A paternal dinner table legend

Background on informant: Informant is a senior at USC, studying communications. She was born and raised in Dubai and plans to move there after graduation. Her father went to school in the United States, as did her sister.

Informant: My dad doesn’t have any pictures we can look at from his time in college at Washington State and all he has are weird stories about how he barely knew any English. Yet he was a master’s student and a TA for some math class. We keep talking about how he would go to the dining hall and they had a bunch of selections of food. And he’d be like, ‘I want that. The feesh. And that guy would be like, “What?” Or every time he went to a restaurant, he’d say “I want a burger” whgich could mean anything — a sandwich, etc… He had a very limited vocabulary. Sometimes he adds weird details to it. First, he started with the burger sandwich thing and then he added the fish thing. And then there were deserts. He would say it as deesert. The family makes fun of it. “It starts with him mispronouncing a word and then tell a story about when he was a student…”

Analysis: I thought it was interesting that the informant notes that her father occasionally “adds weird details to it” because it suggests that she is aware that the story contains multiplicity and variation, serves as folklore, but still is a meaningful way in which her family connects. In this story, I thought it was interesting that the informant’s father occupies a sort of liminal space. He is in a place of transition and that is what he performing — he is performing his transition learning English, adjusting to a new environment, etc… It is telling that the informant notes that this story typically prompted additional stories from her father.