Temel and His Corn Flour

About the Informant(s): Informant A and his wife (Informant B) are both from Turkey. They met in college, got married, and then came to the US for graduate school. They are both currently teaching assistants for math.

The Interview:

Informant A: There are like Temel jokes.

Informant B: Oh yeah, yeah.

Informant A: There’s this thing  in Turkey, where people are really smart, but they can be..uh..their minds can be..move around a little bit from time to time. They can be…

Me: Wandering?

Informant A: Yeah, wandering. They are not so careful. They say the silliest things.

Informant B: The jokes start with ‘one day.’ The name of the guy is Temel. One day…haha!

[indistinct chatter, laughter, and awkward silence]

Informant A: I mean, I think [of] one. And then I think of something better.

Me: Are there a lot of jokes like this? With…

Informant A: Yeah yeah. There are like maybe thousands of them. Eighty-percent of them are not so funny.

[more laughter and silence]

Informant A: Okay. I have a dirty one. Not so much.

Me: A what?

Informant A: Nah, it’s not so dirty. Uh. In a region of Turkey, they use corn flour, when they want to cook, special fish and stuff. So one day, Temel, and, when he was going to, I mean, he fell into a deserted island. And he lives there for like five months or something. And then one day, a beautiful girl also washed up on a shore. I mean, she also got lost at sea or something, and then she fell into the island. And she was like: ‘Oh! Here’s something that you have missed so far, I mean you have missed for so long. Several months or whatever. And he (Temel) said: ‘Oh! Did you bring corn wheat? Corn flour?’ It’s because, they love the flour so much that he forgot that there’s a …

Me: He forgot that there’s a what?

Informant A: So she, okay, she says, I mean, ‘you will get something here…[that you have] missed so, for so long. Cause, I know…. Whatever.’ But then he says: ‘Oh, did you bring the corn flour?’

Me: OOH, she’s saying that he wanted to…

Informant A: Exactly.


Me: Okay. So is Temel like a really smart person, but he doesn’t get certain subtexts?

Informant A: Yeah. Exactly.


Informant A: I think these were funnier when we were in high school.


Me: Why do you guys think these jokes are funny? Especially to people in Turkey?

Informant A: I mean, we kind of see people like him all around. That’s one reason.

Me: Would you say that either of you are like Temel?

Informant A: Sometimes? Occasionally.


Background Information/Context: I asked this couple about jokes in Turkey, and both had a hard time coming up with one. After Informant A suggested Temel jokes, they were very excited. But since there are “thousands” of Temel jokes, they had an even harder time coming up with a Temel joke. Informant A finally thinks of a “dirty” Temel joke and tells it to me. It is unknown where he learned it from, probably from childhood or in high school. It seems that Temel jokes are incredibly popular in Turkey. There is a set format–they always start with “one day” and the main character in the joke is always Temel, a guy who is smart but doesn’t understand the implications of what people say. He takes things literally and his funny responses and actions are what make these jokes funny. You never know how Temel might respond to a situation. Apparently, people in Turkey sometimes act like Temel, so Temel jokes are a way for them to make fun of their friends or themselves. This joke specifically is funny because it is assumed that any guy would be hoping for sex having been stranded on an island for months. But Temel isn’t any guy. He didn’t understand what the woman was suggesting and thought of his favorite thing from home — corn flour. Temel’s lack of awareness is what made this joke funny.

My thoughts: Since Informant A was translating the joke from Turkish to English in his head, the delivery of the joke was slower, so I didn’t understand the joke until he explained it to me. But once I understood, I thought it was hilarious as well. I think everyone can relate to this joke because everyone has taken things literally at one point. Even though there is a set format to these jokes, there is a lot of freedom, so it is hard to know what to expect, making the jokes funny while not too repetitive too fast. These jokes are a way for people to make fun of people like Temel as well as a warning for people to not take things so literally.