“The language of Europe is translation”.
With one official language for each 20 million inhabitants and 225 secondary languages, Europe sometimes looks like the ancient myth of Babel. In the fierce debate over a common language for Europe, Umberto Eco once said that the language of Europe is actually translation. That is all the more true in the case of Little Johnny jokes. You remember? This little mischievous brat who annoys girls and always ask awkward questions in children’s jokes! This list is the first attempt ever to collect all the translations, origins and explanations of the Little Johnny jokes throughout Europe. Enjoy!
The teacher asks Joãozinho to conjugate the verb “to build” :
– I build, you build, he builds, we build, you build… they move in !
The Portuguese equivalent of Little Johnny, Joãozinho is the diminutive of João, a quite widespread nickname in Portuguese-speaking countries. Six kings of Portugal and many Portuguese explorers were named after the name João. It is now the name of the Portuguese character who plays the young brat in kids’ jokes. Without surprise, the character of Joãozinho also exists in Brazil where he can sometimes be called Juquinho, Toninho or Zezinho.
Jaimito asks his mother:
– Mom, is it true that we are descended from apes?
– I don’t know darling. You know, your father never introduced me to his family…
Jaimito is the Spanish equivalent of Little Johnny and is one of the most renowned characters of Spanish jokes, along with Pepito and Benito. He is a very naughty boy, who is continually asking awkward questions and preparing mischievous tricks. These jokes often tackle sexual issues and are often considered inappropriate by grown-ups.
France – Belgium
At school, the teacher asks Toto to name the five continents:
– There is Europe, America, Africa, Asia…
– One is missing… points the teacher out.
– ‘Grandpa’? Why ‘Grandpa’?
– Yes, Grandpa! At home, Mom always says that Grandpa is incontinent.
In 1892, Emile Durafour published his Farces de Toto, a vaudeville in which he depicted a typical school child named Toto. Since then, Toto embodies the French sassy brat in funny stories, which most of the time take place at school.
Ireland – United Kingdom
Little Johnny enters the classroom. Little Mary throws him a ball of paper at the head and exclaims:
– Head shot!
Little Johnny takes the book in front of him and shoot it at Little Mary’s face. He shouts:
– Facebook! Ah ah ah.
Little Johnny jokes are about a young boy who is particularly keen to ask awkward questions with a very straightforward thinking. He can at times be an expert in sex matters, while at other times be a very innocent boy.
All children had candy at the funeral, except Amleth, he had a wreath.
In Norway, there is no equivalent to Little Johnny as such, but Norwegians began in the 1990s to develop (dark) jokes the other way round: they do jokes on “all children, except one” (Alle Barna) whose name change in each short story and rhyme with the end of the joke. Alle Barna jokes are particularly cruel, but for those who like dark humor, they can be very funny.
Bellman is sitting in his sofa. His wife enters the room and asks about the game:
– 3-0 for Sweden, says Bellman.
– Oh, and who scored? asks his wife, sitting on the couch.
– The first by Andersson and the two others by Replay.
Bellman jokes are a type of popular joke particularly appreciated among Swedish schoolchildren. The jokes first became popular in the 19th century, and were originally inspired by the life of the poet and composer Carl Michael Bellman. In many Bellman jokes, Bellman is portrayed as something of an anti-hero, who may cheat, lie or even smell very bad in order to get the last laugh.
– Pikku Kalle, did you eat all the pencils? asks the angry teacher.
– No, I’m not selfish. I shared with my little sister.
Invented in the late 1970s, Pikku-Kalle is a naughty boy in many Finnish jokes. His name would be the equivalent of “Charles” in English. He often behaves inappropriately at school and worries his anxious parents, even though he is usually not malicious.
All children received gifts, except Mona, she was in a coma.
Danes do not have their equivalent of Little Johnny neither but they tend to make jokes just as the Norwegians on ‘all children except one’. The short alle børnene stories are said to actually come from Central Europe and arrived in Denmark in the 1990s. They were initially harmless but quickly turned into black humor with the bit of wickedness that we experience nowadays.
– And you, Jantje, what will you do later? asks the teacher.
– Painter, doctor or glass cleaner… answers Jantje with conviction.
– Fine, but which of the three?
– No matter as long as it enables me to watch naked women…
Jantje is a diminutive of Jan. He is the stereotype of the average little Dutch boy, and his typical jokes are often taking place at school. He sometimes shares his stories with Pietje.
Fritzchen’s grandmother tells his grandson:
– I will offer you for Easter the book you want, are you happy?
– Oh, yes grandmother! In this case, I would like to have your savings book!
In Germany, Little Johnny bears the name of Fritzchen or sometimes Klein Fritschen. His name is the diminutive of Friedrich, a German common first name. His rudeness would come from the wild and primitive image that English and Russian associated to German, nicknamed Fritz, during the second world war. As for Klein Erna, the little ingenue, she comes from the local folklore of the city of Hamburg and is inspired by a real person.
It’s like, there was a time Oin-Oin who was spinning like a caged lion in the waiting room of the maternity ward in Geneva. It was his wife who was in labor. After four hours of anguished loneliness and ninety pacing around the coffee table, another man, Mr. Milliquet, entered. This one was in the same condition and awaiting the birth of his son.
He went again in circles for four horrific hours, then the nurse arrived, approached Mr. Milliquet and said:
– Congratulations ! You are the father of a cute little boy!
– Excuse me, Miss, but I was here first!
The Swiss character of Oin–Oin is said to be quite simple-minded with a nasal accent, but he always manages to get by with some humor and a strong repartee. The origin of this character is a series aired on Radio Suisse Romande in 1958. The character of Oin-Oin was played by Claude Blanc and Emile Gardaz impersonnated his alter ego Mr. Milliquet.
– Mom, Mom, is it true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away?
– That’s what they say, indeed…
– Then give me an apple. I broke the doctor’s window!
In Italy, Pierono is the famous young bad boy in funny stories. His name comes from Pierrot, a stock character of pantomime and Commedia dell’Arte originating from the late 17th-century Italian troupe of players performing in Paris and known as the Comédie-Italienne.
Little Franzl discusses with his friend Karl:
– Tonight the football match is Austria-Hungary.
– Really? And against whom do we play?
Little Franzi in Austria is the equivalent of Fritzschen in Germany. The name is a diminutive of Franz, a common first name in Austria. During the Second World War, Franz was also the nickname given to airmen who had to observe the positions of the enemy. The German expression ‘sich verfranzen‘ also means to get lost or to misread a map.
Czechia – Slovakia
Pepíček does not want to finish his plate of goulash. His mother tries to persuade him:
– Honey, we’re going to play the train! You are the coach and with my spoon, I bring you the passengers!
Pepíček accepts and swallows pieces of goulash spoon after spoon. Once the plate is almost empty, Pepíček shouts excitedly:
– Last stop: everyone must get off!
The Czech and Slovak equivalent of Little Johnny is Pepíček a diminutive of Pepa, itself diminutive of Josef. The name of Pepíček once referred to the members of the gypsy mafia who were spreading terror in popular suburbs of the city.
Jasiu runs to his grandfather:
– Grandpa, grandpa, the Russians are going to space!
The grandfather, excited, cannot believe it:
– Seriously … all of them, Jasiu?
Jaś, Jasio or Jaśiu is the polish popular brat: he asks weird questions to his parents and is very naughty to his friends. The first name of Jasiu is actually a diminutive for Jan, which is the equivalent of John in English, a name which used to be quite popular in Poland. In a country known for its Catholic fervor, it is not surprising to learn that the name of its most illustrious brad simply means “God is merciful.”
Petriukas asks his mother:
– Mom, is it true that God created us?
– Yes, honey, all of us…
– And that storks bring babies?
– Of course!
– That Santa Claus distributes gifts?
– Yes, sure…
– So… in this case, can you tell me what it is the use of Dad?
The Lithuanian Little Johnny is called Petriukas. He lives in a world of scoundrels and is sometimes accompanied with two sidekicks: Jonukas and Onyte.
The teacher returns the evaluation of the last essay:
– No mistake ! Tell me honestly, Jānītis : who helped your father this time?
The Latvian Jānītis is usually portrayed as a tactless and outright rude kid and differs thus from the innocent child in other European Little Johnny jokes. In Baltic mythology, the pagan god Jānis – who gave its name to Jānītis– has been celebrated for centuries during the summer solstice on the night of June 23 to 24.
Juku requests a gift from his father:
– Daddy, Daddy, I want drums !
– But you’re going to disturb me in my work! retorts his father.
– No daddy, no worries, I would play the drums only when you’ll be asleep, I promise!
Juku’s jokes were very popular during the Soviet Period and remain nowadays an important part of the Estonian “jokelore”. Juku has not always been the hero in kids’ jokes: it was first the name given to a dog, the hero of a famous Estonian animation movie released in 1931.
Belarus – Ukraine
– Vovochka, what should first and foremost a good defender of the homeland do ?
– To protect himself from the recruiting office!
Vovotchka is the Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian counterpart of the British and American Little Johnny. It is also portraying a young naughty boy, quite simple minded who is always playing tricks to the others. There is the whole Russian history behind the name of Vovochka, which is the childish form of Vladimir. It is said that the character appeared subversively in the late 1920s to mock Vladimir Lenin.
Moldova – Romania
Ceausescu authorized the temporary sale of travel tickets.
– We got tickets for a Bucharest-Paris trip ! exclaims Bulă back home.
– A two way trip ? asks his mother.
– Do not talk nonsense !
The Romanian and Moldovan Bulă shows disrespect to all kind of authority figures. As in others versions, his jokes often involve sexual misconducts. Romanians couldn’t chose a more subversive name for their character: Bulă is just one letter difference with Pula, which means ‘penis‘ in Romanian…
– Móricka, tell me, what are we going to do with you if you continue to lie like this?
– A politician ?
In Hungary, the little rude bad boy is called Móricka, which would be translated in English as Little Maurice. It depicts a 10 to 12 year old boy, who is always saying obscenities and preoccupied with sex. Móricka is the most popular imaginary character in Hungarian humor.
Janezek’s mother screams from the bathroom :
– Janezek! I found a frog in your pocket!
Janezek answers back:
– Really? This was not a mouse?
The stereotipical rude Slovene boy is called Janezek and corresponds in all measures to the British Little Johnny boy. Without much surprise, the character of Janezek dates back to a time before the independence of Slovenia, in 1991
Croatia – Serbia – Montenegro
Perica runs to his grandfather:
– Grandpa, Grandpa, give me 50 euros!
– You can run, jump, sing if you want, sonny!
– Give me the money or I’ll tell Grandma that you put “widower” as relationship status on Facebook.
In Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Perica is a prevalent surname. It is a diminutive of Petar, translating to Pete or Peter in English. In the 1970 classic Croatian comedy film Tko pjeva zlo ne misli, a young boy named Perica Šafranek was playing this typical naughty boy.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Haso & Mujo
Haso says to Mujo:
– My wife is an angel!
– How lucky, mine’s still alive…
There are plenty of Haso & Mujo jokes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are not exactly the equivalent of Little Johnny jokes, but tend to tackle the same issues. The character of Mujo, diminutive of Mohamed, appeared in the 30s to embody the figure of the provincial Muslim. He has rapidly been joined in his funny stories by his faithful sidekick Haso, short version of Hassan.
Ivancho asks the pharmacist:
– Do you have any painkillers?
– Yes, where does it hurt?
– For now, nowhere… but dad is currently meeting my teacher…
In Bulgaria, Ivancho (Иванчо), a diminutive for Ivan, is commonly featured with Mariyka (Марийка) a diminutive for Mariya, who is depicted as a young naive girl.
Totos’ father announces the good news:
– Totos! The stork brought you today a new little brother!
Totos answers, astonished:
– Well Dad, you live in the middle of lots of gorgeous women and you still find a way to sleep with a stork?
In Greece, the naughty boy is sometimes called Totos (Τοτός) or Bobos (Μπόμπος). As surprising as it might seem, the name of Totos is actually a loan to the French character Toto. The French jokes seem to have seduced the inhabitants of the Greek peninsula to the point of making him a character in their own folklore.
Temel and Dursun were angry and stopped speaking to each other for a month. One day, Temel takes his goat to the field and comes across Dursun. The latter says:
– And where are you going with that ass?
– It’s not an ass, it’s a goat!
Temel, feigning anger, replies:
– You, I do not speak to you. I speak to the goat…
Temel is a prominent character of Laz jokes, that is to say, jokes about people of the eastern Black Sea region in Turkey. Temel means in Turkish “basic,” but in this case, it connotes more of a stupid person. Temel also has friends called Dursun and İdris and a wife named Fadime.
This article has been adapted into a book now available in French in bookstores and online! Find more information on Pierino’s jokes in Italy, Fritzchen’s jokes in Germany or Pikku Kalle’s jokes in Finland. Read Les Meilleures blagues de Toto à travers l’Europe, a funny and informative journey where you will discover that our European neighbors do not lack of humor!