Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Translating Jokes


Today we talked about jokes and comedic sayings and the difficulties that come with translating them.  Freud was very interested in analyzing jokes and how they relate to the unconscious. He concluded that the pleasure one receives from hearing a joke is “due to the suspension of the expenditure of energy upon maintaining repression”[1]  But the definition of what is funny differs between social groups and genders. What is hilarious to a man might be offensive to a woman and what is funny to a Caucasian person may be offensive to an African American.  This creates difficulties when translating a joke because it is being converted into a different culture and mindset.  “The very structure of the joke embodies the distancing of existing attitudes and their replacement by a new language of science.”[2]  The function of Jewish jokes was to provide an escape from anti-Semitism by laughing at it.[3]  Does this go to say that a Jewish joke will never be fully understood by someone who is not Jewish? Maybe so.  Most of understanding a joke lies in the experiences and perception one has of the culture from which the joke stems. 

[1] Viennese Laughter, 107

[2] Viennese Laughter, 113

[3] Camilla Nielsen, lecture 27.5.09


  1. I love your blog, look forward to reading it every day. Thanks for sharing with me, I'm glad your trip is so rewarding. Bob Stein

  2. Oh wonderful! I'm so glad you're enjoying it! I am cherishing every moment here.