Tag Archives: humor

Ethiopian Anecdote – The Lazy Student

Main Piece 

Once there was a boy who did not understand math. His teacher tried teaching him subtraction, but the boy would not understand. So, the teacher explained with an example.

“If I have five sheep,” she asked, “and one of them leaves, how many sheep are left?”

The boy answers, “no sheep will be left.”

The teacher lost her temper and shouted, “How could there be no sheep left?”

The boy answered while crying “I know the sheep’s character! If one goes, all will follow!”


This joke is told to children to teach them about the followers in society and distinguish them from the leaders. 


My informant was born and raised in Ethiopia. He heard this joke from his father. He recalls that this joke was his first exposure to the concept that people can exhibit characteristics of sheep. My informant likes this joke because he comes across many people in his line of work that remind him of this joke.

My Thoughts

This joke is incredibly relevant today, even in the United States. There is much talk of a group of people being “sheep” because they follow the lead of certain celebrities or politicians. This kind of rhetoric is popular because it can apply to both sides of a political spectrum. Two opponents can both claim that the other is a “sheep” for merely believing something different. I also found it interesting that a message such as this was communicated using a classroom setting with children. This suggests that even young children are astute enough to recognize when someone is a sheep, and that it does not take a genius to do so.

The Joke A Dog with No Nose

Informant: It’s a very short joke.

Interviewer: That’s perfectly fine. Just tell it how you know it.

Informant: Okay. A dog with no nose, how does he smell? — Terrible!

Interviewer: You don’t wait for someone to ask how?

Informant: Not usually. Usually everyone knows the punchline so we all say it together.

Informant: Who’s the we? Where did you learn this?

Informant: Well I think I learned it from my father, he was always making silly jokes like that. Everyone learned it so quickly that it’s a bit hard to say. I remember hearing it during a big party at a small house. It must have been a Sunday because Sunday was when you went to see your family. I remember that because it was something everyone used to get hysterical about, everyone would roll about laughing.

Background: The informant believes she first heard this joke from family. She was not sure if she heard it from her father or older brother who was in the army. They were very close so it’s difficult for her to say who came up with it first, or if they heard it from someone else.

Context: I was asking my informant to recount things she remembered from her childhood and she remembered a few songs and this joke specifically.

Thoughts: It appears to be more of an inside joke but every British person I’ve interacted with appears to know it, but they always play along if they’re asked. It is probably incredibly popular because it’s an easy joke for children to remember and is incredibly easy for them to share to other kids.

Finals Week Nude Run

Background:  DL is a man in his early twenties who attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. It is a small school with less than 3,000 students (mostly undergrad). DL is getting degrees in violin performance and gender studies.

Context: “Dead week” is the typically week before finals, where classes are canceled so students can study. It’s usually a time of high tension across a campus, and DL believes the nude run is a way to “destress.” He does not have a clear idea of how the tradition got started or how long it’s been going on. He mostly finds it amusing, but was slightly embarrassed to elaborate on what happens during the annual nude run when I asked him for more information.

Main Piece:

(In the following interview the informant is identified as DL and the interviewer is identified as JS.)

DL: We have a tradition during dead week in the fall semester…it’s a naked run [laughs]. And it starts, starts at the library, at the top floor of the library, where people completely nude in a big pack run from the top floor of the library all the way across campus to, like, the dining hall and go through the dining hall. And it’s probably thirty degrees outside [Fahrenheit] because it’s winter.

JS: What time of day does this take place?

DL: Maybe like 10 or 11 P.M.

JS: And the library’s still open at this point? People take their clothes off there?

DL: Yeah, you go in a robe or something—and like, not everybody goes completely nude but a lot of people do, so it’s not really that…weird?

JS: Have you done it before?

DL: I haven’t, no.

JS: Okay, okay. So you—have you watched people do it, though? Like, you sat out? Do people sit out in lawn chairs and watch it—

DL: No? No. Cuz that would be…

JS: Creepy

DL: Yeah, I feel like everyone has specific etiquette rules. People don’t like sit and watch, but like, if you happen to witness it, then that’s acceptable.

JS: And you’ve “witnessed” it before?

DS: I’ve witnessed it.

JS: Do you have friends that have done it?

DL: Yes, no one I live with has done it, but I have friends that have done it.

JS: And how does the administration feel about it?

DL: They don’t care.

JS: Does a specific person organize it or does a mass text get sent out?

DL: Like, a mass text gets sent out, so everybody knows when it is and on what day, because it’s the same every year.

Thoughts: I’ve heard of similar traditions at other campuses across the country, and I think the nude run practice falls in line with the similar traditions of skinny dipping or walking into public fountains fully clothed. I’d agree with DL’s idea that this a way for students to destress—it’s something that’s so wild and impulsive that it puts the concept of final exams into perspective. There are multiple elements of risk in it, including both the very cold weather and the willingness for people to go nude in public (a technically illegal act). I find it particularly interesting how the administration doesn’t seem to mind that it occurs on a predictable, annual basis, and that certain social codes about how not to be creepy have regulated themselves. People don’t sit around and wait for the nude runners to go by, they just witness it by coincidence—the fact that it’s a big pack of students also makes it somewhat safer to perform. It’s definitely not the kind of thing I myself would participate in, but it’s a pretty hilarious concept all the same.

Playground Taunts

Background: The performer is my college roommate and friend. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Thousand Oaks, California for high school. She is currently in her twenties and attends school at the University of Southern California.

Main Text:

“Brick Wall


Boy you think you got it all

You don’t

I do

So poof with the attitude

Loser, whatever

Flyaway forever

Where’d you go?


Population? You!”

Context: The performer explained that traditionally this taunt was chanted in elementary school, usually from the age ranges of eight to eleven. She explained that most of the time, they chanted it on the back of the bus on the way home from school, usually with friends. She mentioned a social heirachy on the bus, which stemmed from the fact that children were all different ages but lived in the same area, so the third graders, who didn’t like the fourth graders and so on, would chant it back and forth in a playfully “mean” manner. Sometimes it was targeted at a specific person and other people would join in.

Thoughts: Growing up in a different state from the performer, I had not heard this chant before, nor did I ever take a bus to elementary school. Still, I think the chant is amusing, especially looking at how it eases tensions for young children in a way that isn’t violent or truly hurtful. Instead they trade somewhat playful stock insults, which other children are encouraged to join in on. I wonder if there was a standard rebuttal phrase the performer and her friends would use if others sang this at them. The comment about the age-related hierarchy is also interesting, presumably because this sort of chant would only be learned by listening to old kids singing it. In addition to the lyrics, the performer had simple hand motions to accompany the lyrics (“where’d you go”/shrug, “population, you”/pointing at other person).

Llama Song

Background: The performer is my college roommate and friend. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Thousand Oaks, California for high school. She is currently in her twenties and attends school at the University of Southern California.

Main Text:

“Happy llama

Sad llama

Totally rad llama

Super llama

Drama llama

Don’t forget Barack-a-llama”

Context: The llama song was traditionally performed around age eight and stopped around age eleven. The performer cannot recall any particular reasons for starting it up, it was just the sort of thing chanted on the playground when bored. The llama hand motion (ring and middle finger touching thumb and pinky and index pointing up to form a llama head) was essential to performance.

Thoughts: I am familiar with the llama song, despite growing up in a different state than the performer. Her version has slightly different, more appropriate lyrics, despite the rhythm and the hand motions being the same. The part that surprised me the most was the final line “don’t forget Barack-a-llama,” because it specifically dates the song around the year 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected as President of the United States. Contextually, I think that this reference is an interesting measure of what children pay attention to—most elementary school-aged children would not be aware of politics before the 2008 election, but the event was memorable enough that proper nouns stripped of all political or historical meaning would work their way into children’s playground folk culture. The preoccupation with llamas is something else I’ve always wondered about, because I recall other childhood songs and jokes about them. I think it’s a combination of the unique spelling (the double “ll” is not common for English speakers), the inner rhyme of the word “llama,” and the fact that llamas were a rarer animal than, say, dogs or horses. For young children just getting familiar with the English language, the word “llama” is both easy to rhyme and funny to describe, as demonstrated with this song.