Tag Archives: children’s joke

Icup Joke

Text: “Spell Icup”

Context: I guess I use it with friends to say “gotcha.” I probably learned it on the playground in the first grade or so from another kid saying it to me. The goal is to get someone to say “I see you pee” and then you can kinda laugh at them. I don’t really use it anymore just when I was a kid. I guess it’s kinda funny in a stupid way. If I ever used it now it would be ironic not really an actual joke.

Analysis: This phrase is an example of a catch/practical joke or “dupe.” It is an innocent and unassuming way to be able to laugh at someone and somewhat insult them without being subject to criticism for being rude. This joke also coincides with Freud’s Theory of Humor which claims humor begins with repression, where people must “swallow” emotions such as aggression or sexuality because they are not socially acceptable. Repression is followed by sublimation where people release this repressed energy often through humor because joking about these things is seen as more acceptable. This specific joke is possibly an example of sublimating repressed anger or insecurity towards someone else through insulting them or embarrassing them.

Dumb Joke Turned Rivalry

J is a freshman studying Journalism at University of Southern California but grew up in Maryland.

J: “‘I could prove you’re dumb.’
And I was like ‘How?’
And he was like ‘Do you wanna play a game?’
And I’m like ‘Sure.’
And he says ‘Sure. Just remember everything I said. So what’s the color of the sky?’
I was like ‘blue.’
‘What’s the color of the grass?’
‘What’s one plus one?’
‘What’s the first question I asked?’
And I would say ‘What’s the color of the sky?’ ’cause I thought that was the first question he asked. But, he was like ‘No.’ It’s ‘Did you wanna play a game?'”

“So I play this with my cousin during childhood. He’s like a boy, so we always had this gendered rivalry almost…and so, that was his way to prove that I was dumber than him because I fell for his trick. But basically, it just became a lighthearted thing where even after I knew the joke, we would still repeat it to each other just for fun. And I started doing this to a bunch of people, like my friends, and I would feel this satisfaction when they also fell for it ’cause it’s just like a little joke and it’s so easy to fool people with it.”

This joke is a practical joke, where it is played on the unassuming and clueless audience. It also serves as an initiation into the know, wherein after the audience hears it once, they can then play it on other people and the cycle repeats itself, inadvertently spreading the joke as folklore. This joke is lighthearted and there is no inherent deeper meaning behind the so-called “testing of intelligence” rather than just finding humor in a harmless mistake. However, in certain situations, this joke can easily become volatile. It uses logic and the lack of attention span as reasoning for intelligence, making the listener easily frustrated. As J talks about this in context, she says how this joke helped spur on a gender battle between her and her cousin. Practical jokes create temporary rivalries or tensions between groups. These tensions are relieved in the punchline, but require that initial stupidity to let the humor hit, which can easily offend. What’s important about these jokes is the atmosphere and context in which they are told to avoid anger or offense.

Break your Mom’s Back

Main Piece:

B: People would say, “if you step on that crack then you’ll break your mom’s back.” 

Me: Who did you learn that from?

B: A classmate. One time we were walking out to recess and there’s like a crack in the concrete. And so he told me (laughing) that if you step on that crack then you’ll break your mom’s back. And then I just stepped on the crack (laughs). And then I was like- “are you sure about that,” (laughs). 

Me: You did it on purpose?

B: Yeah because I didn’t believe them, cause it was fake. So then I was like “what are you gonna do about it” (laughing). 

Me: Did other kids believe it?

B: No.


My informant is my cousin’s 10-year-old son, who is in the fourth grade. He lives in a suburban neighborhood near Des Moines, which is the capital of Iowa. He goes to a public elementary school in his district, where he first heard this superstition in first grade. He finds this superstition silly as if it could never be believable. He laughs often in this telling, showing that this superstition is rather a funny story to him.


This is a transcript of our conversation over the phone. Lately, he has been telling me stories about what goes on during school, though this conversation was prompted specifically for this collection project. He brought this up on his own.


This superstition was something that I also heard in elementary school. I similarly went to a public school, not too far away from his in the capital (Des Moines). When I was told this, it was also in a playful manner as his re-telling of the superstition suggests. It’s interesting that children find humor in a superstition that sounds rather brutal; a situation where you could be the cause of a potentially debilitating and painful injury to your mother. This act of poking fun at a brutal hypothetical then points to how children often find humor in being anti-hegemonic, where the mother in the situation is the authoritative figure in a child’s life. How a child reacts and perceives this superstition, whether it be humorous like my informant, or fearful, can speak to how a child views the authority of their parent. 

Boy Named Butt Itches (Children’s Joke)

[The subject is CB. Her words are bolded, mine are not.]

Context: CB is one of my friends, and a sophomore student in college. Both of her parents are lawyers in the military, so she was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has also lived in Germany, Kansas, and Oregon. The following is a joke that she heard from a friend around third grade, but has remembered to this day.

CB: Um, there’s a boy named Butt Itches. And his mom named him Butt Itches, yeah. And, uh, he’s about to start school, and he goes to school for the first day, and his teacher’s like, “What’s your name?” And he’s like, “My name is Butt Itches.” And the teacher’s like, “That’s not really your name, like, that’s a fake name,” and he’s like, “No, really, that’s my name.” And she’s like, “You know what, if you don’t tell me your real name, I’m going to send you to the principal’s office,” and he’s like, “No, my name is Butt Itches,” and she’s like, “Go to the principal’s office.”

So, then he goes to the principal, and the principal’s like, “What’s your name?” And he’s like, “My name’s Butt Itches.” And, um, the principal’s like, “No way is that your name, like, tell me your real name,” and, uh, he’s like, “No, really, my name is Butt Itches.” And the principal says, “Okay. If you don’t tell me your real name, I’m gonna call the police.” And, um, he’s like, “My name’s Butt Itches,” and so he calls the police, and the police come, and they hold a gun up to him. And they’re like, “Tell me your name!” and he’s like, “My name’s Butt Itches!” And they’re like, “That’s not your real name! Tell me your name!” And, uh, he says, “No, my name’s really Butt Itches,” and they say, they say, “If you don’t tell me your name, we’re gonna shoot you,” and he’s like, “My name’s Butt Itches,” so they shoot him, and he dies, and right at that moment, his mom is walking by, and she runs up to him and she says, “Oh, my poor Butt Itches!” And the police officer says, “Would you like me to scratch it for you?”

Thoughts: This joke is very clearly a children’s joke, and one of the most obvious signs of this is that it uses tabooistic vocabulary, which is popular in children’s folklore. Beyond that, though, it reveals more about how children look at the world: the antagonists in the joke are all authority figures, and the child, who is the protagonist, is not really doing anything wrong by telling them his name, but he is punished by them anyway, which is how children may feel when they are punished. It also displays a childlike idea of how levels of authority work in society, with the teacher ranking under the principal, who ranks under the police, which are the ultimate authority because they have the power to punish children the most severely, which, in a child’s mind, would be by killing them. The punchline of the joke is also a kind of dirty tabooistic humor which would understandably make the joke more enjoyable for children, and in addition to all this, I can tell that the joke is from a Western culture because it is told in three levels, with Butt Itches having to defend himself to three different audiences before something happens.

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.