Friday, December 19, 2008

They really turn the house? How?

Man, I've haven't been called an ignorant foreigner since I left North Dakota. It's frustrating.

It's almost like a grammaticality judgment. Ironic humor relies on a similar sense of "obviously wrong" so that a false statement is more clearly intentional. You need to know the system well enough to get it. To readers of this blog a word like interweb would most likely look intentional. And if I describe the internets as a big truck you all know that I realize it's really like a series of tubes.

I used to bother my sister by referring to things with a related but completely wrong word. I would ask, for instance, what she thought of that new song by Otter. 'You know, Kissed by a Rose.'

And mispronunciations can work the same way. Since I'm a big fan of Three's Company I sometimes refer to the soup of the day as soup doojer. But never at a nice restaurant. The garkons at those places hate jokes. Even at a Taco Bell when I asked for a kwessadilla I was corrected by the kid at the counter. It's pronounced 'kaysa-deeya' he told me. Suuure it is, I said and winked.

If I'm going to risk having my intelligence misunderestimated I should at least try better jokes. So far these are all as bad as the tired line about putting the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble. As annoying as playing air-drums and saying ba-DUMpum after every pun.

Last April Grant Barrett posted a column he wrote for the Malaysia Star on intentional mispronunciations: "Saying it wrong on purpose." He could have called it 'Saying in wrong on porpoise.' It's probably a good thing that he didn't.

One of his commenters writes:

My wife and I have a habit of saying the name of the actress from Pirates of the Caribbean as Keira Kuh-Nightley—just for fun. And the Actress from Batman Returns as Michelle Puh-Feiffer.

Keira Kuh-Nightly is so common in our household that we once said it in front of a friend, who explained that her name was pronounced “Nightly.” Oops.

"Oops"? Nonono. Your friend is the one who should be embarrassed for missing the little joke. It seems to me that the non-silent 'K' is one of those mispronunciations you should assume is a joke. Right?

There was a scene on Friends in which Chandler, trying to embarrass Joey, asks him where the Dutch are from, and Joey of course has no idea. Chandler teases him about it saying that it's somewhere near the Netherlands and Joey smartly responds that the Netherlands are a made up land where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from.

I'm sure a good chunk of the audience laughed then thought Wait. where DO they come from? That's just short of where humor fails. If Joey had said Dutchland the laugh would probably have been cut in half. Especially if he took the stress off '-land' like in England or Poland. Because Dutchland almost sounds real. Especially to half the audience of Friends.

And if you live just south of a country that no-one can name, and you're constantly running into people who think that because you speak Dutch you must live in Deutschland, then you see something a lot like that on a blog post about swaffelen you're probably going to assume the silly writer is making that same mistake. Because it can be tough for Belgiumites for a Netherlandians to know that round here, "Dutchland" is so wrong as to be ridiculous (even if not funny). And so way over there in Belgium our friend, Loveoranges, is getting the wrong idea about us.

In her own profile she laments "ookal heb ik zelf geen humor." But in this case, I don't know that it would have helped any.


  1. Now this "joke" is just a bloody corpse on the side of the road, and you're a hammer with blood spattered all over it.

    Maybe if you go one more post with it, something unexpected will happen--

  2. Michael--happy holidays. I've been enjoying your blog posts.

    Over at Fark they have a lot of user-submitted headlines that have the word "penis" tacked on at the end, which undercuts the otherwise serious headline. I wonder what furreners think of that?


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