• Surprise, surprise!

    American Humor, ESLMany jokes are based on ambiguity of some kind.  Ambiguity is a situation when the same word or a combination of words could be understood in different ways.  The ambiguities arise mostly in homophones (words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings) and homonyms (words that have the same pronunciation and spelling, but different meanings). A joke that exploits similar sounding words with different meanings is called a pun.  Let’s take a look at one of them.

    This joke is based on a pun; in this case, two meanings of the same word. Which word?

  • Come Back! Don’t fly away!

    One of the essential skills ESL learners need to develop is tolerance to ambiguity. “What?  Another skill I have to learn?” you might ask, ” But you (the teacher)  told us that there are just four: reading, writing, listening, and speaking!  Isn’t that enough already?”  “Not enough, my friends,” I would say.  The four skills you just mentioned are the kind of skills that are OBVIOUS and TALKED A LOT ABOUT.  But there are a few others, that are as important as these four, but  they are not really taught in the classroom, and I think they should be.

    Come back!  Don't fly away!

    Come back! Don’t fly away!

    Ambiguity is a situation in which something can be understood in more than one way.  In simple terms, ambiguity is something confusing.   An ambiguous sentence could be understood in one way by some people, and in a different way by others.  And this misunderstanding makes it very funny sometimes.  Consider this sentence: They said they saw the Eiffel Tower flying over Paris.  Who was flying?  The people who said this or the tower?  This sentence could be understood either way, and that’s what makes it ambiguous.  Watch out for this kind of situations, because there are great many of them in everyday life, and we have to figure them  all out.  And how exactly do we do that?  I’ll tell you in another post.

  • Hmmm…What’s so funny?


    Do you understand what is funny in this cartoon?

    If you understand the humor of any particular nation, that means you’ve achieved a very important milestone (point on your journey toward any goal).  Humor is the essence of any particular nation’s collective experience.   Just think about it: if millions of people find something amusing and funny, there is a deep meaning to that joke, cartoon, or story for so many people speaking your target language.  If you don’t understand what’s funny, you’re not fluent…not yet.  How do you learn the humor? What do you do to understand and appreciate the beauty and wit of a particular joke that most native speakers find funny?  Good question.  You just breathe it in, and wait till it resonates with your personal sense of humor.

    One of my favorite American cartoonists (people who normally make you laugh by creating funny images with captions) is Garry Larson.  He didn’t just draw funny pictures; he created a unique cartoon universe that could become an excellent guide to all of us, immigrants, toward understanding what Americans find funny, and why.

    His sense of humor is not light and airy, but rather macabre (dark, sarcastic, sinister).  At least it is macabre in American perception; I don’t see anything particularly dark or sarcastic, but then again, I’m Russian, and that means I have more tolerance to dark and sinister things. images-3

  • Past Perfect….for sale?

    images-1Of course you know that there is an English tense with this name.  But what kind of a store or a shop could have this name?  There is one in my town, and I pass by it often.  I think it’s a very smart way to name it, considering the kind of merchandise they sell.  What do you think they sell there?