Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Monthly Archives: October 2022

What’s so funny about Spanglish?

A joke to ponder submitted by the incredible Connie Manguno:

How does milk introduce itself in Spanish?

Soy milk

Teachers and learners of Spanish spend a lot of time on “ser” (to be) vs. “estar” (also ‘to be’).

This is a playful way to introduce English speakers to “I am” using the “ser” verb form of “to be” for permanent conditions. In this case, the double entendre and joke is “Soy milk'” (I am milk)–this would be the introduction of a native bilingual, one who can interchangeable use codes of Spanish (I am) and English (milk). This is also of course a play on “soy milk” vs. oat milk, cow’s milk etc.

The joke is mildly incomplete in my opinion. The question should be “How does a non-dairy milk introduce itself in ….Spanish? Is it Spanish or is it something else? Does it matter? What makes this joke funny is the appearance of the code-switch. Only a reader/listener who understands a bit of Spanish conjugation can understand this joke so in a way it’s intended for an insider, bilingual audience. I like it. I laughed outloud. Is this joke funny to you? Do you think it conveys a positive or negative connotation? What’s so funny? ¡Pregúntale a tu mamá!

What’s so funny? Konglish

Konglish and translingual jokes!

These Korean/Konglish jokes were shared with me by a brilliant UGA student, Ekaterina (Katya) Mushurueva 10/22. I am so grateful to work with such terrific, translingual minds in an asynchronous “e” class entitled LLED 6631e Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. The prompt to students was to read about translanguaging and post a translingual joke (or other creative transliteracy post). Reading student responses has been one of the most ecstatic moments as a professor. Thank you Katya and others for such a great day online!

Katya’s post title: Konglish and translingual jokes!

“The influence of English on Korean is quite substantial: there are many loan words and sometimes almost entire areas of content can be represented by them. Many people refer to this mixture of languages as Konglish, which I think can serve as an example of translanguaging.  Korean is also heavily influencing English due to the Korean waive – rapidly expanding popularity of Korean culture (music, cinema, fashion, etc.) in the west. So many Korean words are entering English, I think the word “skinship” (Kor. “스킨십”) is an interesting example, originally a loan word that found a new meaning in Korean culture and entered English referring to the concept of bonding between two individuals through non-sexual physical contact such as hugging.  So, with this mutual connection and influence of languages on one another, some translingual jokes are bound to appear. Below there are two of my favorite ones.  

Q: What do you call a 5-year-old onion?

A: 오년! (onyeon)

The number 5 in Korean is 오 (o), and “year” is년 . So, 오년 literally means 5 years and sounds like the word “onion” 🙂 

Q: Why did the pear go to the hospital?

A: 배아파서 (baeapaseo)

The word 배 (bae) means both pear and stomach. And, 아파 (apa) from the word 아프다 (apeuda) means pain or ache. So, the response to the question is because “pear/stomach/pear’s stomach :)” is hurting!

I think these types of jokes have a lot of educational potential. If implemented in the classroom, they may become a way for students to acquire new vocabulary by building strong associations with it.” 

What’s So Funny about Bilingualism?

– What’s considered trashy if you’re poor, but classy if you’re rich?

– Day drinking, speaking two languages, hard drugs, tax avoidance.

Misha asks: why is this joke funny? 

Misha answers and asks you to chime in:

I like how this joke raises attention to the socioeconomic disparities in values or the way perceived “deficits” can turn into assets just by one’s economic privilege.  One might look down upon day drinking (alcoholism), hard drugs (addiction), and tax avoidance (fraudulent, criminal behavior).  By placing “speaking two languages” in this list, it takes three things that are widely considered bad for one’s own or public health as parallel to speaking two languages which we might otherwise think as good.  The joke’s implications help us consider what constitutes “trashy” bilingualism in terms of wealth and privilege rather than language itself. I also like the sonic off-rhyme of “trashy/classy” in the opening question.  It sets up a playful and musical tone in its dark humor.  

I learned this joke from a group of students in 2020.  Got one? Share it and discuss!

What’s So Funny?

I am very excited to read students posts this week in my course on bilingualism and bilingual education. Among other creative requests, I asked that students share a bilingual “joke” to help us understand how humor works to reinforce messages about bilingual/translingual identity in the U.S. and the world. Here’s one of my posts. I thought I’d share some here, too, in honor of fall celebrations.

As we approach the fall equinox, many religions celebrate Fall holidays of importance that follow the lunar calendar, including Moon festival traditions in the East and Jewish New Year traditions.  A Jewish community member just sent out a Yom Kippur joke (a day of fasting where a ram’s horn called “a shofar” is blown).  The joke:

I asked my uncle’s family, “How is everyone’s Yom Kippur going?”

He answered: “Shofar shogood”

This joke highlighted for me some of humor’s beauty–to connect insider group community members with one another, using vocabulary and/or phonemic structures from the non-dominant language or culture.  This joke does both–a play on the Hebrew and English words “so far, so good” and “shofar, sho-good,” also highlighting the s/sh phoneme switch that often identifies Yiddish and/or Hebrew speakers as a linguistically different minority.   This accent alluded to here, using “sh” instead of “s” has a long biblical tradition when the Semitic Ephraimites tribe were identified as foreign and slaughtered because they could not pronounce the /ʃ/ (sh) phoneme.  So this joke makes light of pronunciation that can have real life/death consequences.

I welcome opportunities in small and large group discussions where you can share translingual poetry and humor!

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