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[Lingo] Humor, culture and language [EN]

Godwin and I had, at one point, discussed the Scary Movie series.  

I had found parts of it funnier than he had, as there were references to
American culture that he would certainly miss.  For example, in the one
that he found rather poor, Scary Movie 2, there is a scene where a
basketball in a haunted house begins bouncing.  The students staying in
the house take the basketball and it goes into a Nike commercial.  

Yesterday, I rented the latest one, Scary Movie 4.  In the very
beginning, Shaq O'Neal comes to consciousness and says, "Where am I?" 
A voice answers, "You're being held against your will."  Shaq says,

Even those Americans who don't follow basketball will probably realize,
after a second where they read that as romaji Ko-be, that it was
pronounced Kobi and refers to his former team mate and rival on the LA
Lakers, Kobe Bryant.  Most Europeans and Asians would miss it entirely. 

Like its predecessors, Scary Movie 4 has goofs on various other horror
movies.  There's a conversation between the heroine and the ghost or
whatever of a murdered child, supposedly in Japanese.  As many folks
probably see (or saw the movie) while under the influence of some
stimulant, and the Japanese is inflected, as if it were a conversation,
many of them probably miss the fact that it consists entirely of brand
names.  "Mitsubishi....Sony!" shouts the boy.  (The subtitles read
something like, "Follow the blood and you will see the answer.") As the
words aren't simply recited, but spoken as if they mean something, and
often rather quickly, I suspect many Americans will miss it. 

Of course, this works both ways.  While I can understand what's
funny about a Japanese comedy where nothing is EVER clearly stated,
(even the subway signs say things like tabun whatever Eki) it's not as
funny to me as it is to someone who grew up in that culture. 

Here's one more for the Americans, and probably only funny to those over
40 (or perhaps 50).  It's from an old Mork and Mindy.  Mindy has been
arrested and is put into a cell with a sweet old woman.  We folks of my
generation recognize the actress as Barbara Billingsly.  

The sweet old lady turns out to be an axe murderess.  When Mork goes to
visit, Mindy says, "You've got to get me out of here, she's a

Mork says, "Oh c'mon Mindy, look at her.  She could be Beaver Cleaver's

To those who have no clue about this--in the 50's? Early 60's? there was
a situation comedy called Leave it to Beaver, about Theodore (Beaver)
Cleaver and his brother Wally.  It was the typical late 50's, early 60's
comedy about a suburban family, whose worst trouble was that the kids
had broken a window playing baseball and how were they going to hide it
from Mom and Dad.  The mother, of course, was played by Barbara
Billingsly, and she always had milk and cookies ready for Beaver, Wally
and their friends. 

Culture and cultural influences can be amusing.  Many Americans in Japan
try to be more Japanese than the Japanese and vice versa.  I remember a
Japanese woman who picked up a wooden sword I used for kendou practice.  

Was it because she had done kendou as a child in school?  No, she began
to practice her golf swing with it. 

As for you British folks who see this, yes, we spell it humor. As one of
our humorists (not humourists) once wrote, they spell funny, but they
have some good bands, like the Roulling Stounes.  


Scott Robbins

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Wesley: The Council's orders are to concentrate on the...
Buffy: Orders. I don't think I'm going to be taking any more 
orders. Not from you, not from them. 
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Buffy: They're in England. I don't think they can tell which way 
my back is facing. 

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