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July 27, 2012

Ever Use Jokes And Funny Stories?

Everybody likes a good joke. But sometimes what is funny to one person is not at all funny...

...or might even be offensive to someone else.

I like – and use – funny stories and jokes all the time. Sometimes they work and sometimes they absolutely do not.

In an ESL setting it can be particularly challenging to tell a story that you might think is funny (and it might be) but you find that you have to explain all the details or background - or even worse – you might have to explain ‘why’ it’s funny.

If you have to explain ‘why’ something is funny, even if you thought it was funny, be careful; explaining a good joke is a good way to kill it.

My stories emerge from situations or classroom conversations. Sometimes these stories, besides being funny, tell us all (students and teachers) what is acceptable and what is not. Taboo subjects are crucial to be aware of.

In a culture that values public modesty, for example, jokes or stories that focus on sexual activity or bodily functions might be too offensive to ever be amusing. On a related note, swearing can limit your job prospects. Here’s an NPR report you can read (or listen to) http://www.npr.org/2012/07/27/157467279/last-word.

But, back to jokes, they can be culturally insightful, educational and yes, even funny. Here’s a website with a bunch of jokes for all age and skill levels - http://www.multimedia-english.com/contenidos/listado/jokes.

Be sure to take a look at this page for some linguistic related jokes - http://www.multimedia-english.com/contenido/ficha/do-you-get-it/543. Do you get them?

Some of these play with word sounds, meanings or their context. Either way, they all play with the idea of words colliding or conflicting with their expected use or meaning.

My personal preference is that humor should always be unexpected. If your punch line is predictable, you need a better joke.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


Also, Morf just might be available to visit your school or agency this coming September. You can contact him at mmorf@mail.com. He's always interested in talking about words, films, music and American culture in general.

Posted by mmorf at July 27, 2012 11:35 PM


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