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.