Plane dead

Q: Ok so do you have the joke or riddle or what is it.

R: Its a riddle

Q: Wait so where did you hear it?

R: I heard it in Southern California at a summer Camp I was at

Q: ok so what is the riddle

R: Ok so there is a cabin in the woods and there are 26 people dead inside. There are no track coming or going from te cabin, what happened?

Q: Um maybe it snowed and the snow melted

R: No

Q: Was it an accident or were they murdered

R: It was an accident

Q: They were there a long time

R: Maybe but that doesnt matter 

Q: I dont know, what happened

R: It was the cabin of a plane and they died in a crash

Context: As the informant said this was collected at summer camp at middle school age in southern California. 

Analysis: This joke definitely came into being after the invention of airplanes and so post 1903 for sure although most likely further after that. As well, this is a joke that makes me think immediately about the genre of dark humor. This is something discussed in great detail in Peter Narvaez in his book Of Corpse. His analysis of the timeline of when it is appropriate to tell a joke like this is interesting to me as I know someone who’s father died in a plane accident and would be highly offended if they heard this joke. On the other hand I know people like Pete Davidson who gets jokes made about his father dying on 9/11 and laughs along. In this regard it would seem to be a personal thing and how each individual deals with trauma.

99 little bugs in the code

“99 little bugs in the code, 

99 little bugs… 

Take one down, 

patch it around, 127 bugs in the code!”

Genre: joke/song

Source: 20 year old USC student majoring in computer science

Context: The student doesn’t remember exactly when she learned this tune, but says it is the coders’ take on the classic “99 bottles of beer” song. 

Analysis: In this adapted version, the number of bugs increases many instead of going down by one classically. The student explains this is the focus of the joke, because the patching of an error frequently leads to the creation of more “bugs” in the code. Where the traditional version of this song is normally heard during monotonous tasks, or when killing excess time. In this 21st century rendition, the song achieves the same purposes, as fixing code is often a seemingly endless and time intensive process. 

Potato, Potato

“Potato, potato” (po-tay-to, po-tah-to)

Genre: modern proverb/idiom

Context/Source: An early childhood memory signified by his (26 year old man) initial confusion with the meaning of the sentiment. 

Analysis: The simplicity of this two-word sentiment confounds it’s meaning. Hearing it for the first time as a young child, the source wondered if there were two names for the same vegetable, or two vegetables with the same name. Over the course of a few weeks he speculated that maybe it was various regional accents that caused the discrepancy in pronunciation, or maybe there was no single way to pronounce it. The more you think about it… potato potato, tomato, tomato, the more the meaning is obscured, the less distinguishable the words become. It shows there’s more than one way for individuals to arrive at the same idea. Though playful, it embodies that, despite language and culture, a potato is a potatoe. 

After further research, I found the idiom seems to be derived from the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, written for the film Shall We Dance, released in 1937.

Lithuanian Knock Knock Joke (Pun)


Speaker 1: Tuk Tuk

Speaker 2: Kas ten?

Speaker 1: Česnakas 


Speaker 1: Knock Knock 

Speaker 2: Who’s there?

Speaker 1: Garlic


IZ is a 20 year-old college student from Lisle, Illinois, living in Los Angeles, California. Both her parents’ families immigrated to the United States during World War II and remain connected to their Lithuanian roots through strong immigrant communities in the US.

IZ described this joke as a “Lithuanian take on American knock-knock jokes.” The punchline comes as a pun that requires an understanding of Lithuanian. “The ‘who’ is omitted because it’s part of the word for garlic,” IZ explained. “See how ‘kas’ and the end of ‘česnakas’ are the same?”

IZ first encountered this joke at Camp Dainava, a Lithuanian camp in Manchester, Michigan, which she has been attending “ever since I was in my mom’s stomach.” They would often sit around a bonfire — here IZ emphasized the importance of bonfires in Lithuanian culture — and share jokes and skits. For IZ, the camp provided a way to bond with other people of Lithuanian background, and share language, culture, and folklore.

IZ added that the camp was founded by an organization with the aim of helping Lithuania declare independence by getting American international recognition.


This is a classic example of a knock knock joke as it is found in many cultures and languages around the world. It is interesting that IZ sees it as a take on American culture, since, in true folklore fashion, determining the origin of a joke style is more complicated.

It is notable that this joke was shared in a multilingual setting at IZ’s Lithuanian Camp, since it requires knowledge of the language to understand its pun. This type of folklore, as it is shared around the bonfire, would be the most difficult to understand if someone had limited knowledge of the language. Skits and other more performative jokes could be grasped through context, but this one is purely linguistic. Thus it may have served an interesting function of encouraging fluency and establishing a measure of belonging to the cultural group.

Lastly, the context of IZ’s Lithuanian camp and its history provides an interesting example of how institutions can preserve folklore and culture in the interest of nationalism — even outside of the country itself. Further study could examine which immigrant cultures within the United States have the strongest folklore preservation and why.

Lithuanian Proverb: “A small fly fell into a cup with drink inside”


Original script: “Įkrito maža musytė į puodelį su gėrimu — netikėta laimė, arba gausit pinigų.”

Transliteration: “A small fly fell into a cup with drink inside — unbelievable luck, or you will get money.”

Free translation: “A blessing in disguise,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.”


IZ is a 20 year-old college student from Lisle, Illinois, living in Los Angeles, California. Both her parents’ families immigrated to the United States during World War II and remain connected to their Lithuanian roots through strong immigrant communities in the US.

IZ learned this proverb from her teachers at Maironis Lithuanian School in LeMont, Illinois, which she attended on Saturdays as a kid. It was intended to communicate that something perceived as bad or unlucky could end up being good. She gave the example of being paired up with someone you don’t like for a project. The teacher would use this proverb to remind you that, for example, you could end up becoming friends with that person.


It immediately stood out to me that this proverb contains a narrative sequence of events — the action of a fly falling into a cup and spoiling one’s drink. This stands out from the American equivalents of the proverb, which refer to an object having a double identity or redeeming quality, rather than an action.

It is also, arguably, a more relatable experience. Everyone has lamented having to throw out their drink when a bug falls into it. The American proverbial equivalents, however, refer to abstract or distant experiences — blessings and clouds.

I noted that IZ learning this proverb in an educational setting could suggest a more institutional dissemination of this cultural knowledge rather than in a folk context. However, it wasn’t part of a lesson but shared organically from teacher to student. It would be interesting to further study how the folklore of minority cultures in the United States may be institutionalized in cultural schools in attempts to preserve it among immigrant communities.