Tag Archives: folk speech

A Panda Walks Into a Restaurant…

Main Piece:

CD: So a panda walks into a fancy restaurant. He was decked out. He’s got a nice suit, maybe a fedora. He’s got a violin case in one hand. He sits down at a table, and the waiter comes up to him and says “Sir, what would you like for dinner tonight?” The panda says “I’ll have everything on the menu.” To which the waiter says “Are you sure, sir? I mean, that would cost you an arm and a leg, and no one could possibly eat that much food…” The panda says “I want everything on the menu.” The waiter says “Ok. As you wish.”

The waiter goes back into the kitchen and returns maybe two hours later with every other waiter behind him, carrying plate, after plate, after plate of food. And you can imagine the panda sitting at maybe like an eight person table. He’s got it all to himself. And these waiters come out, and they put every single dish that the restaurant serves on the table in a big circle, and the panda just starts chowing down. He just like goes to town on this food, you know, and he manages to eat ALL of it.

And the waiter comes back—maybe an hour or later after the panda has finished his food. And you know maybe he’s wiping his chin off with a little napkin. Very classy guy. And the waiter says “Wow. I stand corrected. I guess you could eat that much food. But are you ready for the check?” The panda is like “Yeah, sure.” The waiter goes back into the kitchen, comes out with a check. It is $1,422 dollars and 36 cents. The panda says “Yup, I don’t know how I’m gonna handle this.”

He reaches into his violin case, pulls out a machine gun, and he starts shooting up the restaurant! You can image like glasses breaking in half, you know, everybody starts crouching under the tables in fear because this panda is just shooting the entire restaurant up! He fires his entire round, and when he’s done, puts the AK-47 back in the violin case, walks out of the restaurant, without saying another word.

A few minutes later, of course the police show up… Because it was a very violent incident… The head detective says “Aha! Panda.” The waiter says “I didn’t tell you it was a panda! How could you have possibly known that?” To which the detective says “Well here, let me show you.” He goes back out to his car. He comes in with a dictionary, and on the dictionary, he opens it up to the letter P:

Panda. herbivorous bear found mostly in China. Eats chutes and leaves.


A lengthy joke my tired suitemate tells to me and my roommate. Performed late night in a bedroom within Cale & Irani Apartments at the USC Village. He is a Jazz Studies (Trumpet) major in the Thornton School of Music. He heard this joke from his dad, and his been memorizing it since the sixth grade.


This joke is especially interesting to me because of the way it was performed. Even though he was tired, the informant still makes an effort to color the story with humor. I specifically remember him changing his inflection and emphasizing hilarious details (as evidenced by the italics). With such specific details like the amount of the check, it made me wonder if the nature of the joke was ever-changing. The amount is not the same each time. But it doesn’t matter: the way he says the story is more important than what he says. It’s meant to pull you in and get you invested, so that the shootout comes as a complete surprise. All of the comedic elements combined with the long build up really spotlighted the ending punchline. I remember hearing it and being stunned in silence for a good ten seconds thinking “I just sat through this long ass story just for this” before my roommate and I bursted out laughing at the absurdity of it all.

“Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other”

Main Piece:

Me: Can you repeat that? (Silence.)

Roommate: *laughs*

Me: Oh no! SP, can you hear me?

SP: *laughs* It cut out for a second, ‘kay? Yeah, I can hear you guys now.

Me: Can you repeat what the phrase was?

SP: “Six of one, half a dozen of the other.” Which just basically means same difference.

Me: What would you use that for in like— like saying that for?

SP: I often contradict myself, all the time, with my thinking. And I’m a bit of an over thinker—and so I think, sometimes, that phrase can get me out of my rabbit hole when I’m like— I don’t know, thinking too deeply about something…

Me: Got it. And where did you learn this phrase from?

SP: Where did I learn that? I… (She thinks.) Learned it… *whispers* Fuck! I don’t know.

Me: That’s okay!

SP: It was a very common phrase back when my grandparents were young.

Me: Okay, uhm, who would you hear say this? Did your grandparents ever say it to you?

SP: Yeah, my grandfather did… My grandfather on my mom’s side when I was young… like six. And visit them, in the summers.

Me: And do you know why? Like, in what context he would say it?

SP: Usually… when we’re fighting about something. Or like the family is bickering. And it’s like…

Me: Ah, got it. Got it.

SP: “Same difference.” You know?

Me: “Same difference.”


Performed over a FaceTime call. One of my roommates friends, a high school senior. She is in her bedroom in Alameda, California.


This was especially interesting to me because I know the components of what is being said, but I didn’t understand them without the context given by the informant. According to her, this is more popular amongst older generations in America. I thought of it as a practical saying, but hearing how her grandfather used it to settle disputes and pacify family arguments really made it special. I can see why she uses it now in her personal life as a way of anchoring herself to reality and practicing mindfulness, and I’m glad she was able to find an emotional attachment to this piece of family folklore.

“Your mother-in-law loves you” – Arabic Saying


He “heard it from almost everyone [he] knew when [he] was a kid” in Jordan. You would say this “to someone who is lucky enough to show up just in time to share the food of the people he’s visiting.”


Original Script: حماتك بتحبّك

Transliteration: Hamatak but-hibbak

Translation: Your mother-in-law loves you


I did not understand the saying until I realized that the only way for it to make sense was if Arab mothers-in-law rarely like their children-in-law. I find this quite odd, since it goes against the general tendency of Arab families to be tight-knit. After that realization, I was able to connect the saying and its meaning. Generally, Arab families like to eat together, and tend to prepare more than enough food, so if someone is lucky enough to visit someone as they are eating, they are likely to have some with the family. The comparison is that the luck of someone that shows up coincidentally at mealtime is as lucky as one who is loved by their mother-in-law.

“Wipe it on my beard” – Arabic Saying


He heard it a few times when he was a teenager in Jordan. According to him, someone trying to “break up the fight or reconcile the parties” would use this saying to calm the people down.


Original Script: امسحها بلحيتي

Transliteration: Imsa-ha bi lihiti

Translation: Wipe it on my beard


This saying intrigues me because it does not sound like anything meaningful at first, but it starts making some sense when given some thought. The mediator, by telling the two people/groups to “wipe it on [his] beard,” is saying to leave their grievance there with him. When you wipe dirt from your hand onto another surface, the dirt is no longer on your hand, and it stays on the wall. The fact that there is saying for this shows that Arabs, like many people, commonly act as mediators.

“Is there a worm in your butt?” – Arabic Saying


She heard it a lot in her childhood from her aunts when she was in Jordan. If someone is restless, and can’t sit still, they would ask that person, “Fi doodeh bi teezak?”


Original Script: في دودة بطيزك؟

Transliteration: Fi doodeh b-teezak?

Literal Translation: Is there worm in your butt?

Smooth Translation: Is there a worm in your butt?


This was a saying I heard when I was a kid, and I still find it funny to this day; it has the listener imagine someone unable to sit still because of the discomfort of having a worm in their butt. Because that situation would be considered abnormal, and it is being compared to a person who can’t sit still, the saying implies that Arabs see it abnormal for someone to not sit still and rest.