April 9, 2012
Folklore Type: Joke, Rhyme, Song
Informant Bio: Billy is my uncle on my mother’s side. He is a Methodist Pastor, and a hilarious and friendly person and/or kid. He recently did a sermon series using Dr. Seuss. I have recently discovered he could be considered the family story teller because he learned all of my grandfather’s stories, jokes, and songs.
Context: During this past summer of 2011 my grandfather on my Mom’s side passed away. Then recently my grandfather on my Father’s side passed away, and my Uncle Billy stayed with us and did the funeral service. He, my parents, and I were all talking. Then all of a sudden he started telling jokes his father used to tell.
Way down yonder not so very far off.
The jay bird died with a (w)hooping (silent w) cough
He (w)hooped so hard with the (w)hooping cough
That he (w)hooped his head and his tail right off.
Informant Analysis: Let me see which one. I hear a certain word and it always kinda reminds of the punch line of some of those jokes. And he was always telling us those kinds of jokes. Well I think part of the deal was, 1 dad came from a big family. He was not the oldest and he was not the youngest and so between the eight of them they told lots of stories. They didn’t have a TV or anything and his dad was a good story teller. And people stopping through getting gasoline and that’s where you would hearthe latest story or gossip. Of course he was also in the military and that’s notorious for hearing all sorts of things. The last thing is work in the oil fields and he didn’t realy work in the fields well I guess at first he did. And workin in the fields you get lots of jokes. And there were still lots of racism. Lot of the jokes centered around African Americans, Hispanic, and even Cajun. What made me think about it was dad work in the oil fields was corpus and they were with a lot of Hispanic and Mexican Americans. It would be a racist riddle.
There’s two or three things. It certainly helps me have a joyful smile and just helps my dad stay with me. I had a sense that papa was with me with just the sense of things. I had a friend where my dad used to write me handwritten letters and when I read them I can still hear his voice. For these little rhymes or jokes I can hear my dad. I also think of family and how it came from my dad and his family and his dad. As silly as they are I’m a part of something much, much bigger than myself. I’m not the first to think it’s funny. It’s funny but at the same time there’s some depth to it. You know a lot of people have items that they pass on to people and special objects and what not, but the silly things we are talking about now they don’t ever get lost or deteriorate. You know now I try to pass them on to my kids, and some things they find funny and some they don’t. I think Julie finds some funnier now than when say she was Lawson’s age.
Analysis: This joke is also part rhyme and song. It appears to be a funny little ditty. It is a bit violent though since the final image is basically a bird exploding. However, it also acts like a riddle in which words’ double meanings are being explored particularly with hyperbole in this case. Although the final image of the bird’s tail and head being (w)hooped off is a bit grotesque it could simply act the same as someone coughing their head off.
Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California
ANTH 333m Spring 2012