Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Your curriculum is so boring...

that you even resort to the dozens to fill a class.

Until we get our textbooks for the semester, I'm basically just doing whatever (a technical pedagogical term, that) during my summer ESL classes. Yesterday, whatever included playing Mafia after learning about "local flavor," which is to say, I taught one class some "down home" American culture by having them try "the dozens," which is just a kind of verbal sparring between people taking turns. For example, as I'm sure you've heard, someone could say, "You're mama's so fat that when she sits around the house, she really sits around the house!" Then an opponent might retort, "Well, your daddy's so poor he can't even pay attention!" And round we go.

It was slow-going at first -- as humor is one of the hardest things to teach across cultures -- but by the end I was pleasantly surprised by their results (at least in terms of ESL-success, I mean). Some of the answers bordered on the surreal (with a little help from me), which made them all the more fun to discuss. One condition was not using any real names, lest tender feelings be trampled in the zeal for learning!

X is so "motorcycle" that you could ride her in traffic. [NB: In Taiwan, "motorcycle" is slang for idiotic or uncool.]

X is so sweet that bees live in her underwear.

X is so handsome that no other men have girlfriends.
[NB: I didn't help with this one!]

X is so small that even ants can't see "it"! [NB: With this one I deftly avoided asking what "it" is, since the titters from the back of the class made that clear enough.]

X is so ugly that even mirrors break if you say his name.

X is so black that even chocolate is jealous of her.

[By contrast, literally!,] X is so white that when she walks in, people think the sun is rising.

[NB: These last two are fine in situ specimens of Taiwan's unblinking colorist racism.]

Some of my own suggestions, to get the imprecatory ball rolling, were thus:

X is so slow that when he wakes up, the sun is down before he's out of bed.

X is so tall that birds pay rent in his nose.

X is so dirty that even water runs away from him.

Care to add on? Or are you so uncreative that... uh, even your, derr, synapses fire like a jammed gun... uh, yeah.

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