Tag Archives: stock phrase

Joke: Saving it for Later

Main Piece: 

Informant: “My grandpa, he had this big bushy moustache and so he would always get food stuck in it. And people would like point it out, like if my mom was like ‘Hey, you have something in your moustache’ he’d be like ‘Hm. Saving it for later.’”


My informant acknowledged that he had heard this as a running joke from other people with thick facial hair. His grandfather was the person that he heard it most consistently from. We agreed that this was predominantly a running joke for older men- a “dad joke” that carried over into grandfatherhood and older. My informant interpreted the joke as a stock response to disarm and make light of the potential embarrassment.


The prevalence of this joke is what piqued my interest with this entry. It’s not an overly clever joke, a story that you can teach another to tell, or overtly based in identity like many widely proliferated jokes are. The greatest potential for meaning came from its folk group, older men with thick facial hair. This is a group united by its masculinity. This joke could be interpreted as a shrugging off of embarrassment, as my informant and I initially thought, that also celebrates the speaker’s masculinity, messiness, and lack of care. 

“Yeki bood, yeki nabood”

My friend Panteha is of Iranian descent on her dad’s side. She recalls a phrase in Farsi that her dad would always use to begin stories or fairy tales he told her as a kid.

The phrase is, in the original Farsi:
یکی بود یکی نبود

It is transliterated as “Yeki bood yeki nabood,” which roughly translates to “once there was one and once there wasn’t one.” This phrase is used in essentially the same manner in which many english speakers use “once upon a time” to begin folk narratives, particularly tales. Although these phrases have different literal translations, they serve the same purpose: to establish the fantastical or fictional nature of a folk narrative.