Sunday, 8 August 2010

Mrs. Malaprop

Speaking of non-PC (see blog of 8th Aug.) ), I have to confess that I have a problem with some of the great '-isms' of our time, and I wonder how history will view them.

Racism for example is clearly a heinous thing, and I speak as one who has lived in the Southern USA in the 1962 during segregation and also in South Africa just after the end of apartheid. Racism born of ignorance was also common in my home town in the UK during the 1950s, even though the only black people in town were the white men who emerged from the coal mine covered in black coal dust. That type of racism, born of prejudice, anger or ignorance, must clearly be eradicated whenever possible by legislation and education.

This type of hostile racism is however, in my opinion, quite different to friendly jokes about foreigners' difficulties with the English language. Indeed this type of language-superiority humour is not confined to the difficulties of foreigners, as shown by Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop, who consistently amused people by using the inappropriate word....("forget the fellow, - illiterate him from your memory" and "I laid Sir Anthony's preposition before her"). This may be cruel humour (as much humour is) and it may be supercilious, but we know that we are all capable of promulgating and indeed culpable of propitiating Malapropisms which may be amusing or embarrassing depending on the circumstances, but they are not racist. Not nearly as bad as prosopagnosia for example, another of my failings (they all look the same to me). And when I try to speak a foreign language, my every third word is likely to be a Malapropism, though my fault could be something as simple as a properispomenon.

My point is that a lot of 'racist' jokes are not really racist, though I accept that many are the thin end of a very fat wedge (Bernard Manning being at the fat end).

As an example, I quote the Polish man who came to work in England and married an English girl.
("Nah, don't get me wrong, guvnor, some of my best friend are Poles, but I don't see what they're doin' in the middle of them lap-dancin' clubs with half-naked girls twined rahnd 'em".)

Seriously though, Poles are very popular in this many parts of UK. They're mainly hard-working, intelligent, polite and humorous, and many of them are beautiful blondes (oops! more '-ism' problems).

Anyway this Pole had only been married for three weeks when he went to a solicitor and asked for a divorce.
"Are there any grounds?" asked the lawyer.
"Yes, ve hev an acre and a half and a nice little bungalow".
"No, I mean does either of you have a grudge?"
"Vot for do we need grudge? Ve hev carport and plenty street parking".
"Are there any difficulties with the relationship"
"No, no, they all in Poland"
"No, I mean is there any problem with infidelity"
"No, no, ve hev hi-fidelity stereo and DVD"
"Are there any problems with your marriage, does your wife beat you up, for instance?"
"No,no, I start vork early so I always up first"
"Is your wife a nagger?"
"No, no, she white girl"
"So why are you considering divorce"
"Because she trying to kill me"
"That's a very serious allegation. Have you any evidence?".
"She trying to poison me. She went to drug store, bought small bottle and put it on her special shelf in bathroom. I read English pretty good now and it say 'Polish Remover'!

I don't think that's racist, is it? Perhaps we need a new word for language difficulties which cause mirth in others.

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