“It’s a tie”

Background on informant: Informant is a senior at USC studying computer science. She comes from a Chinese family and speaks Chinese.

Informant: One of my best friends Hannah told me this today. We were really bored. We were talking about ties and so she tells me this joke, which goes like this:

At a formal event, roll your tie up into a little bundle right before the knot.

Then ask someone which of the two flaps will unravel first.

After they guess, let it unravel and go, “it’s a tie!

The best jokes are the punny ones. I guess it shows that humans really like the smallest things and if it will make them a little happy, it’s worth talking about.

Analysis: I liked this joke because it plays with language and in a sense then is idiomatic to speakers of that language. In this way, it differentiates who belongs to a group and who doesn’t. Moreover, the folklore was clearly spontaneous in the fact that it was completely associational to a conversation about ties. It was a spur of the moment joke told to the informant and later retold to me, folklore passed along and re-packaged as folklore. I also found interesting the circumstances in which the performance arose. The informant said she was “really bored,” perhaps suggesting that the joke was told to provide some sort of respite from the boredom of the everyday, which is a chief function of performance.