Posted by: 1of10boyz | June 15, 2012

Stupid says “what”!


Stupid says “what”? when said really fast almost certainly elicits a response of “What?”; which is very funny to an adolescent boy. I think it is still funny but I don’t laugh quite as hard now only because I feel a little sorry for the “victim”. I am sure that there are many other funny little things like that I said as a kid but I don’t remember them. Now that I am learning Chinese I remembered this silly saying because I have learned the equivalent of what: 什么(shen ma).

This started me a thinkin’ the other day about silly things I said as a kid or was told as a kid. I wondered if the Chinese have the equivalent of a “knock-knock” joke. I wondered if they had the “Prince Albert in a Can” or “Refrigerator running” or “Mike Hunt” or any of the other little funny jokes we had. I wondered about what the parents of China said to their children in an odd or confusing situation. It ended up making me wonder how I got to be so old. I remember, like it was yesterday, being a young man or even a child. The days seemed to last forever. I measured time not by the watch on my wrist but by the sun and the rumblings in my stomach. If I wasn’t hungry I didn’t eat, if I was doing something that was fun or that I enjoyed, food never even crossed my mind. I could fish all day and survive with a meal early in the morning and not return home until it was starting to get dark.

God bless my Mother! I have raised 4 kids (ok, so I put money in the bank and watched them grow up in my house, my wife deserves most of the credit) and I imagine that she worried a lot about the wild child that I was all summer long. I don’t remember her telling me that I couldn’t go out and play knowing that I was going to hills or down to the river to fish. I am sure that she wasn’t worried (too much) about drowning as she made sure we knew how to swim. I think that she told us the way to find our home was to go downhill until you find water and then follow it out (considering where I grew up and would have been playing, very adequate advise). I know my kids got a lot more information, more than once, and their Mother, my wife, worried every minute that they weren’t in the house.

I have heard my share of silly jokes and not-so-funny punch lines, but I have an observation now that I am “old” and I have been in China where it doesn’t appear that a sense of humor even exists. There is something to be learned from learning to tell a joke and also being able to understand a joke. It don’t know if it is a language problem or a cultural problem but it is a problem. The Chinese don’t get it.

Maybe it is because there are only 392 distinct sound combinations that can sound like roughly 1650 words with tones considered that makes jokes difficult. Maybe it is tough to nurture a sense of humor when many generations struggled to survive and that “gene” just didn’t survive in them over the many centuries. Maybe it is just not that different from my ancestors and yours, I think it would be hard to be funny if you spent the greater part of the day in back breaking menial labor on the farm from sun up to sun down. However, I have read some pretty funny stuff from the early history of the US and even from Europe before that, and I am sure that their lives were a lot like what the lives of the Chinese have been and continue to be.

I personally can’t imagine working hard all day and not being able to laugh. I have found that comedy makes life easier to bear. It lets me realize that I don’t have to be so serious. I will never give up my day job and “do a standup routine in LA” as the song goes. But I will appreciate the guy that does, especially if he can make me laugh without being vulgar. I think that our humor has evolved over time, I still love a good physical comedian, but I also love the comedian that can make my mind understand the comedy without seeing it.

I guess that it is those little learning moments that we experience as kids trying to be funny that makes so much difference later in life. I will have to inquire among my new Chinese friends how humor played a role in their lives. I will have to see if I can teach them some “Knock Knock Jokes”. Wish me luck.

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