OK UK?: Funny, That...
So, I'm thinking about funny, as one does, and how funny is such a, well, funny word.
From way back in the dim distant past I remember my parents describing a neighbor of ours as funny. Not in the “ha-ha” sense of the word, but that he was "a bit funny ". This apparently was adult-speak for something mysterious. Something I apparently did not need to know about. Being the naturally nosey investigator that I am, and apparently always was, I decided to watch him closely. This would allow me to unravel the secrets of the adult world.
I thought it a bit strange that he was not at work every day, but rationalized it as kids do, believing that maybe everybody didn't have to go to an office. Only those people, like my dad, who were really important, did that. And firemen. Firemen were important. Oh, and policemen, who are our friends and you could speak to them if you were lost.
He would walk around his garden a lot, and I could see him clearly from our garden. He seemed to be talking to somebody all the time and did a great many little twiddly turns. This obviously meant that he was telling jokes, what with him being funny and that, and he was turning around gathering applause. This did not seem strange to me, but then I spent time with the fairies at the bottom of our garden, the ones that lived in the houses I built in my sandbox, so...
It was not until many years later, upon reading To Kill A Mockingbird, that I realized that I lived next door to an English version of Boo Radley. I asked for clarification from my mum, who was a nurse and knew stuff and worked at night so she could be home in the daytime. She was very helpful. She explained that he was a normal boy, just like me (no really, I was normal...) but when he was growing up, he had a funny turn, and it left him, a bit, you know, funny.
My poor brain struggled with these obviously different manifestations of funny. I did realize that there were versions of funny. I knew there was funny that could get you into trouble, like when I told her the joke that Christopher Middleton told me about Maltesers being really big bunny poo.
Bit of an error of judgment there, I'm afraid, I went for the more powerful "shit" word, which had me in stitches on the playground, but did not play as well to the mum audience.
From the swift slap across my bottom, I learned quickly that one had to tailor the humor to the audience, valuable life lesson, if a little sting-ey on the old bot for a while.
So I learned there was funny, meaning do-lally-tap, (mental). And, that it was not really funny, though Christopher Middleton had a ton of Spazzer jokes that we all laughed at but didn't really get.
Lesson two was a whole other funny. As in, funny-looking. You did not want anyone telling you that you looked funny or that you dressed funny, so to ward off such hellish scenarios you made sure you called someone else funny looking first. Being the first to say something has magic powers in little boy world. Even fully-grown men will not argue with a swift "called it". Yup, the first to call it still gets to ride up front.
There was this one girl who really was really funny looking, (meaning she didn't look like "us" - though I'd be hard pressed to list any similarities amongst my friends, a motley crew if ever there was one.) Funny thing that, girls were either ok looking or funny looking; which got really confusing later on when some of the funny looking girls acquired breasts, which rendered them instantly ok looking.
But this girl really was funny looking; ears sticking out at strange angles and all boney and gangly and tall. It was like a present for the crew, someone to aim all the "funny looking" jokes at. Of course, how were we to know she would grow and mature and become a famous, beautiful, TV star; someone who would never deign to be seen with us because we had become truly funny looking. Bit late now, I know, but I’m really, really, sorry about all that, Leah.
Then I discovered that certain men were a bit funny, as in, (as my mother would say), light in the loafers. I had a grown up cousin who lived with his boyfriend, as well as an aunt who lived another aunt, didn't bother me one bit in the real world. However on the playground I learned that these people were queer, funny, or gay. I'm fairly certain I had no idea what that actually meant, but being called gay even trumped spazz, or funny looking, so, once again you needed to be quick on the draw with the first "you're gay" comment.
I think little boys believe that words stick to you like luminous paint. Once "painted" your scar was visible to the whole world, up until you forgot about it, or next playtime (recess).
Now growing up I knew that Benny Hill and Monty Python were really funny, partly because my mum would not watch it declaring it "filth," and because my dad got a funny sort of look when there were naked ladies on the TV. This was totally cool, because it was both illicit (mum) and a shared vice (dad), the only thing you had to be careful about was the gap in your pajama bottoms. Anything sticking out would be met by an, "are you trying to be funny," from my horrified mum.
I’m still learning the nuances of funny, with a particular fondness for writers who have the knack of getting funny into quality writing. I start my day with the funny papers, follow that up with a helping of humor hubs and the funny friends I follow, then try and write something funny.
Can’t thing of a darned thing today. Funny that…
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