Dog on a Nail Joke

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (MH).

CB: “What’s the joke?”

MH: “So there’s this little old house. And sitting in front of this little old house is an old man in a rocking chair and a dog laying out on the porch. And that dog laid in the same exact spot on the porch all day, everyday. So one day the old man had a friend over, and he’s sitting there on the porch and they’re drinking their beers in the afternoon, and the dog is laying there next to them. But the whole time that the dog is laying there he’s moaning and moaning like he’s in pain.

And the friend goes ‘Well what’s wrong with your dog, he sounds like he’s in pain?’

And the old man goes ‘He’s laying on a nail.’

And the friend goes, ‘Well why doesn’t he move?’

And the old man says ‘It doesn’t hurt bad enough yet’”

CB: “What does it mean to you?”

MH: “I think it means… I think it shows how much tolerance you can have when you’re that stubborn.”

CB: “Why do you think it’s important to share the joke?”

MH: “Because it’s stupid to lay on a nail.” [laughs]


My informant is known in our family for his jokes, and most of the family can repeat them by memory.  In our family, this joke has become heavily associated with him, and can be referenced with just one sentence. My informant’s telling of this joke is often thought to be ironic by our family, as he is known for his stubbornness. This joke is different from most of his other jokes because it has such a clear moral. For this reason, the joke is often uses in our family to make a certain point.


I called my informant on their way home from work to ask about this joke that I had heard him tell many times before. Our conversation was light and casual as we laughed about the joke.


This joke is less amusing, as it is a lesson. As my informant says “its stupid to lay on a nail”. The dog is putting himself in pain for no other reason than his own stubbornness. Our family has long since laughed at the irony of the most stubborn member of the family telling the joke, however I think that it’s telling of a larger tradition in folklore. He likely tells the joke because he can personally identify with it, and wants to warn his family against repeating his mistakes. The joke is often specifically targeted at the younger generation in the family, and is referenced when someone is acting particularly hard-headed. In this way, the joke functions more as a warning, than as a source of amusement.

For another variation of this joke see Celestine Chua’s article “The Howling Dog Story” published in Personal Excellence.