Thursday, September 20, 2007

A new milestone in the world of Japanese humor!

This day is a truly great day for Japanese people.

You see, since arriving at my new place of business a few short weeks ago I've been hanging out with this one guy in my section in particular. It only makes sense since he's the only guy on my side of the office that's my age and sits diagonally in front of me - he also knows all the younger people at work and has some interesting friends. So the language of business in the office is usually Japanese, with 2 glaring exceptions: one is my boss, but calling that English is a stretch sometimes, and the other is lunch with my new cohort. We speak Japanese in the office and out with friends since I don't want to alienate anyone else, but I know he doesn't get any other chance to practice and he's good enough to hold a decent conversation, so I don't mind it at lunch.

In fact, I've taken it upon myself to teach him some of the finer details of the English language, including humor, and I think he's catching on pretty well. I'm working hard to dispel the whole concept of the "American joke", which is basically the Japanese way of saying "I think you expect me to laugh, but I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

So I started by trying to explain sarcasm to him and am easing him in slowly - he sees what's going on, but told me that the total deadpan straight delivery I give him still throws him off some. It's to be expected. I swear a tear almost came to my eye today though as he caught me totally off guard today - the exchange went a little something like so:

(he buys an energy drink, complaining of fatigue due to playing Mahjongg too late in celebration of Hump Day, which I of course explained to him in excruciating detail a couple weeks back)

Yudai: I'm sooo tired! *cracks open drink and proceeds to chug*
Me: You know, you should be careful with that stuff - it'll make your breath wreak!
Yudai: You mean, like your mother?
Me: *remembers telling him about "your mom" jokes and struggling to stifle laughter* ...yes, YES!! Exactly like my mom!

Compared to most Japanese people this guy is a comic genius! I've met some that have spent a whole year in the US and still don't understand things like sarcasm, and this guy's telling momma jokes after just 3 short weeks! I think it might be time to up the ante and put him on the fast track. I feel some South Park and Chappelle's Show coming on in his near future.


*** maybe nola maybe jelly *** said...

oh f* - i just wrote a co-worker dialogue exchange too! but before i saw urs, no kidding.

btw - u need to learn how to play mahjong from yudai so when u come back i can win ur money! :b

Mike said...


You accomplished what I could not in Japan.

The subtlety of sarcasm is not really well understood in Japan but is a bit easier to teach in Korea. I've got at least 3 projects of mine who are regularly insulting me and using sarcasm. It has gotten to the point with one of them where I have to tell him to calm down sometimes. HA.

One of our exchanges went thusly:

Me: "We should find somewhere good to go"
Him: "Yeah, good and cool"
Me: "Yeah"
Him: "Well, not too cool obviously or you won't be allowed in"
Me: "Eh?"
Him: "Dumb and deaf, eh? Maybe we should just stay in then..."