Joke/Blason Populaire- Singapore

“What do you call Indians in an orange boat?” Answer: “A papaya.”

The informant states that she learned this joke from a friend, when she was probably around 15 years old, while at dinner in an Indian restaurant in Singapore, where she was currently studying. She would tell it to friends when making jokes about Indian people, which she claims commonly occurs since there are “so many” Indians in Singapore. Her opinion of the joke was that “it’s funny and kind of true.”

The joke given above clearly relies for its humor not on an abstract property or stereotype of Indians but on a very basic, phenotypical attribute—their skin tone—which according to the joke, is so dark that they look like the dark seeds of a papaya fruit, which are enclosed by an orange layer (i.e. “the orange boat”). It also seems worth noting that the informant correlated the prevalence of such jokes about Indians with the large presence of that group in the region where the jokes were told. Similar to dead baby jokes, which seem to arise during periods where there is an extraordinary number of births and focus on infants, such as during so-called “baby booms,” the prominence of these sorts of Indian jokes, which seem somewhat mean-spirited like their dead-baby counterparts, may be a counter-reaction by another competing cultural sub-group, or perhaps the dominate culture itself, which feels threatened by the growing presence of the group that is mocked. This trend of portraying “the other” in a negative way, which has undoubtedly characterized the dynamics of the myriad groups of immigrants that have arrived to the “melting pot” of America as well (particularly during the peaks of immigration), thus carries over the frustrations—economic, cultural, or otherwise—of one group with another into the realm of that group’s folklore, which its members share with one another.