Humorless Feminist

Posted by – May 27, 2006

Like everyone, people frequently forward me dumb jokes that someone has forwarded to them, & on & on.

And often I’m offended by jokes that other people laugh at.

There’s this one, say:

A woman from North Dakota and another from the East coast were seated side by side on an airplane. The woman from North Dakota, being friendly and all, said: “So, where are you from?” The East coast woman said, “From a place where they know better than to use a preposition at the end of a sentence.” The woman from North Dakota sat quietly for a few moments and then replied: “So, where are you from, bitch?”

I understand that the joke is based on the woman’s rudeness, but I’m also tired of jokes about East Coast women, and educated women, etc. They tire me. I’m an educated East Coast woman, you know?

Don’t get me started on blonde jokes.

But what amazes me is that someone would actually send me these jokes. Not a stranger, either. Someone who knows well enough that I’m blonde, from the East Coast, and educated. Shoot, they even know I’ve taught grammar.

And I can’t figure out if this is weird passive-aggressive stuff, or if people just don’t think.

Either way, I get pissed off – probably more pissed off than necessary – and if I say anything about it (to the person, or to someone we both know) I get accused of being “too touchy” or “humorless” or “sensitive.”

Well, yeah, so I am. When people tell jokes that I’m the punchline of, remarkably, I feel offended. So sue me. But either way, it’s very hard for me to like the person who sent it much.

2 Comments on Humorless Feminist

  1. Phoebe says:

    Interesting. I grew up hearing that joke being a “Texan” and a “Yankee,” both of whom were male. In small town Texas in the 70s, being a “Yankee” was only slightly more acceptible than being a Communist. It takes a long time for the hatred of occupiers to subside. (You’d think Bush would have remembered that.)

    Since studying syntax, I have always been amused by that particular joke because it relies, of course, on a fundamental misunderstanding of the rules of English grammar. For one thing, that sentence was a question, and word order rules like that are generally not valid in questions anyway. But on a deeper lever, the ‘don’t end a sentence in a preposition’ rule was a bad rule to begin with.

    The way it was explained to me, that rule, and the rule about never splitting infinitives, were written when Latin was felt to be the ‘perfect’ language, and were designed to help make English more Latinate by prohibitting things in English that were improper in Latin. In Latin, you don’t split infinitives (you can’t — they are a single word) and you don’t end sentences with prepositions (it would leave an incomplete-sounding phrase).

    But English is not a Romance language, it is a Germanic language. And those words that we sometimes end sentences with are not prepositions — they are ‘particles,’ an integral part of the verb. If you know German, you know that German has what are called seperable verbs — the infinitive is one word, but when you conjugate it, you take off a little piece of it (a piece that, oddly enough, often looks just like a preposition) and throw it to the end of the sentence. English grammar works the same way — you are *supposed* to end sentences with these particles, and that is why it sounds so stilted when people use circumlocutions to avoid doing so.

    Having said that, I have no idea what the official ‘style sheets’ say on the matter these days. Linguists are usually the last people consulted on such things. I know we can finally split infinitives again with impunity, so I have hope that eventually we can end sentences with particles with nary a raised eyebrow. But who knows.

    None of which has anything to do with Helen’s original subject. Myself, I always go way too far in the other direction. The more something upsets me, the more it will often amuse me, in a black-comic, ironic kind of way. I make far too many inappropriate jokes (fortunately, the vast majority of them stay locked up in my skull). I learned early that the best defense that I had against teasing was to mock myself — sooner and more viciously than anyone else would dare. It tended to leave the bullies speechless. Unfortunately, it also means that my inner critic is very adept at using humor against me. It took me a long time to realize how deeply I was ‘innocuously’ wounding myself. A thing to know about me is that if I am incessantly cracking wise, it should not be interpreted as ‘well, at least she can keep her sense of humor in a bad situation’ (as it usually is), it should be interpreted as ‘she’s at the end of her rope and her self-control is gone. She is lashing out at everyone–watch out.’

    Given that, I tend not to think of jokes at my expense as anything unusual, and don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about them. I often frustrate passive-aggressive people, cause all their machinations usually go right over my head.

  2. Rosemary says:

    There is one thing about the blonde joke issue and that is that very frequently the gender of the subject of the joke is frequently unclear and could well refer to a male blonde. This simple question can deflate the sometimes pompous male joke purveyor.

    Rosie

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