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.
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.
Text Transcribed from Informant
“Alright, there’s a mother and a daughter, and the daughter goes running to her mother going ‘Mom, mom, there’s some strange man at the door! And her mother goes ‘does he have a bill?’ and the daughter goes (informant chuckles) No, he’s just got a regular nose.”
My informant claims that he heard this particular Irish joke from his grandmother when she was babysitting him as a young boy. My informant says that at the time he didn’t entirely understand it, because he didn’t realize that a duck’s nasal passages was referred to as a “bill.” However, his grandmother later told him the joke again when he was older, and he was able to understand it then. He says that this experience made him remember the joke, and that he sometimes tells it as small get-togethers with friends or at parties.
It’s somewhat strange to try and give an analysis to a simple joke – it sorts of feels like “over explaining” the joke and hence stripping the joke of its humor. But I found this to be rather funny. I thought my informant’s personal anecdote of hearing the joke for the first time and not knowing what a “bill” was almost funnier than the original text itself, but that’s most likely due to the personal connection I have with the informant. Overall though, it does remind me of other short Irish jokes I’ve heard told.
TEXT: “Guatemala a Guatepeor”
INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Female, 42, Mexican
CONTEXT: My friend said this phrase while referring to her old boyfriend and her new boyfriend. She said that she had gone from “Guatemala a Guatepeor”, I laughed and asked what that meant. Although it was kind of self-explanatory. She learned this phrase from her other female Mexican friends. She finds it very funny and useful, when referring to going from bad to worse.
ANALYSIS: There is a hierarchy between Latin countries and certain bias. So the use of Guatemala as if that is a step down (from Mexico) but then a play on words since the end of Guatemala, is “mala” which means bad, and then the change to Guatepeor, where “peor” means worse. Indicating you went from bad to worse while inserting some latin hierarchy bias.
ORIGINAL SCRIPT: “Guatemala a Guatepeor”
TRANSLITERATION: “Goo-ah-teh-mah-lah ah Goo-ah-teh-peh-or”
TRANSLATION: “Guate(bad) to Guate(worse)”
THOUGHTS: I thought this phrase was very funny since I speak Spanish and it is such a fast jab that is both funny and descriptive.
TEXT: “Pelo en la oreja…ni duda deja.”
INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Male, 58, Mexican
CONTEXT: His mother said this Old Age Proverb occasionally, when referring to someone being very old. His mother learned it from her grandparents who used it with each other to poke fun at their old age. It is a well known Mexican saying that is comically but also points out the Life’s Cycle. It can be said in reference to an elderly person that is not listening, pokes fun and is at their expense. It speaks about the fact that elderly people grow hair in their ears.
ORIGINAL SCRIPT: “Pelo en la oreja…ni duda deja.”
TRANSLATION: “hair in the ear, does not leave a doubt”
THOUGHTS: Although this saying is a bit rude, it is also light hearted and not meant to actually insult anyone. I think it is funny and something rare to point out or notice.
TEXT: “Sabias due cuando dios hizo el mundo, decidió hacer un país, y dijo así, ‘ a este país le voy a dar millones de kilómetros de playas con el mar mas bonito y caliente, le voy a dar el 90 por ciento de la plata del mundo, le voy a dar petróleo, oro, el mejor clima, y la belleza natural mas increíble que hay’. Entonces un asistente le pregunta , ‘pero dios, porque le das tanto a ese país Mexico?’ “porque le voy a poner a los Mexicanos al lado de los Gringos.’”
INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Male, 58, Mexican
CONTEXT: This joke is at the expense of Americans but in the context that Mexico lost half of its territory to the US. The joke is to say that God compensated for all the beauty and riches in Mexico by making its neighbor the States. He learned it from his parents, he said it is traditional that parents would tell this joke to their kids when talking about American domination of the world. It is also a joke out of spite, considering Mexico has an economy that lags to the States’ to this day. To him it means that we are subservient to American influence and better joke about it. He likes it because both it reminds him of his childhood and is also historical and witty. Light hearted fun to realpolitiks.
TRANSLATION: “Did you know that when God made the world, he decided to make a country, and he said, ‘to this country I am going to give millions of kilometers of beaches with the most beautiful and warm sea, y am going to give it 90 percent of the silver in the world, I am going to give it petroleum, gold, the best weather, the most incredible natural beauty there is’ and so an assistant asks him, ‘but God, why are you giving so much to this country Mexico?’ ‘Because I am going to put the Mexicans next to the Americans’.”
THOUGHTS: I think this joke is funny to hear as a Mexican-American. I think while it does poke fun it also sheds reverse light on the insecurities and resent of the Mexicans. It is also quite light hearted and seems benign.