Author Archives: Kenzie Gross

Snow day wishes

Date: April 15, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Gavin, younger brother

Type: Tradition, Practice, Folklore

Folklore/Text: Snow Day Wishes: “During the winter in Portland it is really fun when it snows because there is no school and I can sled all day with my friends. When I really want a snow day to happen, my Kindergarten teacher taught me to sleep with a spoon under my pillow, my pajamas on backwards, and to perform a Snow Dance to the sky before going to sleep. It worked about half the time, which is good enough for me.”

Explanation/Context: Snow days were a huge deal in my childhood because they only happened every couple of years and there was a huge hill near my house that all of the neighborhood kids would slide down when there was no school. The silly little practices that we were all convinced were the perfect equation to conjuring up a snow day are actually products of folk tales and Native American rituals from years past – Native peoples have a profound relationship with nature, so special dances, songs, and ordered actions are certainly believed to be closely related with the outcome of weather and yielding crops. The Snow Dance is a real ritual that continues to be practiced today, especially in the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes in Utah who experience harsh winters each year. 

Wood eye joke

Date: April 24, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Father

Type: Joke

Folklore/Text: Wood Eye Joke: “My dad first told me this joke as a kid, but I definitely tell it better. A boy was involved in a terrible accident that caused him to lose his eye, and since he couldn’t afford a glass replacement, the doctor offered him a wooden eye instead. The school dance was coming up, and after many failed attempts at trying to get a date because of his new look, he decided to go alone to try to cheer himself up. While sitting in the corner during a slow song, he notices another girl sitting alone as well. He gets up and approaches her, saying, “Would you like to dance with me?” The girl is overcome with excitement, replying, “Would I? Would I?” The boy is offended and angry by her insult, retorting back, “Stink breath! Stink breath!” This joke is definitely a crowd favorite. You can switch up the insult at the end, but you would always die laughing every time I told it to you.”

Explanation/Context: After doing lots of research, this joke has actually been told hundreds of times with a multitude of variations dating back to the early 1900s, when it was first published in the joke section of the New York Times. I always find it so interesting when jokes are passed down from generation to generation, like a game of comedic telephone, where the punchline slightly changes with each person you tell it to. When you Google search, “Wooden Eye Joke,” approximately 20,000 results come up. Due to the length of the buildup before the punch line, there is room for variation and changes in circumstances, but the butt of the joke remains the same. This is similar to music as well, where many adaptations of a song may be released over the years, but the chorus, chord progressions, and lyrics tend to remind the same. 

Fancy S

Date: April 21, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Will, friend

Type: Symbol

Folklore/Text: “Fancy S”

Explanation/Context: I first learned how to do this symbol in second grade art class, when my art teacher showed me that I could make the letter S out of six parallel lines. I was never very good at art, so this made me feel like the coolest kid in school. My older sister, four years older than I, started writing her name (Jasmine) with that fancy S in the middle as her signature, which inspired me to start writing my name (Kenzie) with this fancy S instead of a Z. My informant, Will, described this symbol as the “trademark of middle school,” a representation of youth in the mid 2000s. Will went to a large public school in Chicago, while I went to a small private school in Portland, Oregon – despite coming from very different backgrounds, this cultural icon of adolescence means the same thing everywhere. 

“How many tries does it take a monkey with a wooden leg to kick the seeds out of a watermelon”

Date: April 1, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Grandfather

Type: Riddle, Family

Folklore/ Text: “How many tries does it take for a monkey with a wooden leg to kick the seeds out of a watermelon?” 

Explanation/Context: My grandfather had seven children in the 60s, my mother being one of them. Needless to say, lots of nonsense was spilled around the house to merely fill the space with something more than chaos. One of my grandfather’s favorite sayings was this one, and depending on the day, the children would interpret it as rhetorical or not. It was then passed on through generations – my mom first taught it to me as a child and I have found myself teaching it to my younger cousins. The delivery of this riddle is best served quickly, so as to distract and confound the listener in a humorous way.