Joke – United States of America

Joseph (10:57:24 PM): ok

Joseph (10:58:03 PM): will smith ordered some food at a korean restaurant. when the waitress asked if he wanted anything else, he replied “i’m getting chigae with it”

Joseph (10:58:20 PM): context it’s performed in…

Joseph (10:58:45 PM): i don’t really know

Joseph (10:58:46 PM): either

Joseph (10:58:54 PM): you say it to koreans who have bad english

Joseph (10:58:58 PM): or koreans who have bad korean

Joseph (10:59:00 PM): lol

Joseph (10:59:07 PM): stuff like that

Me (10:59:09 PM): ok

Joseph (10:59:10 PM): is known as a “fob joke”

Me (10:59:14 PM): alright

Joseph (10:59:21 PM): i first heard it from…

Joseph (10:59:29 PM): i don’t know, i heard it in like elementary school

Me (10:59:33 PM): lol ok

Me (10:59:47 PM): now, is “chigae” pretty accurate, in terms of pronunciation?

Joseph (11:00:38 PM): hmm

Joseph (11:00:42 PM): i guess its more like

Joseph (11:00:44 PM): jji gae

Joseph (11:00:47 PM): like a hard J

Me (11:00:54 PM): ok

Joseph (11:00:54 PM): so that it almost sounds like

Joseph (11:00:55 PM): Ch

Joseph (11:00:57 PM): if you know what i mean

Me (11:01:00 PM): lol

Me (11:01:01 PM): I think so

Me (11:01:09 PM): and what would that word look like in korean?

Joseph (11:02:12 PM): ??

Joseph (11:02:18 PM): unless you can’t read that

Me (11:02:19 PM): ok

Me (11:02:22 PM): no, it shows up on my computer

Joseph (11:02:23 PM): ok

*Bold and underlined text above indicates the joke.

*”Jjigae” (pronounced chee-geh) is the Korean equivalent to the Western stew, often heavily seasoned with chile pepper and served boiling hot.

*The term “fob” is an acronym for “fresh off the boat,” and refers to people who have newly immigrated to the United States.

When Joseph first told me this joke, I didn’t think it was very funny, mainly because I didn’t know what “chigae/jjigae” was. After he explained it to me, the joke made a lot more sense, and I could see how the joke was humorous.

Will Smith, a popular American entertainer, released the song “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” in 1997. So, this joke could not have appeared prior to 1997 (terminus post quem 1997). The joke’s punchline plays on the song title, replacing “jiggy” with “jjigae”; instead of referring to dancing, Will Smith is now indicating that he would like to eat jjigae. This joke is probably very successful in the Korean-American community, where there is some knowledge of popular culture in the United States. The joke would lose its humor if the Korean listeners weren’t familiar with Will Smith, just as I didn’t find the joke funny when I didn’t know what “jjigae” was.

This joke is a good demonstration of how American and Korean culture can blend. It is a nice example of immigrants adopting new culture and adapting their old culture in order for them to align more easily. In order to fully understand the joke, it is necessary to have some knowledge of both American and Korean cultures: American to know who Will Smith is, and Korean to know what “jjigae” is.

It’s interesting that Joseph says this joke is most popular among Koreans who have “bad English” and Koreans who have “bad Korean.” Because the joke has its roots in both cultures, American and Korean, it is easily understood by those who do not feel their language skills in either English or Korean are particularly strong. It’s also interesting that Joseph mentioned this joke’s status as a “fob joke.” For someone who has just immigrated to America, it is probably reassuring to know that not all aspects of the native culture have been lost—certain aspects have found their way into local culture (here, the term “jjigae”). Because of this, it is probably an exciting feeling for immigrants when they feel like they can understand and appreciate a local joke, and through it feel more connected to their new environment.