Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Isn't It Absuard that We Should Expect People to Understand Jokes Like This?

Me:            has just put the heating on for the first time tonight.
My friend:  EASY TIGER!LOL

The above is a transcript of what I posted on my Facebook wall a few days ago and a comment a friend of mine made in responce. Does it make any sense to you? I certainly was a bit confused when I first saw the words 'easy tiger' posted in responce to me putting the heating on, as its getting colder in the flat these days.

However after about 15 minutes, incredibly, it clicked. The 'easy tiger' comment was based on what could be an alternative meaning to 'putting the heating on'. It was as if I was talking about heating up as in getting into a night of sexual passion, and the comment was asking me to go steady and not too fast with it, as if I was like a tiger getting in on his prey. It was actually quite funny when it clicked, so I replied to the comment saying "um, didn't quite undestand what you meant by that initially but it's just clicked and you've made me laugh now." Needless to say, I wouldn't normally have got such a joke, and certainly not instantaneously in a wider social setting.

Jokes Like This are Way Too Complicated for Some of Us

The reason why such a joke is complicated is because one must go through many leaps in their thinking in order to understand it. Firstly in this case, the words 'easy tiger' means nothing much in itself. To understand it you must recognise that the word 'tiger' is not being used as a literal noun (not talking about the animal) but is being used in the sense of calling someone by such a name as their behaviour in some way resembles that of a tiger. The word 'easy' is not referring to something being easy to do in its literal sense but really is used as a way of saying 'go easy, steady on.'

Secondly, in order to understand the joke one must have at least a vague idea that the word 'heating' can be referred to in reference to the build up of sexual passion, something that I probably wouldn't have known if it wasn't for one or two pop songs (i.e. Senorita by Justin Timberlake "It feels like something's heating up, can I leave with you?"). Yes even people Asperger's Syndrome may eventually pick up a few thing like this, although it may take a lot longer!

There is of course an enormous difference between flicking a switch in your cupboard to turn on your central heating and sexual activity, and there is absolutely no logical reason why anybody would make any connections between the two, and no logical reason for even thinking someone could be making a reference to sex after you mentioned you've put the central heating on. If you could bring up sex you could bring up virtually any subject after putting the central heating on.

So there is both issues about content, and about vocabulary here. And considering the whole manner of subjects one could bring up there is no logical reason why one would be lead to think it could be about sex. In short your mind has to make many invisible connections to work out what 'easy tiger' could mean after commenting about putting the heating on. Well I suppose the fact I had posted comments recently about online dating but have helped give some clues?

All this may seem unimportant, until we recognise that these are the kinds of jokes that are frequently exchanged in pubs and other social occasions, where one is expected to 'get it' in a flash! And if you don't get it you can be made to feel like the odd one out, socially incompetent, insular, as if there is something wrong with you. Whilst one may occassionally get lucky and the meaning of the joke will click immediately in one's mind, it is highly irrational to expect people to get jokes like this in a flash, as it involves working out a great number of variables (content, vocabulary, whether it's a verb or noun etc) all instantaneously and putting them all together connecting all the dots with minimal clues given, having to make invisible leaps in the mind between one thing and another, with no clear sense of direction.

Next time you see someone who understand a joke, please show some sympathy and realise that for some people, some intelligent people, the whole thing is just far too complicated, especially in a busy social setting.

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