In one episode of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy, Lucy's mother-in-law arrives from Cuba to visit Lucy and Ricky. In one scene, Lucy is alone with her mother-in-law. Unfortunately, Lucy can't speak Spanish and her mother-in-law can't speak English. Lucy tries to communicate by using gestures. At one point she is trying to tell her that they are having chicken and rice for dinner. She imitates a chicken to try to communicate the chicken part. Then she does some funny song and dance with hand motions to try to communicate "rice". What is she trying to imitate? It seems it works as her mother-in-law finally understands. Here is the scene in question:

I have watched I Love Lucy many times and this scene always confuses me. I always assumed that she is imitating some kind of commercial for rice that was popular at the time.

  • 2
    I think this is a 1950s stereotype of Japanese music being used as metonymy for rice. Sep 12, 2019 at 4:57
  • 1
    @JamesMcLeod I can’t bring myself to watch the video, does she do the “slanty eyes” thing with her fingers?
    – Darren
    Sep 12, 2019 at 9:45
  • 2
    @Darren no, not that bad. Pointing up with the index finger in each hand and singing a Japanese-sounding tune in a high-pitched voice. Sep 12, 2019 at 10:34
  • I've seen this quite a few times and never understood it, nice question. Sep 12, 2019 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


She is pointing upwards with her fingers, alluding to the stereotypical slanting eyes of Easterners, while singing a very Eastern-sounding melody in mock Japanese. Something along the lines of:

At the very end, she is imitating eating rice from a bowl with her fingers.

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