LANGUAGE AMUSEMENT

Some years ago, reporting a discussion with my then 15 year old Australian son as to his ambitions, an Asian refugee woman said, “He want to go to university and do history degree, then go to New Zealand, join company and “learn rope”.

She came from a S.E. Asian country with no plurals in their speech, as is the case with some English words such as fish or sheep. i.e “Look at that sheep” “Look at those sheep”.

In reporting my son’s “learning rope” comment she had, presumably, without knowing the meaning of the expression, simply repeated what she though she’d heard but missed out the pluralisation “ropes”.

Anyway, we fell about laughing yet try as we did, none of us could explain to her why it was funny.

Ever since I’ve told this story to senior academic friends who burst out laughing, but then comes the challenge. That is to imagine they have an hour to write an explanation why it’s funny, failing which they’ll be shot. They all think about it then admit it’s an impossible thing to do.

Bear in mind, we otherwise ignore new-comers’ language glitches such as saying “fishes”, as part of their learning processes.

Thereafter “learning rope” became everyday dialogue in my circles, as a term for new employees.

Its spread was rapid as reflected by a phone call from my family lawyer a few years back.

He told me he’d run across a fellow lawyer he scarcely knew and hadn’t spoken to in years. They’d had a brief discussion on how busy they were whereupon the fellow had said, “We’ve taken on three new law graduates to learn rope”.

The point of mentioning this is the issue of humour. Things we find funny are often difficult to explain. But, what is tiresome in the modern era is the plague of offence-taking and reading harm, usually an ‘ism such as sexism, racism, ageism ad nauseam into jokes when no such thing was intended or indeed occurred.

13 Comments

Repeat that Sir Bob in public and Foon the fool will have you frogmarched to the gallows

Love you long time.

I think it’s funny because it takes a maritime metaphor from the days of sailing where new recruits had to learn how to tie knots and manipulate the ropes that moved the sails (“learning the ropes”) and makes it literal and specific to learning about rope itself. Other variants suggest themselves e.g. “cat among pigeon”, “alike as pea pod”, “all mouth trouser” etc.

Thats bizarre, i just wrote a email detailing some of the isim’s afflicting a current project

Couldn’t agree more. Those who so fashionably espouse critical theory tropes seems to have an under-developed sense of humor alright. They also seem to suffer from massive self-importance. I am afraid we are creating a generation of humorless intellectual weaklings. Discomfort is not trauma for godsake. If there is friction, even inadvertent friction, it’s an opportunity for personal growth, not just condemnation.based on -isms from those who think they’re somehow more socially advanced….

Some years ago a mutual friend came to our pub-group. He said he was taken aback at how we ‘verbally abused’ each other all the time although no-one seemed to take offence. Within a few weeks he became as adept as any of us and became a regular. Alas the poor fellow is no longer with usbu threat of us continue with the banter. What fun.

Did you know that not pronouncing Maori words correctly is considered ‘racist’ as well? So we can only conclude that asians, or french or basically anyone else who pronounces english words differently to how we do, must be racist. I mean, I remember going to the southern United States, where they would say (for example) ‘hep’ instead of ‘help’. I’m not sure whether I was the racist for pronouncing it ‘help’, or they were the racists for pronouncing it ‘hep’. I think it is safest to simply conclude that we were all racists.

So I therefore unreservedly apologize to all.

“If you can’t understand why someone is doing something, look at the consequences of their actions, whatever they might be, and then infer the motivations from their consequences.

For example if someone is making everyone around them miserable and you’d like to know why, their motive may simply be to make everyone around them miserable including themselves.”
― Jordan B. Peterson

Jacinda, Andrew Little &Co have decided to elevate offence taking beyond “tiresome”, beyond misery, to a full blown criminal offence.

Years ago we had the pleasure of hosting a Japanese student, his name was Tetsuro, which he had shortened to Tits for simplicity. “Tits it is,” I said. When he’d return to Japan he sent a delightful letter thanking us and signed off the letter with what should have read “I would like to keep in touch with your family,” but instead wrote, “I would like to keep touching your family”. At least I hope he meant to write the former. Hmm.

I don’t think Mr Foon has much of a sense of humour. He’d go well in the UK.

Back in the late ’80’s I was appointed to a middle management position in HR of a Govt. Dept in Wellington. Having worked for the same Govt Dept at the Gear Meat Co, Petone, I was treated with suspicion and from some outright hostility. I can recall at Friday night drinks being accosted by a woman about my age berating me about ‘how dear the Govt Dept appoint a MAN who worked in the meat works to a sensitive HR role’. Having only been in the role for 5 days, I responded ‘Maybe I was best candidate’ Then she was introduced as ‘Joy Lumen’. Well not been trained in the language of ‘Political speak’, after minutes of this berating, I asked her whether her ‘lumen gave her joy’. People in the group looked at me as if to say ‘what is he talking about?’ (I had training in biological science). A few days later I was summonsed to the HR Director’s office and severely reprimanded. After receiving my explanation, she laughed and said ‘that’s why I appointed you’

Thinking about singular and plurals, I often wonder why people who have English as a first language fail to understand that the plural of you is “you” not “yous” which makes me cringe.

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