USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘knock on wood’
Humor
Old age

Three Old Ladies

Informant: Three ladies were visiting with each other, and one lady said, “I just don’t know what’s happening to me. My mind wanders. I tried to put a broom in the refrigerator the other day!”

The other lady—the second lady—said, “I know what you mean! I was—my husband and I were watching television the other day and I wanted to say something to him, but I couldn’t remember his name!”

The third lady said, “Well, thank goodness nothing like that has happened to me.”

[informant leans forward to knock on wooden table—knock on wood]

“Yes, come in!”

The informant (my grandmother) was born and raised in Texas. She spent many years moving from place to place across the world with her husband, a banker, before settling in Connecticut long enough to work as an English teacher at the Greenwich Country Day School. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA.

The informant told me that this joke had gone viral at the old person’s home in which she lives. I believe that this joke might be popular with such an audience because they can relate to the troubles the three aging women face—deteriorating memory, both short term and long term. The punch line of the joke is that the woman who claims to be the most mentally competent and unaffected by aging is, in fact, the one who can’t tell that her own knock on the wooden table isn’t a knock on the door. The joke assumes that the audience knows what the practice of “knocking on wood” means.

general

Knock on wood

““Cuando dos personas dicen lo mismo al mismo tiempo, ellos tienen que hacercarse a ir a tocar madera para que no se queden cotorras”
When two people say something at the same time they have to make sure to go near somewhere that has wood and knock on it first, because the person who knocks on it last it said to like end up really old without being able to get married or “cotorras”. Since this came from Mexico it was very important in the past for women to find a good husband to marry, therefore if they had the bad omen to end up alone it would be bad.
In a society where ending up alone it was seemed as bad is important to realize that people come up with these kind of superstitions in order to scare women of ending up alone (which is bad to them). This kind of folklore is kind of entertaining because it bases it self on different fears that people have.

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