Teachers Act Up!

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

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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