The other night I was sitting around withe friends talking about summer activities we used to do when we were younger. We talked about camping with families and sitting around the campfire at night make s’mores. The difference between our experiences: While I sat around and told ghost stories with my family, they did something very different. “We used to sit around the camp fire at night and tell Ole and Lena jokes,” she said very nonchalantly.
“Tell what kind of jokes?” I asked.
“Ole and Lena jokes… or Ole and Sven depending on the joke,” she replied.
Of course my curiosity was peaked and thus began an evening of Googling Ole and Lena… and sometimes Ole and Sven jokes. If you are like me and have no idea what these jokes are, let me tell you what I learned through my conversation with friends and a helpful Wikipedia search. Ole and Lena are two characters that show up frequently in jokes popular in the Upper Midwest alongside their friend, Sven. Ole and Lena are from Norway and Sven is usually thought to be from Sweden. These jokes are not told in Norway or Sweden (according to Wikipedia), but instead originated in the Upper Midwest and often poke fun at language/translation mistakes and Scandinavian stereotypes and traditions. Apparently, these jokes can be a little bit… umm… “scandalous” at times and may be a little culturally offensive as well.
Here is an example of a relatively PG rated joke that I came across while Googling:
Ole is on his deathbed. The doctor has told him he has only a few hours to live. He catches the scent of his favorite bars wafting through the air. With all the strength he can muster, he drags himself into the kitchen and sees a fresh pan cooling on the rack. He cuts one out and bites into the scrumptious cookie. Lena comes in, smacks his hand, and says, “Shame on you, Ole! Dese are for after de funeral!”
As I learned more and more about Ole and Lena, I asked the natural question of why be so specific as to use characters with names? Why not just use general terms like “a guy” or “this girl”? For example, instead of saying, “So Ole and Lena went shopping…”, why not just say, “So this guy and his wife went shopping…”? My friends reply, “Well, because they wouldn’t be Ole and Lena jokes then.”
While logical, I still admit that I’m a little confused. How did these jokes get started and why Ole and Lena? Does anyone know? Has anyone else heard of these jokes? Here is my request to you, please enlighten me about Ole and Lena. Where did they come from and what are some other jokes that are… er… appropriate to share on the blog-o-sphere. I look forward to a good chuckle!