Animal Nicknaming and Jokes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chilean
Age: 60
Occupation: Agronomist/Coffee Plantation Manager
Residence: Hawaii
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/29/15
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

I collected this piece of folklore from my dad while he was visiting. We ended up just sitting in the car in a parking lot while he shared some more Chilean folklore with me.


In Chile, people often give each other animal names as nicknames. The animal is supposed to somehow resemble or represent the person, so that they can be identifiable by that name. For example, the tallest kid in the class may be called the giraffe, and the annoying one could be call the mosquito. My dad’s nickname back in grade school was “el mono” or “the monkey,” because he was always seen climbing a tree of some sort.

Jokes can also be made using these animal nicknames and creating a pun with the sound that the animal makes.

Ex) -¿Por qué se llamas el gato? (Why do they call you the cat?)

Mee-oowbuela me dice [Mi abuela me dice.] (My grandma calls me that.)

Many years ago in Chile, people used to live in the country side more than in the city, so there are many jokes about roosters, and chickens, and ducks, etc.

To foreigners or outsiders, this type of joking might not always make sense, especially if the definition of joking might be completely different. What was particularly difficult for me to get, was the pun-making using animal sounds. Not only do the puns have to match words in spanish, but the onomatopoeia sounds that animals make vary from country to country.