Tag Archives: banana

Midnight Birthday Candle and Banana

Text: “At midnight every year, I blow out a candle, but I save it for midnight Eastern Time, ’cause that was the time that I was born in. And then I also eat a banana at midnight.”


The informant is a student at the University of Southern California studying Political Economy and originally from Minnesota, speaking almost in a hurry and without much emotion resembling nostalgia or fondness.

“Apparently I used to coincidentally eat bananas for the first couple of years of my life, and now it’s just kind of become my little tradition for my birthday. I think it’s when I was a kid, my grandma used to always be a really strong advocate for bananas because she said potassium was good for you. And the night before my birthday I would normally spend the night at her house, just because you know, who doesn’t want to spend the night with their grandma on their birthday. And they just sort of started happening. But when I was a kid, I also didn’t really stay up till midnight for my birthday. So it was normally like, right before I went to bed, right when I woke up. Now it feels like I have to do it because it just kind of reminds me of home, I think. And I think that it’s a nice way for me to just kind of remember my childhood a little.”

Analysis: This tradition is an example of a ritual performed in celebration of a commemoration of a significant event, in this case a birthday. In ritualizing a birthday, an individual life cycle is being celebrated which contributes to the formation of one’s identity. This individual life cycle is being ritualized in a manner that puts it on the calendar cycle. This specific tradition occurs at midnight, ritualizing the liminal or the “in-between” which is often considered to be where the magic happens. In the uncomfortable nature of change, the transition is celebrated to make it more exciting and desirable. The sequence of this tradition is also evidently important as many are in rituals, with the candle first and then the banana.

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”: Knock Knock joke

Original Text:

Informant: “Knock knock.”

Collector: “Who’s there?”

Informant: “Banana.”

Collector: “Banana who?”

Informant: “Banana.”

Collector: “Banana who?”

Informant: “Orange”

Collector: “Orange who?”

Informant: “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?” 

Context: The informant is 18 and a freshman at USC studying Theater and Anthropology. They state that they “learned this on the bus in elementary school”. They would use it to prank their friends and get a good laugh while in between school activities or on the playground. The informant even laughed while telling the joke to me in this current day. 

Analysis: The informant is a white American that went to public school in Barrington, Illinois. Knock Knock jokes are popular in America, specifically with younger children. The typical format goes as follows. The joke teller begins by saying, “Knock knock”, to which the listener responds “Who’s there”. The teller can then say “x” (any word or phrase), and in response, the listener says “x who?”. The teller then delivers the punch line. However, this particular joke is a bit of a trick joke, designed to stump the listener as to why the joke teller keeps saying “banana”. The phrase “Knock Knock” refers to knocking on the door of one’s home, announcing your presence. The practice of knocking is common, but not wholly universal. This joke reveals one proper way to announce your presence in America, as well as the ideal of privacy. The fruits mentioned in the joke (bananas, oranges) are common in American public school lunches, as well as being cultivated often in the Americas. 

I have to go to the bathroom.

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”


“Banana who?”

“I have to go to the bathroom”

This knock knock joke was collected in a second grade classroom in South Los Angeles. The active carrier of this joke was a student in that classroom who heard it from her neighbor while playing one day. After finishing the joke, the entire class burst out in laughter at the nonsensical punchline. It should be noted that the joke told to the class right before had a logical punchline, but did not receive such an enthusiastic response. The less successful joke was “Don’t trust atoms, they make up everything”.

There are a few reasons why this joke received such a great response compared to the one that preceded it. First of all, it was clear that the majority of the young students lacked the scientific background that was required to understand the joke. The bathroom joke did not require the application of any outside knowledge. Second, the unexpected nature of the punchline was worthy of a greater response than a logical joke would, regardless of what it actually was. There is something about being caught off guard that makes any story or joke more worthy of a response. Perhaps the most obvious reason that the knock knock joke was considered to be funnier is the fact that it contains a mention of a bathroom. Bathroom humor is inherently funny to a large portion of the human population, regardless of age.

This joke is a derivation of a classic joke in which the second, third, and fourth lines are repeated as many times as the performer sees fit before replacing “banana” with “orange” and ending with “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana”. The countless versions of this joke are examples of the multiplicity and variation that is characteristic of folklore.

It is important to note that this joke had been passed on from child to child. The student who shared the joke initially heard it from her neighbor while playing. She then shared the humorous passage with her classmates who received it with enthusiasm. This piece of folklore circulates exclusively within groups of children and would not have elicited the same genuine response if performed in front a group of adults.

USC Club Swim Team’s Banana Chant Tradition

Tradition: The Club Swim Team at the University of Southern California always does a chant involving bananas before every swim meet.

The informant is a 20 year old female USC student, who is on the swim team.

Informant: Before every swim meet, we always do this chant with bananas. Everyone on the team holds a banana in their hand, and we all chant:

“Are you ready to go bananas? (Everyone screams)
Peel bananas, peel peel bananas!
Swim bananas, swim swim bananas!
Fight bananas, fight fight bananas!
Win bananas, win win bananas!”

Collector: Why do you guys like to do this chant?

Informant: I think that it it gets everyone excited, and it’s a lot of fun.

Collector: What do you do with the bananas after the chant?

Informant: Most people just eat the bananas after the chant.

Collector: Where did you learn this chant from?

Informant: One of the members on the team taught it to us. He learned it from his swim team before joining our swim team.

I think that the swim team does this chant to get pumped up for their competition. I don’t know why they chose to use a banana, but it reminds me of the idea of ‘going bananas’ (going crazy), in a good way that gets everyone excited. Another reason may be that bananas are a health food and helps relieve muscle cramps for swimming. The words in the chant itself “swim,” “fight,” and “win” are suggestive of what the team wants–to swim, fight, and win the competition.

A juvenile Knock Knock joke involving Bananas

My informant told me the following joke, which she claims to have heard from a six-year old boy:

Informant: Knock knock

Me: Who’s there?

Informant: Banana

Me: Banana who?

Informant: Bannana in your face! Haha


While not as intrinsically complex or cultural revealing as much other folklore, given that my informant heard this joke from a six year old child at an Elementary School, it serves to illustrate the developing humor of adolescents, a difficult test subject to gather information from. Furthermore, given that the informant remembered this joke and still finds it humorous, it shows how sometimes the simplest amusements carry a charm which transcends all age boundaries.