The following is something that my friend Dave C., AKA “My Man Dave C.,” and I came up with at some point over the course of our long friendship – I think sometime during college but it could have been earlier.
We used to always come up with stuff like this – not really sure why or how. We’d basically always be saying dumb stuff and every now and then some of it would “take” or “stick.” This one stuck – although until not too long ago I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. Then, when I did, I found it as hilarious as ever. I’ll analyze it and what it (probably) means afterward, but now that I’ve built up the hype, prepare to be thoroughly disappointed:
[*Note: For proper effect, you have to read this out loud in a "gangsta rapper" voice - a very deep voice with a very angry, somewhat staccato, boastful delivery. Dr. Dre is probably the best example of this.]
“I can’t do nothin’ with my jank leg;
Got me laid up in that bed, talk ’bout some cornbread;
I never disrespected my main man;
Since he rearranged my face with a fryin’ pan.”
Okay, what does that (probably) mean, and how is that possibly funny?
“I can’t do nothin’ with my jank leg” – “Jank leg” is either a mishearing or an intentional misstatement of the phrase “jake leg.” Probably the former. I don’t know where I heard the term “jake leg,” but it is a paralytic condition caused by the drinking of Jamaican Ginger Extract, or “jake.” Jake was a patent medicine consumed during Prohibition because it had a very high alcohol content (but wasn’t considered “alcohol” under the Prohibition laws). Drinking jake damaged the human nervous system and resulted in a very distinctive walk that came to be known as “jake leg” or the “jake leg shuffle.”
I think I used to talk about the “jank leg shuffle” in college at Ole Miss, but, again, I can’t remember how I first learned about this.
Here’s a very boring YouTube video discussing “jake leg”:
Here’s another, short one that even specifically mentions the “jake leg shuffle”:
There are a lot of blues songs that reference jake leg, so maybe I did hear about it when I was at Ole Miss – you tend to hear a lot of blues music in Mississippi, and for good reason.
Anyway, enough about the first line.
The second line, “Got me laid up in that bed, talk ’bout some cornbread” – well, I have no idea, really. “Got me laid up in that bed” is pretty obvious, I guess – poor boy’s got the jake leg shuffle so bad he’s laid up. “Talk ’bout some cornbread.” Really, no idea. Probably only because “bread” sort of rhymes with “leg” in the first line.
Third and fourth lines: “I never disrepected my main man; since he rearranged my face with a fryin’ pan.” This is the funniest part to me. And for it to be funny, I think you have to hear it in the tone that Dave C. and I used to say it in. Very angry, but also prideful and boastful. So the guy is basically bragging about he never disrespects his “main man” – which is cool. Whatever. But then you find out that this newfound respect has only arisen since his “main man” “rearranged his face with a fryin’ pan.” In other words, he did disrepect this guy at some point in the past, at which time this guy beat the hell out of him with a frying pan. Thereafter, of course, no disrepect.
To say that is one thing, but to be proud and boastful about it is quite another – you’re basically bragging that every since some dude bashed you in the face with a frying pan, you haven’t stood up to him. Which, obviously, is really nothing to be bragging about. That is funny. To me and Dave C. at least.
Anyway, as I ride around Saigon on my motorbike, I’m always singing or rapping (no radio, obviously, and not really safe to drive with headphones on, so no iPod). And lately I’ve been rapping the above and laughing out loud as I drive around.