Gaffe rhymes with laugh!


Heard this? A mother cat and her kitten were chased by a ferocious dog down a blind alley. When the terrified cat felt she can no longer make progress and escape from the clutches of the hunting dog, she stopped dead in her tracks, looked the dog straight in the eye and barked ‘bow bow’. The startled dog froze confused and retreated with his tail tucked in between his legs. Turning to the surprised kitten, the mother said rather proudly, “this is the advantage of knowing a second language, my dear!”

A judiciously deployed second language, especially the tricky English may pull one out from a tight situation, yet might also make the user the butt of uncharitable jokes.
In the construction company I joined in the 60s everyone spoke only in clipped English, being staffed mostly by Anglo-Indians, whose mother tongue it was. A Marwari cashier, who was transferred to our branch was more interested in spoken English than Tamil, which he felt twisted his recalcitrant tongue. This gentleman who shall remain nameless was so taken up with his own measure of success in cultivating spoken English under my tutelage that during a puja bash, he rose on an impulse uninvited to address the gathering in English. He thanked the Anglo-Indian and Tamilian colleagues profusely for treating him almost as a member of their family which he also did with pleasure in reciprocation. Summing up this sentiment, he concluded his charming little  speech with the exit line “we are all now in the family way”.

The portly Britisher who was at the helm of our organisation  hearing this did not break into peals of convulsive laughter like the two ladies from the typing pool dressed in tent-like maternity gowns. Instead he said with a poker face that forthcoming applications for maternity leave will be summarily rejected if they originated from the moustachioed male staff members, unless accompanied by certificates issued by two separate panels of qualified obstetricians. One of the pregnant stenographers continued to laugh so uncontrollably that she had to be rushed to the adjoining maternity hospital where she delivered her third bonny baby with utmost ease. It was rumoured that the infant did not cry at birth but chuckled, recalling the joke he heard in uterine comfort!

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