Author Archives: Scott Gilman

Joke: Asexuality and Garlic Bread

Main Piece: 

Collector: “I remember a while ago you were talking about the link between garlic bread and ace people, right? Can you explain that?”

Informant: “Well, essentially, the consensus is that garlic bread is better than sex. And thus, slowly, over time, through memes and such, it became part of ace- asexual culture to just be like ‘Sex? Phhht. Garlic bread. That’s pretty good.’ It’s like that with various other foods. Like cake. Lemon bars are one thing- no, wait, lemon bars are bisexual. I don’t know why they’re bisexual, but they are.”

Collector: “What’s like a formula of one of these memes? Like if you had to cite a stock meme to me.”

Informant: “Like here’s the basic thing of how they kind of go. Sex. Then reaction pic of somebody going no, or nuh-uh, or whatever—”

Collector: “Like the Drake meme along the side.”

Informant: “Yeah. Like that and then the good one.”

Collector: “The approving side of the picture. 

Background:

My informant is a member of several online asexual communities designed as spaces of solidarity and safety. The common practices of these communities include sharing struggles unique or semi-unique to ace people, figuring out or helping others figure out whether the sexual identity applies to them, and sharing memes about asexuality. 

Collector: Why do you think this developed?”

Informant: “Primarily firstly because garlic bread is just good. It’s just fantastic. And then garlic bread being better than sex was kind of a meme outside of asexual culture. Just around, I used to occasionally find one just out in the wild.”

To my informant, garlic bread being better than sex was the adopting of a pre-existing, potentially ironic meme by a community that agreed whole-heartedly with the sentiment. Oher potential benefits include bonding over a meme.

Thoughts:

It seems telling that this is a joke told within communities specifically labelled as asexual safe spaces and not frequently elsewhere. It’s likely there’s an element of safety and community to this meme. The meme is proliferated within a safe asexual space to prove that the space is safe- saying that sex is bad is fine here and we’ll do it in a funny way. It’s also likely that catharsis is another element at play. In a culture dominated by people who value sex, it’s likely that the community has latched onto garlic bread as just one example to hold up of the many things they see as more appealing. By participating in the meme, consuming and posting, they reaffirm their feelings and get a release from the tension of being misaligned with a sex-dominated culture.

Joke: Saving it for Later

Main Piece: 

Informant: “My grandpa, he had this big bushy moustache and so he would always get food stuck in it. And people would like point it out, like if my mom was like ‘Hey, you have something in your moustache’ he’d be like ‘Hm. Saving it for later.’”

Background:

My informant acknowledged that he had heard this as a running joke from other people with thick facial hair. His grandfather was the person that he heard it most consistently from. We agreed that this was predominantly a running joke for older men- a “dad joke” that carried over into grandfatherhood and older. My informant interpreted the joke as a stock response to disarm and make light of the potential embarrassment.

Thoughts:

The prevalence of this joke is what piqued my interest with this entry. It’s not an overly clever joke, a story that you can teach another to tell, or overtly based in identity like many widely proliferated jokes are. The greatest potential for meaning came from its folk group, older men with thick facial hair. This is a group united by its masculinity. This joke could be interpreted as a shrugging off of embarrassment, as my informant and I initially thought, that also celebrates the speaker’s masculinity, messiness, and lack of care. 

Dungeons and Dragons Ritual: “How Do You Want to do This?”

Main Piece: 

“Oh! Yeah, so ‘How do you want to do this?’ is a thing that’s been picked up since it’s been become used by Matt Mercer in Critical Role where like if a person gets a sufficiently good kill at like, say, the end of a combat, the DM will go ‘How do you want to do this?’ And then the player will describe how they eviscerate their enemies.”

Background:

A little pop culture background is necessary to understanding this folklore. After the release of the 5th edition of the table-top role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, D&D live-play shows became a popular form of entertainment. The most famous and successful of these shows is Critical Role. This is a practice that the Dungeon Master of Critical Role, Matt Mercer, employs that others have picked up. It’s been proliferated to the point that despite not being part of any official D&D material, Dungeon Masters may say “How do you want to do this?” at the end of an encounter because they know that’s the common thing to do even if they’ve never seen the show or don’t know from where the phrase originates. My informant saw this practice as a way to get players involved with the “theatre of the mind” portion of D&D and increase “coolness.”

Thoughts:

What’s interesting about this example is that it’s very recent and fast-moving folklore. There’s even an argument to be made that it could count as having authorship to some degree, as its origins can be traced back to a singular figure, but there’s no ownership. 

Besides the interpretation that my informant offered- that it helps increase player engagement -there’s another possible function of this phrase. It signals that combat has come to an end. Dungeons and Dragons has a signal for the beginning of combat baked into the rule set. Everyone rolls “initiative” to see in what order they take their turns. There is no instituted method to exit combat. This phrase helps bridge that awkward gap. Within the game, there is a liminal space that isn’t naturally bridged. The way this new unofficial ritual is constructed, there’s a set way that the players and the DM end combat. When that ritual is complete, the liminality has been bridged and the mode of play changes.

Dungeons and Dragons Superstition: Wil Wheaton Dice Curse

Main Piece: 

“Yeah, so, when Wil Wheaton was on Critical Role, kinda like he has a dice curse. Like any dice he touches, he curses- so many nat 1s, so many low rolls. It’s uncanny. And, you know, that’s just kind a fun thing, but my side of it… His dice curse is folklore on its own, but, for me, I had this set of dice that I got when the guy I was dating at the time promposed to me. It was this whole like Critical Role promposal. Super cute and he gave me these dice. And they were fine. But then, after we split up because we weren’t actually interested in each other, these dice rolled like shit. Not always nat 1s, but just kinda rolled like shit. And then I took them to a convention that summer. Wil Wheaton was a guest. And I went up, like had Wil Wheaton sign my DM screen and was like ‘Hey. I have these dice that roll really badly. I know you have your dice curse. I was thinking maybe the two will cancel each other out and… I don’t know, it’ll work, just do something. Trying to see if it’ll backfire.’ And he pulled my bag of dice out, tries but could not break the curse on these dice. He still rolled poorly. Has not rolled a nat 20, he’s below 10 every time. I had to get rid of those dice. I gave them to a friend ‘cause his dice curse is so strong. I think he cursed them even more… I think it still lingers within me, because I still roll so poorly today. My plan backfired.”

Collector: “Is there a way to avoid or counteract the Wil Wheaton dice curse?”

Informant: “Just don’t interact with Wil Wheaton. Don’t give him your dice. I was a fool.”

Background:

My informant is an active participant in online Dungeons and Dragons communities and an engaged member of the fan base for the D&D live-play show Critical Role. The Wil Wheaton dice curse is apparently established meta-lore of the show. It’s widely acknowledged and talked about in conventions surrounding the game. He has become something of a miniature celebrity for his terrible luck. Rituals are concocted in response to this curse, such as testing Wil Wheaton with fresh sets of dice, using his curse on dice that could be used against you, and so on. My informant interprets this as a legitimate curse. For an example of how the folk groups associated with this curse respond to it, see Critical Scope, “Liam and Travis’ secret plan to win the fight in E52 [Spoilers E52],” YouTube Video, 2:13, May 5, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwuU5ZPiqpY. 

Thoughts:

The wide acknowledgement of this curse as a valid and actual curse shows an above average degree of superstition within the Dungeons and Dragons community. I believe this is an example of how superstition appears more prevalently in groups that are dependent on fate or chance for their success, such as gamblers. This is a different circumstance, since even those that make their money from D&D don’t make their money from rolling well in D&D rather than just playing it in an entertaining fashion. However, that the game is based entirely on dice rolls creates a certain value for luck and fate. The specifics of this curse enforce a sense of urgency. My informant needed to get the dice physically away from her. She had it bestowed on her by the presence of a cursed person. She believes she is still cursed. It falls into the same pseudo-disease like formula as “cooties” for children. Bad luck coalesces and becomes virulent in the eyes of D&D players.

Folk Belief: It’s Good Luck to Kill a Scotsman

Main Piece: 

Informant: “There’s a law in England that in York on Sunday, you’re allowed to kill a Scotsman with a bow and arrow. So- I mean, this was put in place in the 1700s when England was at war with Scotland and it was never repealed, so it still exists. So, apparently, some people think that if you do this— Of course, there are like law kinda hierarchies, so the murder law I think also applies. I mean, it’s apparently supposed to give you luck if you do kill a Scotsman. I mean, I’ve never tried it but…”

Collector: “Is there any like traditions or things that people do on a Sunday to celebrate this law? Besides killing Scotsmen.”

Informant: “Well, you know, I don’t know. I heard, you know, a thing once. This might be one guy. I heard people like treat the Scotsperson as an animal and they left, you know, a bowl of haggis outside as bait. And they would wait in the bushes. I mean, this is England, so…”

Collector: “Do the Scotsmen like this?”

Informant: “I don’t think so. I don’t think they go to York on a Sunday.”

Background:

My informant had not personally partaken in any of the rituals surrounding this law. From the way he presented it, it was up to individual interpretation how to personally engage with this law, hence the singular person hiding in the bushes. No set rituals necessarily exist in any official or widely known capacity. My informant said he understands it as the good luck associated with the killing is what is well known. He also made it clear that these efforts were obviously facetious and the repetition of “it’s good luck to kill a Scotsman in York on Sunday with a bow and arrow” is something of a running joke.

Thoughts:

There are direct ties between this piece of folklore and intercultural tensions. At the time of the laws establishment, there was an active war between England and Scotland. However, in the modern United Kingdoms, there is a different sort of tension. The Scottish Independence Movement is largely championed by Scots and largely blocked by British government. As such, while the two cultures are within the same nation, there is a tension between the Scots’ desire to leave and the relative power that the British have. I think it’s possible that this folklore is a piece of malevolent humor shared between the Brits. It serves primarily to denigrate the Scots as a group but is obviously facetious enough not to be too egregious for public.