Thursday, May 19, 2005

Three Amigos

Franpa is taking me out for a Mexican-themed lunch this Saturday. He's a short, bespecled, old man from Hong Kong studying business finance. I met him two semesters ago and since then, we've developed a sort of friendship. I say "sort of" because it would be a stretch to say he has somehow adopted me, but the tone in which I speak to him is similar to that of a relative -- that is to say, good-spirited and comically boisterous.

I take on a certain persona when I'm with Chinese people. It's a trait I'm less inclined to pursue around my peers. Although unproven, I think it has to do with common characteristics nurtured by ethnic traditions and ties. I read a study years back concerning the types of jokes people from different countries found funny. Each quip, quirk and put-on was categorized using a set of distinguishing, verbal markers. Rarely do I forget to question findings, but this one did it for me. One look and I was sold. It made too much sense. The way I deliver humour varies more between groups than individuals. I find it necessary to don masks because language itself is both a limiting and freeing factor. Case in point: puns are huge in China due to, I think, the vast bank of homonymic characters in its vernacular. By and large, distinctions of class and character, as opposed to sexuality, are used as sources of amusement. (Only a personal observation, of course.) Likewise, performing in French differs a great deal from English in form and content. I am in a constant state of tweakage whenever I am in a social situation, deciding whether to add more cynicism here, less nuance there, or a pinch of vulgarity when the occasion arises. It is like laughter depends on being conditioned to accept taboos restricted to societal, rather than personal, tastes.

I don't know where I'm going with this so I'm going to end it ... abruptly.

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