III. Oral Practices through language, game and symbol specifics to southern black culture
In the third part into the body, the following items are chosen as point of discussion: playing the dozen, folk saying and proverbs, music and animal symbol such as the mule.
One of the oral practices that occur in both novels is playing the dozens. According to Gates, playing the dozens is a verbal insult ritual in which the participants make “derogatory, often obscene, remarks about another’s mother, parents, or family members” (69). In Jonah’s Gourd Vine, the mother figure is usually targeted of the dozens, as in the case of Mehaley and Phrony. The reason of their verbal exchange is apparently the presence of the attractive John Buddy for who they are competing:
“You kin git yo’ ole stink hair comb any time. Ah’ll be glad tuh git it outa mah house. Mama tole me not tuh comb wid it ’cause she skeered Ah’d git boogers in mah haid.”
“You’se uh lie! Ah ain’t got no boogers in mah haid, and if yo’mamy say so she’s uh liar right long wid you! She ain’t so bad ez she make out. Ah’ll stand on yo’ toes and tell yuh so”(JGV 24).
In this short passage, Mehaley and Phrony fight for John’s presence but the insult is carried over and takes the form of the offense of each other’s family. The reason to this fight is implied later as both girls are fighting to ‘hide’ with John Buddy in the hid and seek game. While the practice of playing the dozens takes form of a fight to impress a man in