Tag Archives: jokes

Creative Insults

“Take a long walk down a short pier.”

“Go piss up a rope.”

This person grew up hearing his grandmother constantly say these insults to those who inconvenience her. From this, his whole family began to say these to others as well, and even he still says them to this day. Each time he says one, he immediately thinks of his grandmother and her Irish Catholic background. It also emphasizes that she has a strong connection to her Boston background because of the blunt style this language is often associated with.

While these insults can seem harsh, the relationship that this person, and his family, has to them show a strong familial connection and importance in his life. Like most folklore, these insults were passed down essentially as familial tradition as they had an obvious influence in shaping the communication style (insulting) that the family members gradually took up and will most likely continue to use, passing them on to others in their lives. Furthermore, folklore is often seen as having oral traditions, as much of it is told throughout history by word of mouth, being passed down generations and from community to community, just as these insults have done. Additionally, the insults the grandmother uses represents her cultural identity, likely coming from her upbringing and environment living in Boston and being an Irish Catholic. Through these verbal insults, she is able to share this identity and transmit these elements of herself to others, exhibiting common folklore themes of generational sharing, word of mouth, and cultural adaptations. Finally, when I was told about this piece of folklore in this person’s life, I too had heard these insults as I also grew up in Boston, and it brought back many memories that I have with my own friends and family surrounding these phrases!

Good Enough For Government Work

Text: “Good enough for government work” (folk speech/proverb)


G is my father, who was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, who now lives in Salem, VA. His family owned a lot of farmland and they didn’t quite live in Richmond, but about 25 minutes outside of the city. It was pretty rural, definitely not suburban, but there were a few neighbors every once in awhile. He has many many pieces of folklore that he says, he has heard people say, and he has from books or movies, in my family he is pretty much known to have a proverb or saying for everything.

G- “I have done a job, be it raking leaves, or cutting grass, or painting a big round table, where I did the best job I could do but it could never be perfectly done and when I finished the job, I say ‘that’s good enough for government work’, meaning if it had been inspected by a government official, they would sign off on the work being done and complete.”

Interviewer – And where did you first learn of it, or if you don’t remember, have you heard anyone else ever use it?

G- “I learned it from my father, but I have heard many people use it.”


The phrase “Good enough for government work” is a colloquial expression often used to suggest that a task or job has been completed adequately but not necessarily perfectly. It implies a level of acceptable or sufficient performance, often in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. When researching where it cane from, the origin of the saying is not precisely known, but it has become a common part of American English, particularly in informal settings. In my interpretation it is somewhat of a criticism or social commentary of the government and the checks that go into things It has evolved into a broader expression acknowledging that achieving perfection in certain situations may not be practical or necessary. It can be used humorously or pragmatically to convey a sense of meeting a standard without excessive attention to detail.

Bless Your Heart

Text: “Bless your Heart” (folk speech/saying)


G is my father, who was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, who now lives in Salem, VA. His family owned a lot of farmland and they didn’t quite live in Richmond, but about 25 minutes outside of the city. It was pretty rural, definitely not suburban, but there were a few neighbors every once in awhile. He has so many sayings and comebacks and jokes that I have heard my entire life I don’t even know where to begin on asking him about a piece of folklore, but when I asked this is the first one he came up with.

G- “Okay I’ve got one. In my experience, the old saying of ‘bless your heart’ is a kind way of saying to, or about, someone that you are a moron (chuckles)”

Interviewer- When have you experienced this piece of folklore before?”

G- “This is a saying that a good friend of my wife has used in conversations about a mutual acquaintance and her apparent ineptitude. It is used as a way to not openly criticize someone but everyone in the conversation understands the use of it. It is, as kids today would say, a polite way to ‘burn’ someone.”


“Bless your heart” is a versatile Southern American expression that can carry varying shades of meaning. It is commonly employed as a genuine expression of sympathy or good wishes, especially in response to someone sharing a challenge or difficulty. However, its interpretation can shift based on the tone and context. In a positive light, it conveys understanding and support. Yet, when accompanied by a certain tone, it may carry undertones of condescension or pity, subtly addressing someone’s perceived shortcomings. The phrase is known for its ability to navigate between sincerity and subtlety, making it a nuanced part of Southern folk speech. In my experience ‘bless your heart’ or ’bless her/his heart’ has been in a condescending manner in an almost passive aggressive way.

Country as Cowshit

Text: (Folk Simile/Colloquialism)

“Country as Cowshit”


T is my mother who lives T heard this from neighbor/friend who lived and grew up deep in the Appalachian Mountains. She lives in Salem, Virginia, but grew up all around the country traveling with her family as her father’s job took them to new locations often. She has lots of folklore experiences from her own family to ones she has heard while traveling and those from the friends she surrounds herself with. She decided to share this simile/colloquialism when I asked for a piece of folklore she has heard a lot.

T- “When someone is describing someone they can’t understand because they talk so country they’ll saw they’re Country as Cow Shit.”

Interviewer- Which means they are from so far out in the country that you can hardly understand what they are saying, like they have a really deep accent?

T- “That’s what country as cow shit means, it means they talk like a hick, yeah, just really hard to understand them, they’re just very country.”

T told a story she was told by her friend who she heard it from. T said that he would talk to his wife and call her name and his wife would call his name back, and no one else knew what their names were because they couldn’t understand what they were saying. He would call her and people thought her name was “Janey” and people thought that his name was “Mack” (neither names are their actual names).


In my interpretation this can be seen as something that is silly and said lightheartedly back and forth to one another, or it could come off as an insult to a group of people. I have heard this expression myself before, and in most cases it is other people who are country (but not as country) have said this either about someone or right in front of them. When looking it up, it seems to actually be the title of a country song, on Spotify and Apple Music. The word “cowshit” is similar, but not as popular in my experience as “horseshit” or “bullshit”, both of which are usually used when calling someone’s bluff. The word is described in Green’s Dictionary of Slang as an unpopular person, or nonsense/rubbish. I think the second definition fits best, at least in this saying, as it is saying that the way speak is as country as nonsense.

“Where does the Ocean Lay to Sleep?” Joke


The informant’s demeanor was theatrical, adding to the comedy of the situation. It was overly fanciful, which made it evident that the joke they were planning to tell was something rather simple in structure and recitation.

“Where does the ocean lay to sleep?” they asked, prompting me for a response of some sort.

“Where?” I asked.

They grinned, genuinely a bit proud. “On the seabed.”


They stated that they hate the piece, but it happened to be the first joke that came to mind when they searched their brain for jokes that they knew. They wanted to tell another joke, but simply couldn’t think of one.

The informant found the joke out-of-place in a “knock-knock” joke book they owned as a child.

They interpret the joke as a play on words. Specifically, they said “My interpretation of the joke is that it’s funny because the ‘seabed’ is obviously the floor of the sea… so where the ocean sleeps– well the ocean doesn’t sleep– which is, you know, it’s interesting and it’s fun to imagine: if it did sleep, where would it sleep? Naturally, on the seabed which is also a play on the English word of where we usually sleep: bed.”


The joke is effective due to its play on words specifically in conjunction with the English language. It’s simple and easy to understand for an English speaker as a joke that places emphasis on having a double meaning. The joke personifies an inanimate object– the ocean– to provoke the audience’s imagination without immediately giving away the answer. The resulting punchline is easy to understand and is thus satisfying for the audience. “Seabed” is a rudimentary word in the English language that works in fulfilling the audience’s active imagination as they picture a personified ocean sleeping on the ocean floor.