Tag Archives: Stubbornness

Dog on a Nail Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 48
Occupation: Sales Associate
Residence: Salinas CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 18, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (MH).

CB: “What’s the joke?”

MH: “So there’s this little old house. And sitting in front of this little old house is an old man in a rocking chair and a dog laying out on the porch. And that dog laid in the same exact spot on the porch all day, everyday. So one day the old man had a friend over, and he’s sitting there on the porch and they’re drinking their beers in the afternoon, and the dog is laying there next to them. But the whole time that the dog is laying there he’s moaning and moaning like he’s in pain.

And the friend goes ‘Well what’s wrong with your dog, he sounds like he’s in pain?’

And the old man goes ‘He’s laying on a nail.’

And the friend goes, ‘Well why doesn’t he move?’

And the old man says ‘It doesn’t hurt bad enough yet’”

CB: “What does it mean to you?”

MH: “I think it means… I think it shows how much tolerance you can have when you’re that stubborn.”

CB: “Why do you think it’s important to share the joke?”

MH: “Because it’s stupid to lay on a nail.” [laughs]

Background:

My informant is known in our family for his jokes, and most of the family can repeat them by memory.  In our family, this joke has become heavily associated with him, and can be referenced with just one sentence. My informant’s telling of this joke is often thought to be ironic by our family, as he is known for his stubbornness. This joke is different from most of his other jokes because it has such a clear moral. For this reason, the joke is often uses in our family to make a certain point.

Context:

I called my informant on their way home from work to ask about this joke that I had heard him tell many times before. Our conversation was light and casual as we laughed about the joke.

Thoughts:

This joke is less amusing, as it is a lesson. As my informant says “its stupid to lay on a nail”. The dog is putting himself in pain for no other reason than his own stubbornness. Our family has long since laughed at the irony of the most stubborn member of the family telling the joke, however I think that it’s telling of a larger tradition in folklore. He likely tells the joke because he can personally identify with it, and wants to warn his family against repeating his mistakes. The joke is often specifically targeted at the younger generation in the family, and is referenced when someone is acting particularly hard-headed. In this way, the joke functions more as a warning, than as a source of amusement.

For another variation of this joke see Celestine Chua’s article “The Howling Dog Story” published in Personal Excellence. https://personalexcellence.co/blog/howling-dog-story/

Mullah Nasreddin and Growing Older

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Iranian-American
Age: 78
Occupation: Retired
Residence: La Canada, CA, USA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 12, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Persian/Farsi

“Okay, umm… I’m gonna tell you about the Mullah Nasreddin. He was a wi- wiseguy, and he was always say things that sound like stupid, but really it had a lot of meaning. Uhh… Mullah Nasreddin, umm… he… one day he was walking in the street, and the guy, friend, came and he says, ‘How old are you, Mullah?’

And Mullah says that, ‘I’m 40 years old.’

‘Oh, okay. I thought you told me that 10 years ago you’re 40 years old. What happened, you’re not getting old… older?’

He says, ‘No, even if you come hundred years from now ask me, I’m still gonna be 40 years old.’

And he says, ‘Why?

He says, ‘Because a man doesn’t change his mind. He is always what he says and what he’s gonna be.’

So, umm… Gonna tell you the Farsi. [Tells story in Farsi].

So, is just telling about how stubborn mens are [laughs].”

Analysis: Mullah Nasreddin stories are very common in Persian culture because they are a humorous way to impart life lessons, especially on children. Mullah was famous for playing the fool, but always having a bit of hidden meaning or wisdom in what he was saying or doing, as is present here. This story comments on how pointlessly stubborn many people can be, to the point of ignoring facts, and how humorously childish it is to do so rather than embrace reality.