Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 19:00:32 -0500

From: Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]VAX.VMI.EDU

Subject: Re: folk tale, "1, 2, 3"


Not on topic, (apologies all) but I thought that some of you here might

know this---

there's a folk tale, situated variously in areas where pogroms occurred.

In the tale, the provincial governor, or ruler, or even village chief,

tells the local jewish population that one of them will have to debate

him, or vie with him, and if the jewish representative loses,s/he'll be

killed and everyone else driven out. No one wants to be the debater,

and finally an illiterate, lowly sweeper or laborer or cowherd (e

is selected. The cowherd and the village chief meet in the village

square, and sit face to face, silently for a long time. At last, the

cowherd hold up one finger. The village chief looks startled, then holds

up two fingers. After a while, the cowherd holds up three fingers. The

village chief announces that the cowherd has won and everyone can stay.

Later, each gives a different interpretation of what the other meant.

Larry Horn, where you der, charley?

Anyone? Anyone know this?

I was told this story as a joke, not a traditional folktale, but the

setting was the medieval Rome during the Plague, and the disputants were

the Pope and the head Rabbi. The punchline, however, is decidedly modern

and, as told to me, very unfolklorish. Now I actually use the joke in

my Intro to Linguistics class when we discuss semiotics.

I couldn't tell from your message whether you are missing the outcome of

the story or just wanted to know if others had heard the joke. If the

former, I can oblige.

Alan B.