Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Q" is for QUIP

Which, according to the online Merriam Webster is: a clever usually taunting remark. I feed on quips, literally. When I hear a good one in a movie or on T.V. it is like someone has suddenly chucked a bonbon at me. I savor it and suck on it. Quips make life interesting. A quip is also often: "a witty or funny observation or response usually made on the spur of the moment." (Thank you to Merriam Webster again.)

To be able to deliver a good quip though--there is a pleasure rush that I constantly crave.

Of course, my fondness of quipping doesn't really render me Sound-Of-Music-Julie-Andrews nice. And in instances, it sort of aligns me more with menacing ladies like say. . . Malificent from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty." Remember at the opening to "Sleeping Beauty" when Malificent quips, ". . . oh how nice, and the rabble too!" in reference to the three good fairies having been invited to King Stephen's party for the infant Aurora?)

Yup, that was me, the six-year-old snickering over the quip that Disney's villainess let fly.

Quips are handy though. They can infuse a bit of humour into otherwise humourless situations which make them excellent for the workplace. This of course would be the quip of the second kind--witty, funny observations.

Quips of the first kind, the cutting kind, are nearly indispensable for dealing with social situations in which you have been slighted. For example, here in Japan groups of junior high and high school students often like to scream HERRO at passing foreigners. No, they don't know me, they don't even recognize me from anywhere, they just recognize from my western face and build that I am indeed, a foreigner. This seems to grant most of the population of Japan the inalienable right to scream poorly pronounced English greetings at me whenever they are in the mood to do so.

I have considered stalking groups of Japanese on their famous tour packages in the U.S. to scream "KONNICHIWA" at them again and again but sadly, experience tells me that a) anything a monkey does is entertaining and in their eyes I would be just another excellent example of a gaijin/monkey screaming "KONNICHIWA" at them. b) many Japanese upon spotting a foreigner fail to understand anything coming out of the foreigner's mouth as they are propelled into a fear of English void. To wit, a friend of mine, in the course of a conversation with a woman in her town was left open mouthed when the other woman at the end of their conversation said, "Oh my. How do you and your husband communicate if he doesn't speak English?" Of course, neither did this town-woman speak any English and my friend had been conversing with her in fluent Japanese for well over half an hour or so. I have asked for directions (in Japanese) in downtown Tokyo many times to have the person I approached answer me in broken English, "No, EN-GU-RI-SHU." Gee thanks. No English? Riiiiightttt. . . even pointing out that that is fine, as I speak Japanese often doesn't quell the fear enough to get a decent response out of them. And finally c) I was raised never to point or stare at strangers much less yell out something at them. Such behavior is as reprehensible and appalling to me on a gut level as walking up and urinating on a stranger would be. I would be much more comfortable (and capable of) curling up into a fetal ball on the sidewalk and chanting, "happy place, happy place" than pointing and yelling at strangers.

So when I am walking down the road and pass a group of high school students who wait until I am about half a block away from them to scream "HERRO! AMERICAN JIN! EIGO JIN!" the quip is my weapon of choice. I go back. I smile. I turn and point at my posterior. "Oh my! I didn't realize that greetings were to be offered to people's bums! I thought they were to be given face-to-face!" Then I take my foreign ass and leave.

I've also been practicing a few quips in Spanish and French alternatively as it drives me nuts that most Japanese assume that ALL Westerners speak English.


Lulu said...

Oh yes the `Harro` from JHS and HS students....

I have had a taxi driver ask me to get out before because he didn`t understand english...even though I asked him to take me somewhere in Japanese....

The worst is mothers who allow their young children to point at you and yell `Mama, mite mite, gaijin da` over and over again...

Good luck with your French and Spanish quips!

Anonymous said...

It's funny, there is such a thing as political correctness here. It's just that it only applies to interactions between Japanese people. For the rest of us, it's like we're in a fishbowl, to be stared at and talked about as if we're on display, or not even there.

Sarah@mommyinjapan said...

My dad is full of corny humor and I've inherited that from him. The frustrating thing for me is that no one understands my jokes here so I've given up on saying them in public and save them for my husband and kids at home.

For example, when my husband says "I called Kenji", I'll say, "Oh, yeah, what did you call him?". And then I laugh hysterically until milk comes out of my nose. He just gives me a look of pity. I know that it's really not funny but it's what I grew up with and I miss the opportunity to share the joy with EVERYONE.

My dad loves it when I come home and laugh at all his jokes.

coarse gold girl said...

Oh no. They are still doing that in Tokyo? I had hoped that it was a thing of the past. . . I was there in the late 80's and Lulu, the taxi driver? He refused to drive me too! Those kids who point at you and say "mite mite gaijin da"? I'm gonna guess that they are the kids of the kids who did that to me! Yikes.

Sarah@mommyinjapan--your dad too? You too? My midwestern American family LIVES for corny humor. My DH always leaves off the "where" when asking for the location of something so he says things like, "Do you know my keys?" Even after 11 years of marriage I still can't stop myself from saying, "Yeah, they are pretty nice, I like them."


coarse gold girl said...

south of reality,

You make a good point. By my mother's reasoning though, the more different something is the less it should be visibly noted/stared at/addressed, etc. Thanks to her training, I would probably appear completely bored and unaware even seated next to an actual outer space alien.


jean said...

Your Christmas present blog entry really hits home with me and the way I was brought up. Wow... I think we both could do with a few therapy sessions...

azumarisan said...

Hahaha funny about your husband...mine does that too. But i'm sure even if i said the same thing as you he wouldn't get it either!!

Your blog cracks me up though, your humour is hilarious...i love for it actually. Brightens my day.

BTW Have a great xmas!! :) And new year!

coarse gold girl said...


I know. . . speaking of Christmas presents--my big fantasy has always been that someone gives me a year's worth of psychotherapy sessions.
That or someone hires a professional Closet organizer to come to my home!


coarse gold girl said...


Your comments brighten my day!
Have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year! Do you do anything for New Years (Japanese traditions)? I always reckon its one of those "compromise" situations in a Japanese-Westerner marriage. The W wants Christmas done right and the J will start to feel nostaligic and seasonal on the first!


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