Should we laugh?  – Part 2

Should we laugh? – Part 2

Last week I promised a joke that puts the boot into patriarchy. Here it is. It’s called “How Men Think.”
As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears,
“You know what? You have been with me through all the bad times.

When I got fired you were there to support me.
When my business failed, you were there by my side.
When we lost the house, you stayed right with me.
When I was shot, you held my hand.
When my health started failing, you were still by my side.
You know what, Martha?”
“What, dear?” she gently asked as her heart began to fill with warmth.
“I’m beginning to think you’re bad luck.”

High on my list of jokes that are unacceptable in any decent gathering are “Irish jokes”, told by the English to denigrate their neighbouring nation: a particularly despicable activity given the brutal history of England’s colonisation of Ireland. But recently a counter-attack kind of joke has evolved, in which the Irishman comes out on top. I’ll give you two.
An Irishman leaves his country to work on building sites in England (as many did). His idea is to save enough money to return to his beloved home town and set up a small business. After twenty years he’s saved enough, so he leaves England and returns to Ireland. The result is, the average IQ of both countries drops.

And the second: An Irishman is working on a building site in London, where the foreman, who is a bigot, bullies him. One day the foreman tells him: “I’m not happy with your work. You know nothing about building. So, I’m going to test you with a simple question. Get the answer wrong and you’re fired.” The Irishman scowls. “So,” snaps the foreman, “what’s the difference between a girder and a joist?” The Irishman scratches his head and delves deep into his memory. “Come on!” roars the Irishman. The Irishman frowns and after a bit says: “Ah, to be sure. Didn’t the one of them write Faust and the other wrote Ulysses.”

{One should never explain jokes, but I’m told that amongst my readers I have many secondary school students, who are no doubt extremely bright, but don’t have my years of reading experience. The Irishman mis-hears words spoken with a British accent, but knows about classic literature, because he is a man of high culture. For girder, read Goethe, for joist read Joyce).

There are lots of jokes about things getting lost in translation or lost in communication. These can be derogatory about other nations or ethnic groups, in which case they are to be avoided, but they can be gentle plays on the sounds of a language spoken with different accents, as in the following, with which I sign off:

A couple of American tourists are driving in their hire car through Joburg and at a crossroads they stop and ask a traffic policeman “where can we find the statue of Nelson Mandela?” He tells them to turn left and then left again. They do so and find they’re in a street with no statue in sight, only a huge motor car showroom with a big signboard reading “Nissan: Main Dealer.”

Next week I think we have to be responsible and get back to serious stuff, namely, an account of my experiences in Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya. And you can’t get much more serious than that. After that I shan’t be able to resist launching at you some more puns and another shaggy dog story. You have been warned. Put up the barricades.

Chris Dunton

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