Tag Archives: wordplay

Yusheng

Description: It is the tossing of fish salad done during the New Years. People would circle around with chopsticks in hand. Then they would throw the salad as high as they are able, the higher meaning better fortune for the next year and having your wishes come true. The fish is the most important part due to the pun of the Chinese word for fish sounding like the word for abundance.

Background: It is something commonly done within her household. I was able to observe this ritual when we did it with a group of friends.

Procedure:

The salad is prepared with sauces, assorted vegetables and most importantly fish. The dish will then be presented on a table where people would gather. Each participant will be equipped with a pair of chopsticks. When the ritual begins, each participant will toss the contents as high as they can while saying their wishes. The duration of the ritual varies. At the end, the salad is consumed like a normal meal.

My thoughts:

In terms of cuisine, the salad is delicious. While the tossing does tend to make a mess, the sense of community and energy it brings is well worth it. There are many elements of this tradition that I believe are very neat. One thing is the origin of the tradition. It is mainly practiced by people who are ethnically Chinese living in Singapore or Malaysian. Most of the wordplay originated from the Chinese language, the fish signifying abundance is well known to any one who is Chinese. This tradition creates a branching and unique identity that separates itself from the traditions of the mainland and Taiwan. Food is commonly seen as something that brings people together; sharing food is often a bonding experience especially with home made cuisine. The community aspect is especially true for those in Malaysia, where ethnically Chinese people are part of the minority.

B’s in My Bonnet Tongue Twister

Background:

My informant for this tongue twister is a friend’s grandfather. Since its conception, my informant has continued to tell and retell the mouthful of a twister to friends and family. This has led it to be changed and added to with each retelling, subsequently causing different listeners to learn different versions of it.

Context:

When he was a young child, my informant was walking around his backyard looking for his blue, toy boat to use in their pool. When he asked his sister where it was, she replied “what blue boat?” He then said “my bright blue boat.” “Your bright blue boogaloo boat?” “My bright blue beautiful boogaloo boat!” And so the tongue twister was born.

Main Piece:

“Bidding belligerently, Buffalo Bill bought Buster Burnett’s bright, blue, beautiful, boogaloo boat by Bobby Bridget’s black bungalow before bewildering Barbara Bennett’s big, buxom bunny by bouncing backwards blindfolded bearing Betsy Barnaby’s Big Boy Bonus Burger bedecked by Bart’s buttered barley buns.”

Analysis:

When my informant first told me of the tongue twister that he created, I wavered on whether or not it should be added to USC’s folklore library as it seemed to only apply to him. I thought this until he told me just how long he’s been working on developing the sentence, and how many people have ended up memorizing it. Additionally, my informant noted that a number of his friends and family have helped him add to the original tongue twister, each memorizing different versions and passing those to their own friends and family. While it can be very difficult to determine the source of any piece of folklore, “B’s in my Bonnet” is a clear and insightful demonstration of how a piece of knowledge or lore disseminates from one person to many, changing form over time and with each retelling.

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.

Los Melones de Tapachula

My informant is a 48 year old pediatric oncologist at Stanford University. He is bilingual, binational and bicultural, born to a white American father and a Mexican mother. He grew up in both places but spent his formative adolescent years in Mexico City, where he learned this joke from a high school friend. He cracks up every time he performs this joke, which is often.

The joke in Spanish goes like this: “No es lo mismo los melones de Tapachula que tapate los melones chula.”

The literal translation is: “It’s not the same the melons of Tapachula as cover your melons cutie”.

This is a semi-dirty joke that employs wordplay, and is one of many “no es lo mismo” (“it’s not the same thing”) jokes. These jokes play with the sounds of a phrase and mix them up to make them something very different, as with this joke, which switches from the tame concept of melons from a certain town called Tapachula to a crude way of telling a attractive woman to cover up her breasts.

I love this piece and think it’s pretty funny, especially because the informant (my father) always laughs harder at it than anyone he tells it to. As a semi-dirty joke, it’s somewhat of a light taboo for him to break, especially in terms of telling this kind of joke in front of kids, so he gets a kick out of it every time he can perform it.

Donkey wordplay joke

My informant is my cousin, a 9 year old boy born and raised in Mexico City to a half-white, half-Mexican mother and a Mexican father. He has an impressive repertoire of jokes that he knows, and impresses and cracks up the family every time he tells them, usually over the traditional Mexican mid-afternoon meal, which is the heaviest meal of the day and is typically eaten with family or friends, the same way dinner is here. He is very popular in school, probably in part because of his sense of humor as well as his natural charm.

This joke was performed over “comida” as the mid-afternoon meal is called, during an hour-long family-wide exchange of jokes. He learned this joke at school.

“Como haces que un burro se haga burra? Lo metes en un cuarto oscuro para que se aburra.”

Transliteration: How do you make a [male] donkey into a [female] donkey? You put him in a dark room so that he gets bored.

The word for female donkey in Spanish is “burra,” while “se aburra” means “[he] gets bored”, so it’s a classic and funny example of wordplay common among children. In fact, most of his jokes are wordplay, which is classic among children, especially as they are gradually learning the nuances and double meanings of a language, and particularly interesting as he is semi-bilingual due to his mom teaching English to him in the home.