Author Archives: Charlyne Hsu

Folk Speech – Hong Kong

Folk Speech

“Chicken talking to a duck”

The first time I heard this folk speech was when I was on a tour bus in Hong Kong listening to the tour guide, Wai Ming Chu, whose English name is William, talk about the history of Hong Kong and its interactions with the British when we drove past the residential areas of the native Hong Kong people.  William said that when the British first came to Hong Kong, the Hong Kong people described it as a chicken talking to a duck because the two groups of people spoke two different languages, thus they were unable to understand each other.  The British spoke English and the Hong Kong people spoke a local language.  William says that this phrase is the one that the Hong Kong people use most commonly to describe the environment when the British first came to Hong Kong.

This phrase describes a characterization of colonization, of how there is usually a language barrier between the colonizer and the native people.  I think that this phrase “chicken talking to a duck” not only means the language barrier, but also the cultural barrier.  Every time someone ventures away from their home, whether it is to go to school or travel, there are cultural differences, especially in today’s age, with all of the globalization and international trade that is occurring.  Any two animals could have been chosen to be part of the proverb, but by using a chicken and a duck, the proverb is more effective because chickens and ducks are both classified under birds even though they are two different types, just as the British and Hong Kong people are both human beings, just different kinds.

This phrase reminds me of the proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  In order to survive and succeed in a different culture, one must adapt to that culture and learn its customs and beliefs.  A person cannot expect to go to a foreign place and survive without making any personal changes.  I believe that the “chicken talking to a duck” phrase can also be used to describe situations with miscommunications and misunderstandings.



The difference between engineering major student sand business major students:

“Three engineering major students and three business major students travel together by train.  The engineering students purchase three tickets, but the business students only buy one ticket. Once they get on the train, the business students immediately hide together in the restroom.  When the conductor knocks on the restroom to collect ticket, one ticket is presented through the slightly open bathroom door.  On the return trip, the engineering students decide to use the same tactic to save some money.  Therefore they only purchase one ticket and rush into the restroom once they get on the train.  Meantime the business students get on train with no ticket.  Upon getting on the train, the engineering students go to hide the restroom.  There is a knock on the door, so the engineering students present one ticket through the barely open restroom door.  In actuality, it is not the conductor who knocked but the business students.  The three business students happily move to the next car with that ticket.”

My dad retold this joke to my sisters, my mom and me on a weekend afternoon during family relaxing time.  My dad has always enjoyed making people laugh, especially through funny stories, pranks, and jokes.  When he reads or hears something funny, he always likes to retell it.  This joke that he told was one he had heard at work awhile back.  He also heard this joke from a friend.  My dad is an engineer and he said that this joke was a popular one, making fun of engineer students and pointing out how business students are suppose to be smart.  My dad believes that this joke makes fun of engineers, hinting that engineers are nerdy, overly focused, and lack common sense.  He says that this joke portrays the business students to be practical and flexible, as well as being able to quickly adapt and make smart decisions.

I believe that this joke about the engineer students and business student is based off of blason popularie, popular conceptions, regarding different occupations and majors.  In today’s society, there is the stereotype that engineers are nerdy and geeky and very focused on their tasks whereas businessmen are thought to be cunning, thrifty, and competitive.  Certain characteristics have a tendency to be associated with certain professions.  It is amazing how people are so quick to associate a person with certain qualities upon learning one’s profession, occupation or major.  Even before a person’s personality shines through, he/she is already assigned to have certain characteristics.  This joke may be popular among engineers because it allows them to laugh at how extreme or false the stereotypes can be.  Upon telling and hearing the joke, engineers can bond and have a good time together at their offices.  The joke could be a catalyst for other similar jokes or people sharing their experiences with these engineering stereotypes.

Practical Joke

Practical Joke

April Fools

The picture above is what Kianni Courtade did to Michael Mesa’s room for an April Fools prank.  April Fools is a day of making pranks and practical jokes.  Kianni first learned that April 1st was a day to play jokes for a classmate when she was in elementary school.  The joke she played on Michael on April 1, 2008 was not the first time Kianni pulled an April Fools Day joke.

Originally, Kianni wanted to prank someone else, but that person did not seem to be leaving his/her room and since she did not want to waste the supplies she had already purchased, she decided to pull the prank on Michael instead.  Kianni had a friend put tape on the door so the door would not lock when it was closed.  She was surprised that Michael did not notice the tape.  After Michael left, Kianni saran wrapped Michael’s chair, desk, pillows, bed, and dresser.  She placed flower stickers on the walls and strategically placed alarm clocks with different alarm times around the room.  She used pink streamers and put a musical device in one of his drawers so that when he opened his drawer, the music would play.  In addition, Kianni also hid some of Michael’s things.  Michael was shocked when he returned to his room, and later on, Kianni apologized to Michael, who remained a fair sport.

April Fools Day demonstrates how the American culture is one that enjoys pranks and humor, especially at the expense of another person.  The American people enjoy harmless fun.  It is entertaining that Kianni chose pink streamers and flower stickers, which are considered feminine, to put into a male’s room.  The majority of men does not like to own anything feminine, especially anything that makes their room have any hints of feminism; therefore, the prank was funny to spectators, while it was probably embarrassingly funny for Michael to have pink streamers and flower sticks in his room.  The purpose of a practical joke is to make it difficult for the person who the prank was pulled on.  The saran wrap made it extremely difficult for Michael to use anything in his room.  It probably frustrated him that some his possessions had been misplaced.  Having music play when he opened his drawer and having alarm clocks ringing at different odd times must have annoyed Michael.  Practical jokes are supposed to be harmless but also embarrass, frustrate, and annoy the victim, and Kianni was successful.



An American is in the kitchen.

What do you call him in the bathroom?


Emilie told this riddle at dinner one night at Parkside Cafeteria in front of a group of friends.  It was a relaxing night where everyone was swapping jokes at the dinner table.  Emilie says that she first heard this riddle during elementary school, on the playground during recess.  She said this was a popular riddle that a lot of the school children sang.

Emilie’s riddle is a play on words and can be classified as an oppositional riddle.  “European” sounds like “you are peeing”, which is what one does in the bathroom.  I believe that this riddle is the result of childish antics because children find humor with bodily functions.  In addition, elementary school is when the children are learning new vocabulary and experimenting with words.  Furthermore, although neither Emilie nor I know when this riddle was invented, there could have possibly been Anti-European sentiment at the time the riddle was created.  This riddle associates Europeans with bathrooms, which usually carries a negative connotation.

Märchen – Mormon

Märchen – Johnny Lingo

“Johnny Lingo was the most handsome and successful young man on the island.  He had grown up to be very favorable in the eyes of the families in the village.  One day the village people heard that Johnny Lingo was returning to the island from a trading exploration to call on a village man named Moki and ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The name of Moki’s daughter was Mahana.  Mahana was a young and quiet girl.  She often hid from the people and caused little commotion.  All the village people laughed at Mahana and Moki was ashamed of her.  When the village people heard that Johnny Lingo wanted to ask for Mahana’s hand in marriage, they were all appalled.  The whole village came to Moki’s hut to witness the bargain between Johnny Lingo and Moki.  It was a cultural tradition to offer cows in exchange for a woman to marry.  When Johnny Lingo arrived to Moki’s hut, they sat down to discuss the worth of Mahana.  The village people whispered to each other and said that Moki could not ask for more than one cow in exchange for Mahana, or even part of a cow.  Many of the village women boasted of their worth.  Some boasted about being worth three cows and others were proud to say that they were worth five cows.  The people quieted down to hear what Moki had to say.  After discussing the matters with his counselor, Moki turned to Johnny Lingo and asked for three cows.  All the village people laughed and mocked.  Mahana, watching from behind the trees, felt so embarrassed and ashamed.  Johnny Lingo replied and said, “I will give you eight cows for Mahana.”  This was a shock to all the people, especially Moki.  The bargain was settled and Moki would now wait for Johnny Lingo to bring the cows.  The next day, Moki and his counselor were waiting for Johnny Lingo.  They both doubted that he would come, but suddenly they heard a sound in the distance.  The noise grew louder as it drew nearer, and soon enough Moki was able to see big and strong cows walking toward his land.  Johnny Lingo arrived with all eight cows.  The marriage ceremony took place a couple nights after and because Mahana did not want to be around the village people, she and Johnny Lingo left for their honeymoon on a boat.  Before Johnny Lingo had left for the honeymoon, he had asked the island’s shopkeeper for a very special mirror that he wanted to give to Mahana for a wedding gift.  Because the shopkeeper did not have the mirror that Johnny Lingo wanted, he had to put in a special order from overseas.  When Johnny Lingo and Mahana returned from their honeymoon, the shopkeeper personally delivered the beautiful gold mirror to Johnny Lingo.  When the shopkeeper arrived to Johnny Lingo and Mahana’s hut, he was welcomed by Mahana who was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen on the whole island.  She smiled and greeted the shopkeeper.  When the shopkeeper was able to talk to Johnny Lingo alone, he asked him what he did.  Johnny Lingo said that if a man made a woman feel beautiful, she would be beautiful.  Mahana was always the most beautiful girl in Johnny Lingo’s eyes and because he treated her with love and respect, the beauty shone on the outside.”

Emilie, who is of the Mormon religion, says that the story of Johnny Lingo is primarily told at church to the young children.  Emilie heard this tale when she was eight years old from a primary or Sunday school teacher.  She has also seen this story on a VHS.  The story of Johnny Lingo is one of the more popular Mormon folktales and most every Mormon knows about Johnny Lingo.

The story of Johnny Lingo serves the purpose of a moral lesson; it teaches people to treat others kindly and with respect because the manner in how one is treated has a great impact on a person.  It influences a person’s self-esteem, which would affect how one thinks about himself and how one carries and presents himself.  The audience of “Johnny Lingo” is young children because treating people fairly is a quality that should be instilled at a young stage of life.  This is a story told at church because church is one the places where people learn good values.  In addition, the Mormon Church places great emphasis on having good, strong values.

Johnny Lingo has also been made into movies.  In 1969, there was a movie called “Johnny Lingo”.  The synopsis of this movie has the same characters and seems to closely follow the plot of the tale Emilie has told me.  In 2003, a movie title “The Legend of Johnny Lingo” was made.  This plot of this movie is a modern spin of the story Emilie has told me, making it more interesting and relevant for today’s audiences.  The characters seem to be the same with the general ideas remaining similar.  However, judging from the synopsis, the storyline is different.

Johnny Lingo. Dir. Judge Whitaker. Brigham Young University, 1969.

The Legend of Johnny Lingo. Dir. Steven Ramirez. Turtles Crossing LLC, 2003.