Author Archives: Rebecca Chen

If He Loves You, He Will Drink Your Turkish Coffee

About the Informant(s): Informant A and her husband (Informant B) are both from Turkey. They met in college, got married, and then came to the US for graduate school. They are both currently teaching assistants for math.

The Interview:

Informant A: Before engagement, [to ask] for her hand…the [two] families get together and…

Me: They talk about getting engaged?

Informant A: Yeah. It’s like these two young people have seen each other; they like each other. So what should we do about this?

Me: The parents [meet]?

Informant B: No, the parents and the kids. The future bride makes coffee for the groom’s family.

Informant A: It’s a special kind of coffee. Turkish coffee. It looks like espresso. The bride puts salt in the coffee. The groom’s coffee. If the groom drinks it without any complaints, then the bride’s side says: ‘ooh, our groom is very nice. He didn’t say anything even though the coffee is not the best.’ But I didn’t do it…

Informant B: She was afraid that I would just spit it out.

Informant A (slightly sad): I didn’t do it.


Informant B: I heard a story but I am not sure if it is correct or not. A groom was…

Informant A: Dead! It is rumored that the bride put pepper, salt, eggs, many spices…

Informant B: Many spices, and the groom drank it and like, there was news that he…just died.

Informant A: He died!

Me: From drinking coffee?

Informant B: But they put several things inside the coffee.

Me: Like poison?

Informant A: I think they overdid it extremely. I don’t know. I just heard of it. I think it was food poisoning.

Me: So is it like a legend? No one knows if it’s actually true?

Informant B: It could be. I’m not sure.

Background Information/Context: I asked this couple about some Turkish wedding traditions, and the conversation went to how an engagement happens. Although Informant A didn’t follow tradition and give her current husband salty coffee, they both knew about it. It seems that brides normally put salt in, but they might add a variety of other things like spices in the coffee as well. Soon, the conversation turned to a legend about this fateful cup of coffee (that has to be Turkish coffee). Although the legend is about dead groom, we still laughed about it because of how extreme and ironic it sounded. I got the impression that the couple thought that this tradition was quite unnecessary and laughable, yet Informant A still seemed a bit disappointed that she did not put her husband to the test.

My thoughts: It seems that this tradition came about as a way for the bride’s family to see how fitting the groom is for the bride and how much he loves her. If the groom is willing to go through this kind of pain, then he can endure any kind of hardship in the future as well. This would explain why Informant A might have been disappointed because she did not place that trust in her husband back when they got engaged (even though they are a great couple today). The fact that a legend exists because of this tradition also shows how some people do not approve of this kind of test, since after all, someone could die from it. This legend acts as a cautionary tale for people thinking about getting married (telling the bride to go easy on the groom). It also acts as a way for people to deal with the fear of the engagement meeting not going as well as expected–even if the groom doesn’t spit it out, he could still die. Perhaps, for Informant A, it is a way for her to deal with the regret of not putting salt in Informant B’s coffee.








Temel and His Corn Flour

About the Informant(s): Informant A and his wife (Informant B) are both from Turkey. They met in college, got married, and then came to the US for graduate school. They are both currently teaching assistants for math.

The Interview:

Informant A: There are like Temel jokes.

Informant B: Oh yeah, yeah.

Informant A: There’s this thing  in Turkey, where people are really smart, but they can be..uh..their minds can be..move around a little bit from time to time. They can be…

Me: Wandering?

Informant A: Yeah, wandering. They are not so careful. They say the silliest things.

Informant B: The jokes start with ‘one day.’ The name of the guy is Temel. One day…haha!

[indistinct chatter, laughter, and awkward silence]

Informant A: I mean, I think [of] one. And then I think of something better.

Me: Are there a lot of jokes like this? With…

Informant A: Yeah yeah. There are like maybe thousands of them. Eighty-percent of them are not so funny.

[more laughter and silence]

Informant A: Okay. I have a dirty one. Not so much.

Me: A what?

Informant A: Nah, it’s not so dirty. Uh. In a region of Turkey, they use corn flour, when they want to cook, special fish and stuff. So one day, Temel, and, when he was going to, I mean, he fell into a deserted island. And he lives there for like five months or something. And then one day, a beautiful girl also washed up on a shore. I mean, she also got lost at sea or something, and then she fell into the island. And she was like: ‘Oh! Here’s something that you have missed so far, I mean you have missed for so long. Several months or whatever. And he (Temel) said: ‘Oh! Did you bring corn wheat? Corn flour?’ It’s because, they love the flour so much that he forgot that there’s a …

Me: He forgot that there’s a what?

Informant A: So she, okay, she says, I mean, ‘you will get something here…[that you have] missed so, for so long. Cause, I know…. Whatever.’ But then he says: ‘Oh, did you bring the corn flour?’

Me: OOH, she’s saying that he wanted to…

Informant A: Exactly.


Me: Okay. So is Temel like a really smart person, but he doesn’t get certain subtexts?

Informant A: Yeah. Exactly.


Informant A: I think these were funnier when we were in high school.


Me: Why do you guys think these jokes are funny? Especially to people in Turkey?

Informant A: I mean, we kind of see people like him all around. That’s one reason.

Me: Would you say that either of you are like Temel?

Informant A: Sometimes? Occasionally.


Background Information/Context: I asked this couple about jokes in Turkey, and both had a hard time coming up with one. After Informant A suggested Temel jokes, they were very excited. But since there are “thousands” of Temel jokes, they had an even harder time coming up with a Temel joke. Informant A finally thinks of a “dirty” Temel joke and tells it to me. It is unknown where he learned it from, probably from childhood or in high school. It seems that Temel jokes are incredibly popular in Turkey. There is a set format–they always start with “one day” and the main character in the joke is always Temel, a guy who is smart but doesn’t understand the implications of what people say. He takes things literally and his funny responses and actions are what make these jokes funny. You never know how Temel might respond to a situation. Apparently, people in Turkey sometimes act like Temel, so Temel jokes are a way for them to make fun of their friends or themselves. This joke specifically is funny because it is assumed that any guy would be hoping for sex having been stranded on an island for months. But Temel isn’t any guy. He didn’t understand what the woman was suggesting and thought of his favorite thing from home — corn flour. Temel’s lack of awareness is what made this joke funny.

My thoughts: Since Informant A was translating the joke from Turkish to English in his head, the delivery of the joke was slower, so I didn’t understand the joke until he explained it to me. But once I understood, I thought it was hilarious as well. I think everyone can relate to this joke because everyone has taken things literally at one point. Even though there is a set format to these jokes, there is a lot of freedom, so it is hard to know what to expect, making the jokes funny while not too repetitive too fast. These jokes are a way for people to make fun of people like Temel as well as a warning for people to not take things so literally.