“Appropriate Use Of Humor”

In the speakers’ meeting they counsel us foreign speakers to be careful with humor, because it doesn’t always translate, even when everyone is speaking english. In fact, they tell us, we should not use humor at all.

Asking me not to use humor is like asking the democrats not to bash Bush, or Rummy not to put his foot in it, or the Italians not to take pizza quite so seriously. I mean, I suppose I COULD give the humor a wide miss, but that runs so contrary to who I am that I’m not sure who I’d be when I was done.

In my last session of the day I was discussing Linux commands that GroupWise administrators might want to be familiar with. I hammered hard on the “man” command (usage: >man [command]) which allows you to Read The Freakin’ Manual from a command prompt, and do so on almost any Linux command you’re faced with. On every slide, as we discussed a command, I’d remind them that if they wanted more details, they should use “man.”

It occurred to me that this was starting to sound a little sexist. Apology for inherent sexism is often funny… unfortunately, this occurred to me at the wrong time.

We were discussing a command (I’ll get to it in a moment) and I gave them the “man” mantra. I then apologized.

“The feminists in the room are probably unhappy that there’s no “woman” command. Sexist or not, you can’t do a “woman mount” and get anything useful.”

At this point I realized that “mount”‘ was the wrong command for making this particular joke. Or maybe it was the exactly RIGHT command, because the entire room burst into laughter, with the women in the room laughing the loudest.

It was probably funnier for the fact that I didn’t MEAN to tell a dirty joke. Honestly, I didn’t. When I tell dirty jokes intentionally I wink, or rimshot, rather than blushing and looking around the room to see if my boss is watching.


p.s. That was my last session. The network comes down in a few minutes, then I’m off to the airport, so that’s the last you’ll hear from me from Africa.

7 thoughts on ““Appropriate Use Of Humor””

  1. I’d be willing to think that the fact you did, in fact, blush and look around guiltily just made it FUNNIER to these people.

    I think you’ll be fine.

  2. Jokes like that are the best when they’re unintentional. I doubt you’d have gotten that kind of reaction if you’d intended to do it.

    …and I really wish I had been there just for that now. But this is better. You share the goodies, I don’t have to deal with anything that might have bored me, or eye fatigue from watching an ASL interpreter for hours on end.

    Thank you for sharing. ^_^

  3. I ain’t going to touch that joke. 😀 Personally, I think you lucked out this time, but I suspect the unintentional and spontaneous nature of your quip did more for the humor than tired male-female language focus.

    1. It could have been worse. He could have tried to assuage the feminists by telling them they could always ‘man bash’. As it stands, that quip must be the best tech joke I’ve heard in weeks.

  4. I’m reminded of my AP psychology teacher, who once made a rather different comment about the intelligence of the students in the room than he had intended, by telling us “AP-ness usually means that you’re smart.”

    1. I’ve seen that gag in more sensitive situations

      One of my missionary companions back in 1988 (think “roommate” + “co-worker” + “fellow zealot” and you’ll be about there) was upset at one of the assistants to the president. The APs, as they were called, were called to their positions from among the ranks of their 19-to-21-year-old peers, and reported directly to the Mission President (think “boss” + “team coach” + “father-figure” + “pastor” and you’ll be about there).

      You can see it coming already, I’m sure. Dennis is in the mission office, and is tired of this particular AP lording it up over him, and so in response to some barked order or another he bows low, and combines “Yes, your highness” with the term “AP.”

      It came out “Yes, your AP-ness.”

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