Tag Archives: anecdote

Ethiopian Anecdote – The Lazy Student

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Once there was a boy who did not understand math. His teacher tried teaching him subtraction, but the boy would not understand. So, the teacher explained with an example.

“If I have five sheep,” she asked, “and one of them leaves, how many sheep are left?”

The boy answers, “no sheep will be left.”

The teacher lost her temper and shouted, “How could there be no sheep left?”

The boy answered while crying “I know the sheep’s character! If one goes, all will follow!”


This joke is told to children to teach them about the followers in society and distinguish them from the leaders. 


My informant was born and raised in Ethiopia. He heard this joke from his father. He recalls that this joke was his first exposure to the concept that people can exhibit characteristics of sheep. My informant likes this joke because he comes across many people in his line of work that remind him of this joke.

My Thoughts

This joke is incredibly relevant today, even in the United States. There is much talk of a group of people being “sheep” because they follow the lead of certain celebrities or politicians. This kind of rhetoric is popular because it can apply to both sides of a political spectrum. Two opponents can both claim that the other is a “sheep” for merely believing something different. I also found it interesting that a message such as this was communicated using a classroom setting with children. This suggests that even young children are astute enough to recognize when someone is a sheep, and that it does not take a genius to do so.

Ethiopian Tale – Three Deaf People

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There was once a deaf farmer, who grew wheat on his farm. One day, as he was plowing wheat, he was approached by a deaf woman. Neither one knew that the other was deaf. 

“Excuse me,” the deaf woman asked him, “I have lost my sheep. Do you know where they went?”

“I’m farming wheat over here. My field ends over there,” the deaf man answered, pointing his finger to the end of his field. 

The woman follows his pointed finger and, luckily, she finds her sheep. To express her gratitude to the man, she offers him one of her sheep that has a broken leg. 

“Take this sheep in return, the leg is broken,” she says.

The man answers, “why do you interrupt my work once more? I am farming.”

The woman thought he asked for another sheep, but she refused another and insisted on giving him only the one with a broken leg. The two quarreled some more and decided to go to court to settle their dispute. Unbeknownst to them both, the judge was also deaf. 

After listening to, but not hearing, both of their disputes, the judge told the man, “the baby on the woman’s back is your son because he looks just like you.”


This joke is told in a casual setting, but not near deaf people present, so as not to alienate them from the group setting. This joke is told to convey the message that hearing is not the same as listening. 


My informant was born and raised in Ethiopia. He remembers hearing this joke from a friend. He explained that it is memorable because it made him laugh. He explained that the joke is not meant to ridicule deaf people, but to emphasize how important it is to listen to, not just to hear, people when they speak. 

My Thoughts

When I first heard this joke, I laughed as well. I can see why my informant said this was one of his favorite jokes. I think the moral of the joke is relevant, and its meaning can be understood by those outside of the Ethiopian community. The joke emphasizes the importance of listening to someone, and draws a distinction between listening and hearing. I noticed that the judge is a common recurring character in Ethiopian stories. The judge is commonly depicted as simple-minded, ignorant, and unfair. This suggests that those in power, like the judge, may not always be the smartest in most qualified people. In other words, just because someone holds a position in society, does not mean that person is worthy of that position.