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"Droodle Me This ... ": Pictorial Declarations and the American Dream Maria Teresa Agozzino


[1] In 1931 James Truslow Adams published The Epic of America, an account of US history, which he had wanted to call The American Dream (Cullen 4).

[2] A number of popularly-collected droodle cycles housed in the Folklore Archives but not treated in this paper include, "Worm passing over a razor blade," "Dad bending over to pick up soap," and "Woman pulling up a girdle."

[3] In the 1950's, droodler Price hosted an N.B.C. television quiz show, and wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper feature (Bowman 21).

[4] Riddles are largely classified according to structural form, including true, oppositional, non-oppositional, joking, and cross-breed (Georges and Dundes), and/or function such as in flyting or verbal dueling. Riddles may be passed informally or aspart of a formal ritual. Often times verbal riddles are accompanied by physical acts such as hand gestures and facial contortions (Cray; Brunvand, "More Non-Oral"); cf. "gesture riddles" and "facial droodles" (Brunvand "Ethnic-Regional Riddle Jokes" 132-33; Preston, "Gesture Jokes" 61).

[5] Cf. graphic puzzle forms such as rebuses, over-and-under and positional sentences (Brunvand, Study125-28).

[6] Collected between 1967 and 1985 from San Francisco Bay Area females and males aged 18 to 31 years old.

[7] Collected between 1962 and 1997 from male and female informants of many American ethnicities between the ages of 17 and 56 years old, from many states in the US including California, Kansas, New Jersey, and Tennessee.

[8] Nuances of perspective, perception, and aesthetics are discussed by John Kennedy and Danielle Roemer.

[9] Collected between 1965 and 1997 from San Francisco Bay Area males and females of many American ethnicities between the ages of 16 and 21 years old. Of note, a version collected from an 18 year old male from Ontario, Canada of "A boy scout riding a bike," c. 1960.

[10] Collected between 1969 and 1992 from San Francisco Bay Area males and females between the ages of 11 and 28 years old.

[11] The role of ethnicity in the related genre of gesture jokes has been discussed by Michael J. Preston (1975 and 1982).

[12] Low wages and financial obligations often induce immigrant workers (especially shift workers) to maximize resources. For example, from 1990-1993, I worked in a pseudo-Irish restaurant and bar in Southern California, where seventeen of the Mexican and Guatemalan kitchen staff (all males in their twenties and thirties, some with families to support in their native towns) shared a studio apartment within walking distant from work. For demographic information, see Passel, Capps, and Fix.

[13] Collected between 1990 and 2000 from San Francisco Bay Area females between the ages of 20 and 25 years old.

[14] The targeting of specific groups falls under the rubric of Blason populaire (literally folk heraldry) -- a term that first appeared in print in Blason Populaire de la France by Henri Gaidoz and Paul Sébillot -- and often manifests in derogatory remarks about members of another group, ethnicity, region, or country. Although a characteristic rather than a genre, Blason populaireis a feature commonly associated with ethnic slurs and sexist jokes (Dundes, "Ethnic Slurs;" "Slurs International").

[15] Collected between 1979 and 1988 from males and females between the ages of 19 and 26 years old, in and around the San Francisco Bay Area; except a "cards" version learned in New York and a bridge version learned in New Jersey.

[16] Collected from an 18 year old male, Concord, California, 1994, learned 1992, and a 41 year old male, San Francisco, 1987.

[17] Collected from a 20 year old female, Concord, 1979.

[18] San Francisco was the first US city to have a topless bar, and where stripper Carol Doda, known for her large breasts, made her debut in 1964 (OffBeat Travel).

[19] Collected from a 23 year old male, Concord, 1966.

[20] Collected from a 25 year old male, Berkeley, 1971, learned 1970.

[21] For examples of a perceived correlation between breast size and sex appeal, see Nora Ephron's, "A Few Words About Breasts," and Eve Babitz', "My Life in a 36DD Bra."

[22] Collected from a 30 year old male, San Ramon, 1994, learned 1993 in Texas.

[23] Collected from a 14 year old male, Napa, 1992.

[24] Deriving its name from the English word 'clan' and kyklos, the Greek word for circle, the Ku Klux Klan started as an underground terrorist group against the civil rights movement that freed enslaved peoples after the American Civil War (Ku Klux Klan 1).

[25] Collected from a 26 year old male, Oakland, 1992, learned 1992.

[26] Collected from the men's bathroom wall, Moffitt Library, UC Berkeley, 1980.

[27] Collected from an 18 year old female, San Francisco, 2000, learned 1991.

[28] Collected from the first floor women's bathroom wall, Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, 1983.

[29] Collected from a 21 year old male, Berkeley, 1985, learned in Mountain View 1980-1982.

[30] Collected from a 27 year old male, Oakland, 1983.

[31] Collected from a 21 year old male, Berkeley, 1983.

[32] Collected from a male in his 30s, Vacaville, 1992, learned 1983. The informant added that it is not told in the South.

[33] Collected from a 34 year old female in Nevada, 1994.

[34] Collected from a 21 year old male, UC Berkeley campus, 1990.

[35] Collected by an 18 year old female from Pennsylvania, 1988, learned in fourth grade.

[36] Both collected from a 20 year old San Francisco Bay Area female in 1981.

[37] Several versions were collected by 22 to 31 year old males and females in California between 1969 and 1974; a "coke can" version was collected by a 22 year old Californian female in 1980. These may well be related to Price's composition, "The Outside World as seen by a Little Man Living in a Beer Can" (Rich Sardine21).

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