Teachers Act Up!

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

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!

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