But then, slowly wisdom dawned. I can not ever understand why the damn wisdom should show up much later in life!
These days, most jokes that I make are about me. I love it--nobody gets hurt, and I get a wonderful outlet for my bizarre sense of humor, which is also an outlet for all my angst anyway. It is a win-win all around, except for those who have to suffer my humor--especially the captive audience in the classroom ;)
One of the earliest realizations was about the way we speak. The accents. The choice of words. The idioms. In the early phase of my life, those were the low hanging fruit for the crude humor. Visiting grandmothers' places meant exposure to the way of speaking in that part of the old country, and it was so easy to make fun of it.
Now, as I get older, I find the jokes on accents to be awful. In the old country, people do that a lot even now.
I find the different accents, the unusual phrasings, to be charming. They add color to the otherwise monotonous same-old, same-old. It is so Soviet-like if everybody talked the same way.
Further, the ultimate understanding of all: it is about communication and human interactions. After all, we "hear" those differences only in the real world of human interactions, right? As an old New Yorker cartoon put it, in the internet nobody knows you are a dog! I would rather hear somebody's accented voice in a discussion than yet another "like" on Facebook.
An old anthropologist friend of mine used to tell his students that everybody has an accent. It just depends on the context. Of course, that didn't stop him from making fun of my accent ;)
A few years ago, when I went to the deep, deep South for the first time, I was all set to listen to the charming southern accent. The drawl. The y'all. I was so disappointed. In the public space, the number of people who spoke "like a Southerner" was way less than what I had imagined would be the case.
The nasty jokes and condescending attitudes towards some accents and way of speaking, while lauding others, is "back door to discrimination." We forget that "the so-called standard is simply an invention of a given society."
"We talk a lot about racial discrimination," explains Ms. Lawson, who is now a junior. "We talk about judging people based on their socioeconomic status" and on other, more visibly identifiable factors. But people rarely talk about language, even though it is socially stratified in the United States, as in most countries.Exactly!
"When I came to college," Ms. Lawson says, "people kept telling me how strong my accent was." She thought, "Wow, y’all need to come home with me and hear how other people sound." She was doing what linguists call code-switching — toning down her accent in favor of a standardized English considered to be more acceptable.
I wish somebody had told me all these at least when I was twenty years old! Heck, even when I was thirty! Oh well, wisdom better late than never, eh.