Catch Riddle

The informant learned the following catch riddle from his peers in elementary school:

“Does your mom know you’re gay?”

The informant’s comment on why the riddle is funny was that “No matter how they answer, they’ve clearly admitted to being gay.” He says that he performed in primary school but seldom does so any more because he no longer finds it amusing.

The informant regards riddles as “a childish thing in general . . . as an adult, people just look at you strange if you [say] something like that.” He calls this riddle in particular “a stupid kid joke” because “it’s not like anyone’s going to go with a verbal agreement.” However, he also made an assertion that seems to contradict his contempt for the riddle: “If I talked to a magic machine that was like the reverse of Tom Hanks’s Big and sent me back in time to elementary school, I would totally do that to some of the little bitches.”

It is interesting that the informant previously viewed the riddle from an emic perspective and has switched to an etic perspective now that he is out of elementary school–he is no longer part of that folk group. The informant’s assessment that very few people would assent to give a definitive answer to the riddle is most likely correct, and in Los Angeles, which, according to the scientific journal Demography, had in 2000 the second-largest gay population of any city in America (by number, not percentage), there is likely not as much of a stigma attached to being gay as in other places, though homosexuality has certainly gained acceptance since 1991, when the informant left elementary school. Nonetheless, many people who are not homosexual do get offended when it is intimated that they are, which might be perceived as amusing to active bearers of this joke.

Source: Black, Dan, Gary Gates, Seth Sanders, and Lowell Taylor. “Demographics of the Gay and Lesbian Population in the United States: Evidence from Available Systematic Data Sources.” Demography 37 (2000): 139-154.