Author Archives: bpolan

Three Stranded Guys (Joke)

My informant is Granti, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Grant was born and raised in Los Angeles, however his father is from Iran and his mother is from Japan. Both of these cultures influence his life in different ways. This piece of folklore is a tradition performed on a holiday.

Do you know any jokes?

Grant: “Actually now that you mention it I know one. So there are these three guys stranded on an island and umm there’s this guy, I can’t remember he’s like a genie or something. And he says go bring me ten fruit and I will uh let you get off the island or something like that. So they all go out and the first guy grabs apples and comes back. The genie is like if you can fit all ten up your butt I will help you get off the island. The first guy starts putting the apples up his butt, gets to four and can’t help himself from cracking up laughing so the genie says you’re done. The next guy comes through bringing cherries and the genie says the same thing. The second guy is getting there…8…9…then starts dying laughing. The genie exclaims “Why’d you stop you were so close!” and the second guy responds “I was about to do it but then I saw the third guy come back with pineapples”

Do you remember where you first heard this joke?

Grant: “I think my dad told me it honestly”

And where’s he from?

Grant: “He’s from Iran”

Have you told this joke often?

Grant: “I really haven’t told that joke it just came to my mind”

Does it have any meaning to you or is it just a joke?

Grant: “It’s just a joke to me”

I think this joke is really funny, especially because it’s a little raunchy.  It was interesting that Grant admitted to not even telling this joke but once we started talking and trading stories he just remembered it as an old joke that his father used to tell. If we hadn’t started talking about folklore Grant may have completely forgotten this joke but now it is fresh in his mind.


Toilet Tag (Game)

My informant is Jackson, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Jackson is white and of Danish and Irish descent and grew up in a suburb outside of Los Angeles called Palos Verdes.


Jackson weren’t you telling me about a game you used to play?

Jackson: “Oh yeah toilet tag! We used to play that when we were younger.”

What is toilet tag?

Jackson: “It’s like…freeze tag, but basically it’s like regular tag and when someone on the other team tags you you have to sit down and stick your finger out like a toilet flusher. Then you can’t get back in the game until someone on your team flushes you by hitting your finger and then you’re back in”

Is there only one person that’s tagging everyone?

Jackson: “Oh no everyone on the other team is tagging”

So how do you win?

Jackson: “Well I guess the only way someone wins is if the tagging team tags everyone so they are all toilets and no one can flush them and the toilets win by staying in the game before recess ends”

When did you first play this?

Jackson: “Elementary school”

Do you know who started this game?

Jackson: “No I have no idea, probably the kids above us though”

Do you still see kids playing toilet tag?

Jackson: “Yeah definitely it’s popular”

Is there any meaning to you behind this game?

Jackson: “I mean no, it’s just a game but it reminds me of my childhood and elementary school but its not special to me”


When hearing about this game, I realized that I myself had played the other version of toilet tag that Jackson mentioned, freeze tag. These games are very similar the only difference being to unfreeze your teammate that has been tagged you do not flush him but crawl through his legs which lifts the freezing power of the tagger. I grew up in California as well and it seemed that Jackson was familiar with freeze tag, whereas I was unfamiliar with toilet tag. This makes me believe that freeze tag was the original and toilet tag is a variation of the game that children from Southern California either created or learned.

Vanderlip Mansion (Legend)

My informant is Jackson, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Jackson is white and of Danish and Irish descent and grew up in a suburb outside of Los Angeles called Palos Verdes.


Jackson: “There was this house that everyone would talk about where I was from and I probably first heard it when I was around 12, in middle school. It was a mansion on this private road and it’s called Vanderlip mansion and there’s not that many houses around it and it’s kind of secluded but apparently a whole family got murdered there. I’m not sure exactly what the story is but I think the owner murdered his own family and is said to haunt the house. I guess it is a scary place. One of my friends lives on Vanderlip Lane and we would go check out the house but we never went in.”

Do you believe the house is haunted?

Jackson: “When I was younger I did. I was definitely afraid to go there and there was always something a little off about it but now its getting renovated and remodeled so I don’t think so”

Do you know who told you this story?

Jackson: “No I can’t remember. It might have been my friend that lives near the house but a lot of kids knew about it when we were growing up”

What does this mean to you?

Jackson: “I’m not sure if it means anything to me it’s just cool and weird how there’s like this ghost story about a house and it’s a place I’ve actually been. It just reminds me of my childhood when I would believe that stuff and be so scared”


I like this story because as a kid I would always see on television and movies that there was always a haunted house but I never had that growing up but to some people that actually happened. Jackson actually heard stories about the haunted house and just like in the movies went with his buddies to explore and ended up running away scared. Even though Jackson doesn’t remember who started this story, the fact that many different kids know about makes me believe this is actually a legend in Palos Verdes.

Trapped in a Room (Riddle)

My informant is Natalie Aroeste. Natalie is a 19-year-old female student at USC. She is half-Mexican, half-white, speaks fluent Spanish and English and grew up in San Diego.


Natalie: “So you are in a room with no windows and no doors, all that’s there is a piano and a mirror, how do you get out?”

Umm I’m not sure you teleport?

Natalie: “No. you’re not going to get it it doesn’t make sense”

Ok then tell me how do you get out?

Natalie: “To get out you look in the mirror, you see what you saw, you take the saw, you cut the piano in half, two halves make a whole, and you climb out the hole, I know it’s dumb”

Where did you first hear this riddle?

Natalie: “Just when I was younger from a friend, we used to think it was the funniest thing, probably around ten years-old”

Was this a well known riddle?

Natalie: “No no one I told knew it”

Is there any meaning to this riddle for you?

Natalie: “No it’s just a riddle but it makes me think of all the dumb stuff I thought was hilarious when I was younger”

To be honest I wasn’t sure whether to make this a riddle or a joke. Its posed in the form of a riddle where a problem is prompted and you have to figure out how to solve it. In this case there is a problem but the solution is a play on words more than a real answer. It’s funny but also frustrates those who spend time trying to solve

Persian New Year (Holiday)

My informant is Grant, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Grant was born and raised in Los Angeles, however his father is from Iran and his mother is from Japan. Both of these cultures influence his life in different ways. This piece of folklore is a tradition performed on a holiday.


Grant: “Every year on the..uh..spring eclipse or whatever, around March 21st and we celebrate the rebirth and the growing and we have a lot of grass. We put out a table and you put down seven things on the the table that start with the letter ‘s’ in Farsi so like apples start with an ‘s’ and like a lot of sweets and sugars. It’s kind of symbolic of a sweeter new year. Then the tradition my family does every year is that we put the Persian holy book and my dad puts money in it in a lot of different places. So someone takes the book and flips through it getting money as they go and once you hit a certain amount you stop, its just a tradition we do…my dad says it’s always good to start the new year with money”

Do you open the book as many times as you want?

Grant: “Well when it’s your turn and you open it and if it’s low like a 1 or 5 or 10 then you take it and keep going but if it’s like a 50 or 100 you stop”

How long have you been doing this?

Grant: “We’ve done it as long as I can remember. We do it every year, I’m pretty sure my Dad has been doing it his whole life too learning it from his Dad”

Are you going to carry this tradition on?

Grant: “Yeah, probably it’s a fun thing to do”

Does this have any meaning to you?

Grant: “Well, I’m half- Persian so it’s celebrating that part of myself and then it’s just a nice thing I do with my family each year and I get money so that’s cool”

Do other Persian families do this too?

Grant: “Not that I know of”


This is a really good example of a holiday form of folklore. All around the world Persian families celebrate the New Year but the folklore is the specific traditions and manners in which these families celebrate. In Grant’s example, the folklore being passed on and performed each year is a game – one where you win money. To grant, this game is unique to his family, coming from his father and his father’s father, however it is very possible other families do the exact same thing or even with a slight variation. This is also a way for Grant to connect to his Persian roots; having being born and raised in America that part of his ancestry has received less attention but through the continued celebration and tradition on Persian New Year Grant can ensure this part of his family history and his culture endures. Especially when he already plans on passing this tradition down to his children.