Tag Archives: folk humor

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.

Hudavaoff kinder

Context: This is a Jewish proverb (spoken in Yiddish). It was said to my father (a fifty-six year old man) growing up, and when he began raising children, he started saying it to us. It is used to treat an otherwise tense situation comedically, a way to blow off steam, and promise their children that one day they will be saying it to their own kids (more as a warning than as actual advice). It is almost always said to the child when they are misbehaving or generally being a nuisance. Children never use the saying, and it is not spoken by people who are not parents or guardians of those children. 

  • Hudavaoff kinder 
    • Transliterated proverb. 
      • Hudavaoff: go raise
      • Kinder: children

Full translation: Go raise children. 

Explanation: When a child is being annoying, disrespectful, or irritating their parents, the parents tell them “go raise children”. Part of the proverb works as an incredulous “Why am I raising these brats?” and the other is “Wait until you have your own children. See how much you like it.” 

Analysis: Hudavaoff kinder works to both let the parents laugh off a situation where their kids are being annoying (this proverb is never spoken in full anger, but rather have annoyance/half incredulity) and lets them tell their children it is time to stop misbehaving before they have to get truly upset with them. On occasions, the parents use the saying to acknowledge that the children are being irritating, but don’t want/need to punish them, and instead use it to laugh along with them. Hudavaoff kinder almost works as a form of delayed revenge; the threat that one day the child is going to become the parent, and they will be the one using the saying on them. As someone who has been on the receiving end of this proverb often, I know it means that I need to dial down whatever I am doing before I get myself in real trouble. However, the threat that one day I will be equally irritated by children of my own has little to no emotional impact. 

Quarantini Recipe

Main Piece: 

Informant- “In my quarantini I like to combine orange juice, vitamin C, and tequila. So the vitamin c and orange juice give great energy and revitalize your immune system. And of course, the tequila kills germs! It’s a great way to relax and cleanse after a day in this quarantine.”

Background: The informant is the mother of three daughters, 54 years old. She lives in Northern California. The quarantine described above is a recipe created by the informant and represents her vision for an alcoholic beverage styled for the quarantine.  The beverage is a fun way to drink alcohol and disguise it as a medicine for the quarantine. 

Context: Here, the informant shares her recipe for a quarantini. I collected the information while watching her make and talk about the quarantini. 

Thoughts: The combination of the word Martini and Quarantine is an interesting way for people to bring some humor to a liminal uncertain time period. This time of quarantine is very liminal, allowing for many new adaptations of folklore. This new phrase ‘quarantini’ is popular because it brings lighthearted humor to an at home bar scenario. This new drink can change from house to house and usually incorporates alcohol, to protect from virus bacteria, and vitamins, to boost immune systems.  Alcohol sales have seen an increase during the quarantine and possibly because everyone is eager to make their own qaurantini folk medicine. 

Why do you have to taste soy paste and shit to tell them apart?


The subject is a college freshman, born in South Korea before moving to the United States when they were 12 years old. I wanted to get to know more about any folklore they might have experienced growing up, so I conducted an interview with them to find out.



Subject: It’s said in a way, like, “You don’t have to taste the soy paste and shit to tell them apart.” I think I’ve told you this already.

Interviewer: Yup I remember this.

Subject: Like soy paste kinda looks like shit, but most people are aware enough, like, we know from afar. But people who are so stupid, or like, people who go the extra mile to be safe. We say, “why do you have to taste shit and soy paste to tell them apart, why can’t you just — why aren’t you smarter?”

Interviewer: So that’s basically what you say to someone when they’re being dumb?

Subject: Yeah, if you’re being stupid, you’re tasting soy paste and shit to tell them apart.



I tried looking up the phrase, however I was unable to find any substantive background to the saying. The subject went on to tell me additional proverbs from Korea that also have to do with food, leading me to believe that the culture may have a great appreciation for it.

While the United States pride themselves on fast meals, a staple of Asian culture is the dining experience. It’s communal and meant to be shared.