Tag Archives: parody

Row Your Boat Parody; Swim Ye Sperm

Informant was a teacher of sixth grade science for several years at a private, US K-12 school in the South.

Swim, swim, swim you sperm
From the testicles
to the epididymis
and onto vas deferens
Snack, snack, snack you sperm
on the sweets galore
From the seminal vesicle
not the grocery store
On, on, on you go
through the donut hole,
the prostate press
shoots you out
It is the great escape! 
(last line preformed as goodness what a mess, but when dictated out loud this was the last line used)
Swim, Swim, Swim Ye Sperm Preformed

Informant created this parody of row, row, row your boat for her sixth grade science classes when they learned the reproductive system. Her goal was to ease some of the awkwardness of the subject of genitals for middle school students by having them sing a silly, goofy song to both help them remember the reproductive system and to normalize the discussion of the topic. The other teacher that taught sixth grade students did not teach their students the song, so it became an identifiable marker of who was or was not in the informant’s class or associated with her. Additionally, because the song was so absurd, students often remembered the informant by this song she taught them.

As the informant’s daughter and with features that bare resemblance to her, I would be approached by random students several times throughout my years at the school she taught at. They would ask “Are you [informant]’s daughter?”, and when I replied that I was, they would explain that they were in her sixth grade science class and still remembered the song she taught them and then they would sing it to me.

The American School System has a long history of lacking when it comes to sexual education. Many students’ sex education can be summed up by the word “abstinence”. Although the private school this song was taught at did not have an extensive or even satisfactory sex education, it did have material covering the reproductive systems of males and females and how they worked individually. The conservative approach to the discussion of sex, sexual organs, and sexuality leads to those subjects being taboo both in school and outside of it. The informant’s use of a well know song to ground the subject in something well known and her parodying it with a subject rarely discussed provide a medium by which her students could comfortably and socially acceptably learn and talk about the reproductive systems that were taboo up until that time in their lives. She would sing the song to them first before they had to do it with her to ease tension and let them know it was okay to say or sing all of those words in her class. The need for such a song is indicative of the long standing taboo treatment of sex.

Barney Parody Song

“Joy to the world, Barney’s dead
We barbecued his head!”

Context: The informant is a junior at USC, originally from Illinois. She told me that children from her elementary school would sing this song to the same tune as “Joy to the World,” and while there’s more to the song, she doesn’t remember it. She hasn’t sung it in a very long time and does remember there being different versions of the song as well. The “Barney” referenced is Barney the purple dinosaur from the children’s show Barney & Friends.

Analysis: From my experience, a lot of elementary schools had parody songs related to violence against Barney, but this was the first I had heard of that wasn’t actually to the tune of the show’s theme song. Regardless, this, as per Jay Mechling’s chapter in Elliott Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres, reflects one of the antithetical categories of children’s folklore: parodies. Violence against Barney is a purposeful subversion of the show’s theme (a theme that starts with “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family”) and, considering Barney was a cornerstone of many childhoods, almost seems to function as a rejection of that childishness. I think that as we grow up, it becomes “cool” to be more like the older kids; it becomes “cool” to associate with more taboo concepts like sex and violence. It becomes “uncool” to continue to believe in the blissfully unrealistic world Barney portrays, or to engage in displays of earnest emotion. Parodying violence against Barney seems to function as a way to divorce oneself from that childishness and start moving more towards adulthood. It reinforces social dynamics between age groups and shames those who still like things deemed as “childish,” defining social norms that persist far beyond childhood.

A Frog, A Bankteller, and A Loan — Long Joke

Context :

W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. Since I was the oldest, W always tried to find ways to one-up me. He still does so. This is a long joke my grandfather told him the other day so he shared it with me.

Text :

“A frog wants to get a loan so he can buy a house. One day, he goes into the bank and approaches the bank teller. She has a name tag that says: Patricia Whack. The frog asks Ms. Whack for a loan, but she refuses him. The frog assures Ms. Whack that he knows the owner of the bank because his father is Mick Jagger, so he will allow the loan. He gives the bank teller a button as collateral. Patricia goes into the bank owner’s office and explains how a frog claiming to be Mick Jagger’s son is asking for a loan. The bank manager asks if he left anything for collateral, and Patricia holds up the button, but she doesn’t know what it is. The bank manager laughs and says, ‘It’s a a knick-knack, Patti Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man’s a rolling stone.'”

Analysis :

Long jokes take long set-ups, and most of the time, they don’t pay off. For this long joke, it takes a whole extra level of knowledge to understand it. My grandfather enjoys telling long jokes because he gets pleasure out of hitting the punchline right on the nose, so it’s no surprise he told this one to my brother. The end of the joke parodies the “This Old Man” song as well as popular culture. If you weren’t familiar with the song or its lyrics, chances are, you wouldn’t understand the joke. Only a small audience will find the joke amusing. Since I grew up hearing that song, I recognized the ending immediately and it made me laugh. If I showed this to a friend who grew up in a different country where the song wasn’t played and Mick Jagger wasn’t a figure in popular culture, the joke would not have been funny to them. It goes to show how jokes work with certain cultures versus others by bringing in aspects that are unique to that said culture.

Violent Barney Song Parody

Main Piece:

(to the tune of the Barney Theme Song)

“I hate you

You hate me

Let’s get together and kill Barney

With a baseball bat and two-by-four

No more purple dinosaur!”

Background: The performer is a friend of mine in his early twenties. He spent his entire childhood in Long Beach, California and now lives in Tacoma, Washington. He went to public school in the Long Beach Unified School District from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and his elementary school (grades kindergarten through fifth) had around five hundred kids in it.

Context: The informant hadn’t sung the song since elementary school, but he was willing to perform it for me anyways. In a traditional context, the Barney spoof would be sung on the blacktop by children ranging from seven or eight years old all the way through elementary school (10 to 11). A remembers learning it from kids a few years older, hence the dark material.  After singing it, A seemed a bit embarrassed and shocked at his parody and asked me why we all had such animosity for Barney in particular.

Thoughts: Though I did not attend the same elementary school as the informant, I can remember similar violent Barney songs. I wonder if the informant’s school had ever tried to ban them the way mine did for their violent and sometimes gory rhetoric. It’s strange how it seems so disturbing now; A and I both thought the songs were very funny as children. I suspect that Barney was a popular target because of his infantilizing dynamic and dopey voice, as opposed to other childhood PBS characters like. Elmo or Dora the Explorer. Anti-Barney humor is actually a well-recognized phenomenon, in both adult and children folk groups alike. For young children, the violent humor can be a way of navigating changing worldviews and increasing maturity—the graphic gore or death taunts are a schoolyard form of taboo humor, a way of rebelling against previously held-notions of childhood and asserting that they are more mature than parents, teachers, and popular children’s shows might regard them.

Guang Hua has 30 floors; a jump solves a thousand troubles.

The informant is a freshman at Fudan University. We were talking about our lives as college students when she brought up this item.

Roman form: Guang Hua san shi lou, yi yue jie qian chou.
Transliteration: Guang Hua thirty floors, a jump solves a thousand troubles.
Full translation: All trouble will be solved if you jump from the top of the 30-story-tall Guanghua Building.

According to my informant, Guanghua Building is 2 strangely tall buildings at Fudan University. They are 30-story tall, while most other buildings are only 4-5 story tall. Facilities in the buildings are mainly offices.
Besides, this is a parody of a Chinese line from an old book called Zeng Guang Wen Xian

Roman form: San bei tong da dao, yi zui jie qian chou.
Transliteraition: 3 cups to big road, a drunk solves a thousand trouble.
Full translation: A few shots of alcohol delight people, while being drunk solves all the trouble.

The original line explained how alcohol kills all the bad mood. In the parodic version, suicide is likened to alcohol, because once you are dead, you wouldn’t need to worry about anything else. As a parody, this item sounds like it should be dealt with seriously, which adds to its funniness. For the students, they are aware of and even empathetic with college students who commit suicide, especially as a result of academic anxiety. By expressing this possible outcome in a funny way, the students find a solution to solve a cognitive disagreement: a) to kill off anxiety in an extreme way; b) to never think about extreme conducts such as committing suicide.