Lost in Translation

The art of humour can be hard to grasp at times, nothing like a joke that goes down like a cup of cold sick.  I have been in social situations where people have made assumptions about who I am and have told blatantly racial, sexist,sexual bad taste jokes. I have told jokes to big meetingsreasonably safe in the context of time and place, but other times when a joke is told and a hush goes over the room like a wet blanket it is reasonable to assume that it hasn’t gone too well.  Humour can be difficult in a cross cultural situation as well, I told a joke to a Danish teenager the other day and it went straight over his head woosh.

Over the years I have been the butt of joke, in fact for as long as I can remember, it was apart of the bullying that I was subjected to, rightly or wrongly I have become sensitised if not allergic to being “roasted”.  Let me define this for you, pretty simply it is that being teased about the same thing once or perhaps even twice is part and parcel of life but when it gets beyond that it becomes tiresome, annoying and problematic in my life.  Partly because of my sensitisation, I guess but also because some times people use humour as a weapon.  I know about this because as a teacher I see it all the time, some people call it sarcasm, even perhaps sardonism.

I confess to being at times a master of both of these fields, nothing takes a bully down in a class better than a few well placed words.  Teenagers today in class seem to have very little respect for teachers, in fact for adults or authority in general.  In my day there were consequences for such behaviour and we generally soon learnt to shut our mouths, not today, real consequences are few and far between.  So how do we know when humour has gone too far? How does one know what the limits are? A fine line sometimes hidden well in the sand, I have learnt that one can go too far but also the value of a genuine apology, names are a good case in point.

I taught in a multi ethnic school a couple of years ago and it was like a league of nations, my son saw one of my class lists and said “dad they are all ghetto names”. Taking the roll was a nightmare, unusual names with no hint at all of pronunciations and kids who get really offended if you get it wrong, no sense of humour all and parents who are either illiterate or perhaps even just stupid, who calls their twins Benson and Hedges, really..  I digress however.

Along with my sensitivity to being the butt of humour has come another problem, its seems that I am becoming sensitive to noise, not a good thing for a teacher, but not just loud talking, but a fan going in the bedroom, rattles in the car, etc. I am certainly not coping with noises especially the pitch of teenage girls.  Absolute silence is not what I am after, but a bit of serenity with the chorus of the night insects or the dawn chorus of the birds something along the lines of that which I enjoy.  Is it that we are assaulted by noise everywhere we go? I am not sure what is happening, perhaps I am getting old. Or is it symptomatic of something else, an ongoing creeping sense of humour failure? I can still laugh at myself however so I guess it is not terminal just yet, in the mean time perhaps a pair of ear plugs may sort out both my problems…



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