Tag Archives: German Russian

Ole and Lena Joke

Transcribed Text from Informant

So…Ole and Lena go to the ballet…and after a little bit Ole leans over to Lena and whispers ‘why are they dancing on their toes? Couldn’t they have just gotten taller dancers?’”


Ole and Lena jokes represent a canon of humor found in the Upper Midwest region of the United States (Including North Dakota, the birthplace of my informant). All of these jokes generally center around a married couple – Ole and Lena – and can vary dramatically in length. While not true of every single “Ole and Lena” joke, many of these jokes feature sexual innuendos or blue humour.

My informant heard many of these Ole and Lena jokes growing up, both on the playground from other kids, and from her parents and parents’ friends joking around with each other at night. My informant says that she’s particularly fond of this joke, in large part due to how silly Ole’s observation is.

My Analysis

I agree with my informant that this joke is very funny. The sort of silly, “brain-dead” humor is emblematic of a lot of the German-Russian North Dakotan humor. While nothing in the joke itself references the specific cultural practices of German-Russians, the humor itself serves as a beacon of the folk humor popular within these North Dakotan communities.

North Dakotan German-Russian Childhood Folk Song – “Oh Playmate”

Transcribed Lyrics Sung by Informant

Oh playmate, come out and play with me

And bring your dollies three

Climb up my apple tree

Chuck down my rain barrel

Slide down my cellar door

And we’ll be jolly friends

Forever more

Say, Say, oh playmate

I cannot play with you

My dolly’s got the flu


Ain’t got no rain barrel

Ain’t got no cellar door

But we’ll be jolly friends

Forever more, more, more, more, more


Informant recalls that she learned this song from fellow classmates at recess during her elementary school years in North Dakota. She would sing this song with friends and classmates, and also alone, “if I were doing chores or whatever” she mused. “I don’t really know to interpret the song…it’s just a little jingle about friendship I guess…I think the melody’s the more important part of it.”

My Analysis

I agree with the informant that the melody is very strong and catchy, and probably the reason why the song’s remained a part of the German-Russian North Dakotan folklore. It reminds me a lot of songs I would sing on the playground as a kid, which I think speaks to the universality of childhood songs, even if the melodies and lyrical content are different across cultures.