really helped me.’

The priest said, ‘Yes, thou shalt not steal is a very powerful commandment.’

And the man said, ‘Oh no no no, it wasn’t that one. When you got to the one about thou shall not commit adultery, I remembered where I left my hat.’”




My mother told me this joke, and she was originally afraid it was not appropriate enough but I told her anything goes. This is one of her favorite jokes she heard from growing up, as it was told to her by her great grandfather. He used to tell them jokes when they would have birthday celebrations for him, and he ended up living to be 104.

My mom likes this joke because it is one of those that you do not really know where it is going until the punchline, and she has used it many times before. My family would attend church every Sunday, so I think of it as a sort of comical approach to a more serious matter, which is important to have with every aspect of life.




The first time my mom told this joke my family and I were headed to brunch on Sunday after church as we always had when my siblings and I were kids. My parents would always ask us what we had learned that day in church, and this day was based around the ten commandments. My mom, being the jokester that she is, decided to whip out this joke in the car afterwards and it aroused a lot of laughter from my brother, sister, and I while my dad was slightly less impressed, but still chuckling.

I asked when else my mom would bring this joke out and it generally was along the lines of conversation based around church and religion, although it was more so when the environment was more loose and it wouldn’t offend anyone who was more so of a traditional religious person.


My Thoughts:


I like this joke in that when I first heard it I kept trying to figure out where it was leading from the beginning and it having to do with church and all. I also like that there is some sort of intelligence needed in the sense that if you do not know what adultery is, you probably won’t understand the comical aspect to it.

I’m also a fan of comedy that relieves some level of seriousness to certain subjects. Most people will generally think of church and religion as a fairly serious topic, and this being a play on one of the major teachings in the Christian religion definitely gives a sense of comic relief.


Golf Joke

Folklore Piece 17:


Main Piece: Joke


My mom is a big golfer, and finds golf humor hilarious:


“George was just returning home from his weekly game of golf. When he stepped inside, his wife asked him how the round went.

‘It wasn’t great today,’ George said, ‘On the first tee, Frank dropped dead from a heart attack.’

‘OH MY GOD!’ cried his wife, ‘That’s horrible!’

George replied, ‘Yeah, you’re telling me! The rest of the round it was; hit, Drag Frank, hit, Drag Frank…”




My mom Laurie loves to golf, and she actually has a group of friends she goes and plays a round with once a week. They are a more so laid back group of golfers and do it for the fun of the game, and never really stress over the score, they just go out to have fun with friends. Golfing is like this in my family as well, because we are all about the same skill level, but it doesn’t get to be fun anymore once there is competition.

My mom’s friend told her this joke when they were out golfing one day, and my mom still uses it to this day when we get out to golf. Because golf is such a big part in my mom’s life, she tends to find humor in those things that not most people would necessarily get.




Like I had said earlier, my mom’s friend told her this joke when they were out golfing one very hot day when they were out golfing, and they decided to play at a course that does not allow golf carts, so they had to walk the round. Walking the round is much more tiring compared to using carts, and after the first hole my mom’s friend tells her this joke as a kind of way to say “Hey, things could be worse.”

My mom has only used this joke once or twice with me while we were golfing, and that is generally the only context it would come up in, as it doesn’t really apply to any other situations.


My thoughts:


I had heard this joke before my mom retold it to me, and the only times were on the golf course as I said. I remember it being pretty funny the first time because we were all laughing at how sweaty and out of shape we were on the course. She used it a while later the next time we golfed and it just wasn’t that funny this time so it is more of a joke you use once.

I enjoy golfing so I like this joke as long as it’s not over used. I think it is rather crude, but I like sports jokes that you need an understanding of the game to understand.