Global Bummer: Post-Consumer Humor
By R. D. Flavin

8-30-2013

     Some jokes stand the test of time, while a great many others are destined to echo aimlessly through the wicked dusty and boring Halls of History where very few ever visit.  Sometimes it's the joke, sometimes the 'telling', and at other times it's a fickle audience who decides.if they're in the mood to chuckle or not.  It's like those best laid jokes between man and hyena again, you know, where one laughs and the other gets eaten.  Some find it hysterical (usually hyenas), while others regard the ending as an inter-species hate-crime, murder, and failure to arrange proper dinner-plans.  Other than Yogi Boo Boo and Donald Trump, it takes precision (or just dumb luck) to whack our ulnar nerve (var. tickle one's funny-bone).  We've allowed our collected sense of funny ha-ha to be depleted from a prolonged exposure to the stick-in-the-mud dumb and dumbers.  With a sincere concern for our cultural well-being in the face of the coming Global Bummer, ...I suggest we consider post-consumer humor as an alternative to developing new shticks about old groans.  Classic humor is like not-so-fine Mexican cuisine, as in what goes around comes back around just as tasty.  Philosopher and guitarist extraordinaire, Carlos Santana, is unjustly picked on for commenting, “"Those who cannot remember the bad jokes of the past are condemned to repeat them...”  We need better jokes!

Groo: That red-haired cave-chick with the large bottom that lives in the next valley has been staring at my spear whenever we meet at the full moon swap and fight...”
Wauk: Maybe she likes you and is trying to figure out what it would take for her to swap something for you... What do ya' think.? Four squirrels or a nest with a few bird-eggs?
Groo: Maybe she just wants to fight...
Wauk: Some cave-dudes pay extra for the rough stuff, Groo! What matters here is what you want.”
Groo: She does have a really nice bottom!
Wauk: Then tell her!
Several days later, Wauk found Groo sitting alone in a stream holding his broken spear. Wauk: Groo, what are you doing?
Groo: I don't think the red-haired cave-chick with the large bottom speaks the same language as we do...
Wauk: What happened?
Groo: I grabbed my bottom and told her what I'd like to do to her...
Wauk: And then what happened?
Groo: It hurts when I sit down and I'm going to need a new spear...

     To paraphrase the Stand-Up Preacher, “There are no new jokes beneath the sun (Ecc. 1:9).”   Folks have been making vulgar references about pigs for a wicked long time and with religious and dietary proscriptions still in force it appears jokes about eating a pig's ass will continue at least for the foreseeable future.  During the mid-third millennium BCE in Mesopotamia, as the Sumerians and Akkadians were still playing nice, a proverb arose regarding ...eating the ass of a pig.  It was said, “dúr-šáḫ ḫé-kú-e,” that is, “Let her eat the ham (!?) of the pig!”  It's explained with: “This 'proverb' seems to represent the answer to the question posed in the preceding proverb, in which case it would seem to indicate the ham of the pig – a cut of meat notable for its leanness – was considered to be food mean enough to be fed to the slave-girl. … It would seem, therefore, that the two words, dúr (“buttocks”) and bìd (“anus”) are to be distinguished one from the other (Gordon 1959, p. 144).”  Okay, so we're into terminology, now.

     We regard a whole ham as including both the ‘butt’ end and the ‘shank’ end.  The ‘butt end’ is more fatty and the ‘shank end’ has a little leg and is less fatty.  We've long teased metaphors combining sex and food, especially in matters of the rump, though it's rare to hear a guy comment on a girl's brisket (unless she's Irish).  As far as Rocky Mountain or Prairie oysters are concerned, my love for this country is not the least bit diminished by the habit of some folks eating bull or pig testicles, though I do confess to more than a little disappointment in certain cowboy behaviors.  Castrating with the teeth makes the list, as well.  I mean, usually if we need examples of truly sick and wrong foods, we turn to China and Southeastern Asia, right?  Yeah, I'll have the ox penis and whatever you've got cold and on-tap...  However, as we all take a dip in the Global Bummer hot-pot, we've become a fryolator generation of creepy-foodies with deep-fried Twinkies and Thanksgiving Turkeys being cooked in “turkey fryers.”  What's that?  Have we no shame?  Single word answer: no.

     Though the Asians have their own uses for squid, the Mediterraneans have been jazzing up the icky (and inky) cephalopods for ages.  We steel ourselves in the face of the dreaded fried calamari (pl. of Italian calamaro < Late Latin calamarium or "ink pot" < Greek kalamos (κάλαμος) meaning "reed," "tube" or "pen") at The Olive Garden, and question not, nor care, whatever sauce is served with it.  Yet, damn them mightily and often, there are those who ...dare to go there.





Listen to Chris Rock on Haute Hog Cuisine

     State Representative Joseph M. McNamara (D-RI) has successfully championed legislation making calamari the official state appetizer of Rhode Island.  I'm sure Cthulhu waits dreaming of ...pork bung?   Earlier this year, WBEZ/PRI's This American Life featured an episode challenging the audience to tell the difference between traditional fried calamari and ...breaded and deep-fried porcine bung slices.  As of this writing, it seems pig anus calamari is the stuff of icky urban legend (though out there in the murkiness, imitation calamari is said to be made from minced white fish).  How does one rectify the rectum?  Apparently in good ol' American tradition, you deep-fry it.


A package of pork bung and alleged pig anus calamari.

     Yes, I was dutifully corrupted by George Carlin's Class Clown in 1972 (I was in eighth grade, duh), especially the infamous "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”  It wasn't exactly catechism, but close, to hear: “Remember the ones you giggled at in sixth grade?  '...And the cock crowed three times.'  Hey, the cock crowed 3 times.  Ha ha ha ha.  Hey, it's in the Bible.  Ha ha ha ha."   As attested above, I was in eighth grade in 1972...  It was still funny ...and yeah, it was sorta' in the Bible.  Well, actually, all the gospels mention a cock crowing, Mark claims the cock crowed twice, yet all gospel authors mention Peter denying Jesus three times (Matt. 26:33-35, Mark 14:29-31, Luke 22:33-34 John 13:36-38).  Denial=3, Cock Crowing=2.  And, with chagrin, it's not really cock...  The standard English translation of “cock” has often been “rooster,” as translated from the Greek ἀλέκτωρ or alektór.  The cockerel or cock has a torrid and torpid past, as the Old English 'cock' or coc and kok is related to the Old Norse kokkr, as opposed to all those other foreign words derived from the Latin gallus.  At some early medieval point, 'cock' was squeezed from the Latin coccus (from an insect, Coccus ilicis, used as a scarlet dye), itself from the Greek kokkos, that is, grain and seed.  It's not really that difficult to find humor in the Bible, though some go to odd lengths to do so.

     Personally, I've always thought Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot's wife,” was especially hilarious.  Adolescent schadenfreude, I'd imagine.  Now, there are plenty of apologists out there who claim that Jesus was ruminating on fasting, when he said (Luke 5:36-39): “Then He spoke a parable to them: 'No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately[d] desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”  Some commentators go further with explanations of teaching traditions suggesting that 'new' teaching must be instilled in 'new' students, unsullied by the dregs of past tradition.  However, bringing light, I have it on solid second-hand authority that the shtick about the burst wineskins would have brought the tent or tavern down with laughter.  It was the obvious absurdity of the proposition that made it funny.  Yeah, ya' had to have been there, I guess.

     Now, one needn't be crude to be funny when it comes to the Bible, though it can't hurt...  Well, maybe just a little!  Take for example the case of Sir Godfrey Rolles Driver (Oxford, Professor of Semitic Philology) and his success at getting a fart joke in the Bible.  Driver was an expert in Semitic languages and Assyriology, and also worked on and directed the translations of the New English Bible (NEB) from 1949 to the publication of the New Testament in 1961 and the Old Testament in 1970.  Driver believed that the Hebrew ṣnḥ in Josh. 15.18 and Judg. 1.14 was a cognate synonym to the Akkadian ṣanāḥu, a medical term for anal bleeding (Driver 1957).  In matters of euphemism, Driver extended “dismounted” or "descend" and "shouted" to mean “broke wind” or farted.  Okay, first we have the Septuagint or LXX version of Judges 1:14 as “καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ εἰσόδῳ αὐτῆς καὶ ἐπέσεισεν αὐτὴν Γοθονιὴλ τοῦ αἰτῆσαι παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῆς ἀγρόν, καὶ ἐγόγγυζε καὶ ἔκραξεν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὑποζυγίου· εἰς γῆν νότου ἐκδέδοσαί με. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ Χάλεβ· τί ἐστί σοι,” or Kritaí 14 “And it came to pass as she went in, that Gothoniel urged her to ask a field of her father; and she murmured and cried from off her ass, Thou hast sent me forth into a south land: and Chaleb said to her, What is thy request?”  Now, the Masoretic Text, ca. 700-1000 CE, has wttnḥ m‘l h c' hḥmwr wyʼmr-lh klb mh-lk, which today's Jewish Study Bible (Neviʼ׳im Judges 1:14, p. 511) translates as, “She dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb asked her, 'What is the matter?'”  So, with scholarly aplomb and straight-faced, Prof. Driver successfully argued for the 1970 NEB translation as: “As she sat on the ass, she broke wind, and Caleb said, 'What did you mean by that?'”  As is said, “Well, isn't that special?”

     Renowned specialist in Near Eastern languages, Prof. Arthur Gibson (University of Roehampton, Philosophy), confronted Driver directly, both through personal correspondence and in-print, firmly (though ...gently) correcting the error (Gibson 1976).  Admitting that the LXX uses boaō (“cry of appeal or joy”), gogguzō (“to murmur”), and krazō (“cry of distress”) for ṣnḥ in the Joshua and Judges versions of the story of Achsah and Caleb, Gibson blames the Greek translators, tosses a nod to Aristophanes, but ultimately faults Driver for insisting on extending “shouting” or making an oral sound to farting, an anal sound.  And, as it ...goes, it gets worse for Driver as Gibson quotes The Assyrian Dictionary which translates ṣanāḥu as “to excrete” or “to have diarrhea.”  All this for a fart joke?  And for a variation on the old expression, “When grandma farts, we beat the dog,” the commentary from The Jewish Study Bible on Judges 1:14 allows: “According to this v., Achsah persuaded Othniel, but further on the negotiation occurs between Achsah and Caleb; hence, many scholars prefer the reading of the Septuagint, according to which Othniel persuaded Achsah.  Dismounting from the donkey is a gesture of politeness.”  Right, blame the donkey!  BTW, “broke wind” was changed to “she dismounted” in the revised 1972 version of the NEB.

     We anticipate the coming Global Bummer when every television channel will run FOX NEWS, when only the 1% will be able to afford to choose from anything other than the dollar or value menu, when Miley Cyrus and Honey Boo Boo either 1) jointly host The Academy Awards or 2) are selected to be a Super Bowl half-time act, or when ...birds suddenly appear.  Yeah, I'm going green, but it's not from recycling...  Well, maybe with a little post-consumer humor, but actually ...from typing out all these damned diacritical marks!


Bibliography:

Driver, G. R.  1957.  "Problems of Interpretation in the Heptateuch.”  Melanges Bibliques: Ridiges en l'Honneur de Andre Robert.  Paris: Travaux de l'Institut Catholique de Paris.  4: 73-75.
Gibson, Arthur.  1976.  "ṢNḤ IN JUDGES I 14: NEB AND AV TRANSLATIONS."  Vetus Testamentum.  26, Fasc. 3: 275-28.
Gordon, Edmund I.  1959.  Sumerian Proverbs: Glimpses of Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia.  With a chapter by Thorkild Jacobsen.  Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania.

For more on ṣnḥ, see:
Rendsbury, Gary.  1988.  "Hebrew św/yh and Arabic šḫḫ," in Y. L. Arbeitman, ed., Fucus: A Semitic/Afrasian Gathering in Remembrance of Albert Ehrman.  Amsterdam: John Benjamins.  See: pp. 419-430.

And ..just for fun, see:
Ullendorff, Edward.  1979.  "The Bawdy Bible."  Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.  42 ; 25-456.

deep-kidding,

Rick

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