Me Chinese, Me Play Joke

It’s one of the most wide-spread of them all, and has been since at least 1960, and probably earlier:

Me Chinese, me play joke
me put pee pee in your coke!

Sometimes it’s sung to the tune of “This Old Man,” other times it’s just spoken. 

At my kindergarten, it was done at the end of a sort of finger play, in which a kid would direct another kid to “Open the refrigerator” (two hands held up)…”take out the pop……open it….drink it…” Once the player had pantomimed drinking it, the kid would launch into the rhyme. It wasn’t exactly a taunt, since we knew what was coming.  It’s sort of like when someone says “Open your mouth and close your eyes / and you will get a big surprise.” If you actually DO it, you have to be rather dumb to expect that anything pleasant is coming.

A less offensive variation of the game was to tell player 2 to “shake” the Coke. Then, when they pantomimed opening it, player 1 would shake their around in the other player’s face and says “fiiizzzzzzz! You let all the pop out!”   I’m not sure that these were widespread at all; no one else seems to remember the same game (though others did remember the old “Cut the log…you’re a hog!” finger play). But “Open the Refrigerator” routines were so common before class started that we occasionally tried to top each other making up new versions that could practically turn into epic ballads.

Another variation of the “peepee” joke I knew ended with.

I’m American, I don’t know 
I don’t know the pee pee joke.

One Smart Aleck Staffer heard a heard a version with an interesting response  in the early 1980s in North Carolin:
Me American, me so smart
me not drink the pee pee part!

There’s no reason that these need to be racial jokes; 80% of the humor, to kids, comes from the “pee pee,” and the other 20% is the pidgin English that could be assigned to any group or character. In 1925, a very similar rhyme was shouted in the UK be kids going doorbell ditching, which may point at the origin of the lines:

Me don’t know, me can’t tell
me ring bell and run like hell.

A common variation was a joke about everyone’s dog farting except for that of a Chinese man, who said:

Me Chinese, me no dumb
me put cork in doggy’s bum
The use of “bum” probably places its origin in the U.K.

A similar joke was heard by a website commenter in Idaho in the late 1990s, in which a man on a camel arrives at his destination faster than others and says:

Me Chinese, me no dumb
me put cork in camel’s bum
he go “poot”
me go “zooom”
that how me get here so soon!


I would suggest that these are rhymes and jokes that could be tamed the same way “Eeny Meeny” was.   You can keep everything funny about this joke and take out the offensive part by changing “Chinese” to “Maurice.” Maurice is an affable dumbass I just made up. Little Dirty Johnny and Johnny Deeper try to pick on him a lot, but somehow lovable, dumb Maurice manages to come out on top. He gets hurt frequently, but he gets back on his feet in no time. There’s nothing actually wrong with him, and he’s not real, so you can make fun of him all day without offending anyone.

A similar technique is used by Louis Sachar in Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes, a middle grade classic, in which a character learns to tell jokes about “Mrs. Snitzberry” instead of Polish people. No one will get offended by Mrs. Snitzberry making a submarine with a screen door. She can take the fall for blond jokes, too.

And now, so can Maurice.

Here are some jokes to get you started:

One day Maurice was walking through a field and saw a fly on a pile of poop. “Wow!” said Maurice. “How the fly poop out all that?”

How did Maurice break his arm raking leaves? He fell out of the tree!

Why did it take so long for Maurice to fall off a bridge?  He had to stop halfway down to ask for directions.
How do you keep Maurice amused for hours? Give him a piece of paper with “please see other side” written on both sides.





The above is an excerpt from:
BANNER PLAYGROUND tan2
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34 Comments

  1. michaelgsmith

    Where I grew up, the second verse went like this:

    "Me American, me so smart
    Me not drink the pee-pee part"

    We did indeed sing it to the tune of This Old Man.

    Reply
  2. Merav Hoffman

    I don't know if you've covered these, but this one reminds me of a schoolyard rhyming game that we would play where you would hold up you hands to indicate the object you meant and the other person had to separate your hands to get the punchline.

    The ones I remember are:

    First person holds up two hands to simulate a pickle: "Cut the pickle".

    The second person 'cuts' the pickle (with a chopping motion of their hand between the first persons hands).

    The first person then says "Tickle tickle!" and tries to tickle the second person.

    The other one I knew followed the same pattern, but must have dated from the Happy Days era, because the formula was

    First person: "Cut the jelly" and upon having the jelly cut, the response was "Fonzarelli!", with the first person giving the Fonz's 'thumbs up' sign to the second person. Somewhat more benign than the tickling variation. Have you seen more of these?

    Reply
  3. Adam Selzer

    Merav – I had totally forgotten it, but we absolutely had that game. Trying to remember how it all went….

    Reply
  4. Dr. Confused

    Strangely, the teller of these jokes to me was actually ethnically chinese (3rd generation immigrant).

    There was a joke about dogs farting as they crossed bridges but the chinese man's didn't, with the punchline "Me chinese, me no dumb, me put cork in doggy's bum."

    In fact, most of them started with "Me chinese, me no dumb" (or a convenient variation that rhymed, like "me so smart" to rhyme with "fart") and had some sort of clever trick the person had done.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    I hadn't thought about this in years… In mid-to-late 1970s Southington, CT, every kid knew the "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty knees, Look at these" rhyme. (There were no Chinese kids in town until after I got to middle school almost ten years later, around 1986-1987. There were very few kids who were anything but European-American in town at all; mostly Italian-Americans, with significant numbers of Irish- and Polish-Americans among the remainder. The demographics haven't changed much in the last 30 years, though happily I no longer live there.) The rhyme was accompanied by the upward then downward pulling of the skin around the eyes, then stooping slightly to cup both knees with the hands, then grasping one's shirt over the nipples and pulling outward to simulate 'breasts' pointier than even a Gaultier bra. It never occurred to me before that "Look at these!" might refer to anything other than the (pretend) breasts.

    Then again, it never occurred to me before today what "Dirty knees" was probably meant to refer to, since to my six-year-old mind it was a nonsense rhyme.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Then there was this one I learned in Oregon in the late 70s/early 80s.

    "My father was Chinese" (Take fingers and pull the corners of your eyes UP.)
    "My mother was Japanese" (Take fingers and pull up the corners of your eyes DOWN.)
    "So I'm SCREWED UP" (Take fingers and pull one eye corner UP and the other DOWN.)

    Reply
    1. Denny

      When I was a kid we did it the same way except we said Father was Chinese, Mother was Japanese….but I wishy washy. And we’d pull each eye up and down in a back and forth motion.

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Maaaaan…this brings back memories.

    We used to say "My mom's Chinese, my dad's Japanese, so look what they did to me!" and twist our eyes in opposite directions. Or "My mom's Chinese, my dad's Japanese, so I'm Swiss Cheese!" which made no sense at all **shrugs**

    As for me Chinese jokes…

    There's an American, a German, and a Chinese guy, and they're all racing to the next town. The American and German have horses, but the Chinese guy has a camel. So the Yank and the Kraut take off at high speeds, and the Chinese guy just trots along.

    Well, a quarter of the way in, there's a small gas station. The Chinese guy buys a bottle of wine and three cans of re-fried beans. He pops the wine cork off, and lodges it in the camel's fifth point of contact, then force feeds it all the beans. Then, he sits on his camel and waits, drinking wine. Finally, BOOM! The camel's gas builds up and acts as propulsion to launch him the distance to the next town.

    Three days later, the American and the German show up at a bar, finding the Chinese man drinking beer. The German asks, "How did you get here so fast?"

    The Chinese man answers:

    "Me Chinese, me no dumb, me stick cork up camel bum, he go poooot, me go zoooooooooom, that's how me get here so soon!"

    (Idaho, circa 1997)

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    lol how funny, what about…."me chinese me no dumb me climb up on old man's bum man go pth (make a farting noise with your mouth) i go zoom that's the way i get home so soon" i learned this when i was in 4th grade, that was in 2005 in Colorado haha.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    NYC 1960

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    what about all the great Chinese lit. we learned about in grade school"
    "Trails in the sand" by Dong Hung Low
    "Stains on the wall" by Hoo Flung Poo

    And of the course the sage advice given in mock old man's Chinese voice: Confucious say "insert name of popular girl" go to bed with itchy but, "insert name of your friend" wake up with stinky finger. And then all the 11 year olds bust up laughing. god we were dumb. SF bay area 70's

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    About 5 years ago, I was fishing near Truckee. A family rolled up within earshot of where I was fishing in their Chevy Tahoe w Nevada plates, and decided to picnic there. The little girl, about 5 yrs of age, was playing in the water with her mom. The mom started chanting "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty knees, look at these" and the girl soon joined her. I looked over, and sure enough, the mom and daughter were looking at me (I'm Asian American). I was going to say something to the mom, about how inappropriate that is, and setting a bad example, etc, but realized that trying to have such a discussion with such a person would only result in my own anger.

    I convinced myself that they were trying to get rid of me, so I refused to leave my spot. Maybe that was just my imagination…

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Our semi-racist song/chant (circa 1995, New Jersey)

    I went to a Chinese restaurant
    To buy a loaf of bread
    He wrapped it up in bubble gum and this is what he said

    My name is
    L.I, L.I, Nikoli, Nikoli
    Pom-Pom Beauty
    Seven cups of whiskey
    Chinese (pull corners of eyes up)
    Japanese (pull corners of eyes down)
    Indian (imitate feather headdress with hand)
    Chief! (cross arms)

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    Chinese, Japanese,
    Portuguese, money please!

    We'd stretch our eyes for the first two and then hold out our hands as though begging for the last line.

    Awful!

    South Africa (late 1960s and 1970s)

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    joke about chinese baby benefitting from father's fart. canadian school yard early 90's.

    A Chinese lady married a pilot and they had a baby. One day he had to fly to another state with a couple of other pilots. His wife was going to China so he had to take the baby with him. On the plane the baby was getting really annoying. The plane was going down. The pilot said, "We have to jump or we will have no chance to make it." They decided to leave the baby on the plane. One guy jumps out then the next one then the Dad. The 1st guy got to the bottom and he sees the baby. The man said, "How did you get down her so fast. We left you up there." The baby replied, "Me Chinese me no dumb me hang on to daddy's bum. dad goes tooot me go zoom that's how I got down so soon."(last line sang)

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    along with singing the last line of the last comment to 'this old man' we would also sing to the tune of 'this old man' a mocking version of the barney song. 'i hate you you hate me let's team up and kill barney with a great big gun…" forget the rest

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    My friend told me this one. There was a princess who wanted to get married, but she decided to find out who was worthy. she said who ever could survive in an ice cave for two hours gets to marry me. All the American guys tried and failed, and then a chinese guy tried it and came out two hours later, on the day after their weddding she asked him how he did it. He replied "Me chinese, me no dumb, me put heater up my bum

    Reply
  17. Anonymous

    Me Chinese me no dumb me hold onto daddy's bum daddy go pooooot me go zooooooooom that's how I got here so soon

    Reply
  18. Anonymous

    I heard both the pee pee and the swiss cheese ones on Long Island in the mid 1970's. I had no idea what dirty knees could imply since we were 10 years old and just thought it was all silly

    Reply
  19. Red Wolf

    I vaguely recall some game that involved opening the refrigerator (someone's folded hands) and taking stuff out but I can't remember how the rest of it went.

    Reply
  20. Anonymous

    giggle

    Reply
  21. mrziggypop

    "Under the Bleachers" by Seymour Butts

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    In the index, "chinese, japanese" links to this. It's mis-indexed. It should be "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these."

    Everyone knows that one. You need to make or fix the page for "Chinese Japanese dirty knees look at these."

    Reply
  23. table top fridge

    I've surfed the net more than three hours today, and your blog was the coolest of all, giggle

    Reply
  24. Anonymous

    To make a blue baby:
    "We Chinese, We do tricks, We put Ajax on our dicks"

    To make a girl hot:
    "We Chinese, We do tricks, We put hot sauce on our dicks"

    LOL. Yeah, it's a bad joke but I heard this back when i was in grade school.

    Reply
  25. Anonymous

    Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these.
    -Omaha Ne. 1980s

    Reply
  26. John Tullar

    Another variation of a Chinese man having a blue baby:

    Me Chinese.
    Me no dope.
    Me stick dick in Clorox soap!

    Tucson Arizona early 90s

    Reply
  27. Unknown

    Open the fridge, take out the coke, drink it all up…. me chinese, me play joke, me go pee pee in your coke!

    Chinese Japanese Dirty Knees Look at these Money please!

    I went to a chinese restaurant to buy a loaf of bread bread bread, they wrapped it up in tin foil, and this is what they said said said: My name is Kay I pickle I hum bum burger, jolly wolly whiskey, chinese CHOPSTICKS! (then everybody would freeze!)

    Reply
  28. Unknown

    This was Ontario Canada 1982.

    Reply
  29. Justin Gaberial

    I really enjoy reading and also appreciate your work.
    park playground equipment

    Reply
  30. Alley Cat

    When I was young, declaring "I'm american, I'm smart, I spit out the pee pee part" was an acceptable defense to the pee pee joke, but left one vulnerable to "no american, you so dumb, you spit out piss but swallowed come." Years later I finally found out what "come" is.

    Reply
  31. Unknown

    A variation I heard (which makes about as little sense) was:

    Me Chinese, me no dumb,
    Me stick fork up daddy's bum.

    Heard in Atlantic Canada in the 90s.

    Reply
  32. Unknown

    In Boone area of North Carolina, our reply to the "me Chinese" bit was "me cowboy, me shoot fast, me shoot bullet up your ass."

    Reply
  33. Boo

    When we played it, it was me barney.

    It went like this :

    Me Barney, look at that!
    Me stick spatula in your hat
    It go flip and you go flop
    Then me throw you in ballpit

    Ballpit doesn’t rhyme with flop but it works.

    We love singing songs about flipping Barney.

    Reply

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