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In which Karl is slow on the uptake. - Ramblings from Baron von Explosion [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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In which Karl is slow on the uptake. [Feb. 27th, 2008|08:47 am]
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You know - or perhaps you don't, and I should stop being so arrogant. I mean, really, who am I to be telling you what you do and don't know? You're all adults, capable of self-determination and some limited independent decision making. What kind of heavily-biased commentator would I be if I were to decide, arbitrarily, that you, the reader, already knows something which I'm about to discuss? - how occasionally you'll hear a joke and not get it for ages? Hours, sometimes? That happens to me very, very often.

I have an excellent memory for words and sentences. When I read a book I end up memorising much of it. That's not to say that I can skim-read a novel and then recite it to you; I mean more that if I read it two or three times then I'll be able to quote the more interesting passages verbatim. In high school I was in five or six of our dramatic productions and each time, by the end of the rehearsals, I knew everybody's lines perfectly, down to the timing.

So one thing I do to pass the time when doing something boring, like washing the dishes, is I re-read my favourite parts of my favourite books in my head. Or I re-play bits from my favourite movies. Or I go over old conversations I've had with people, going over my words and theirs, listening to myself and thinking of ways to say things better.

One side-effect of this is that I set off what I refer to as time-bomb jokes. Little jokes. Puns you didn't get at the time of reading. Jokes whose punchline is a little obscure, which didn't sink in at first. Things which, I'll grant, probably everyone else got right away because I can, I'll admit, be a little slow to pick up on things like that.

Jokes like the line from the Red Dwarf novel Backwards; where Lister says to Cat, in the bar where everybody is drinking their beer backwards, "When in Emor, do as the Snamor." I had no idea at all what that was about. In my defence, I was about twelve when I read it, although that's not a defence since I finished my first book of cryptic crosswords when I was eleven. I blame my mother. I went into hospital for some minor surgery in year six and she gave me a book of cryptics to do to pass the time. Ever since then they've been a bit of a vice. Much like coffee, which is also her fault. Anyway. I never picked up on the blatantly obvious joke until about nine years later when I was washing the dishes in my flat. I remember it clearly (wow, what a shock); I was cleaning a plate, mentally reciting lines from the movie Snatch, when that quote drifted to my forebrain. I paused for a second and thought about it, then facepalmed with a hand covered in washing up liquid.

Similarly, I had my first day of university yesterday. In my Maths class the lecturer briefly went over basic arithmetic as a sort of quick reminder to everybody, and I found myself staring at the division symbol. You know the one, the straight line with a dot above and below. I'd always wondered why there were two symbols for division, that and the forward slash ( / ). I looked down at a couple of my scrawled notes where I'd been solving a simple algebra problem and suddenly it made sense. (Those of you with a functioning brain or a halfway-decent primary school teacher will already know this one). Division can also be thought of as making a fraction out of the two numbers involved; in other words, the divide symbol has a dot above and below the line to imply that you can make the numbers into a fraction to get the result of the operation.

I kinda like maths. Depending on how I go with my courses this year I may take a lot more pure math courses throughout my degree. But that aside, the point is that I've been doing mathematics for, oh, has it really been nearly twenty years? And I'd never twigged that the division symbol was so self-evident.

Ah well. Everyone has their clueless moments, I suppose. Terry Pratchett is a real bastard for timebomb jokes, incidentally. All of his Discworld books (discounting the first three or so where he was finding his feet and being all satirical at us) are peppered with little references to real-world happenings and people that I, being very young at the time of reading most of them, never got. It's only many years later when I hear that Madame Blavatsky, a nineteenth-century occultist and general mystic, had an invisible friend called Hoot Koomi, supposedly a tibetan monk and wiseman who passed messages to her from God by writing her letters. Those of you who are up on your Pratchett may remember that Hoot Koomi was also the name of the high priest of Khefin and second-highest of all the priests of the desert empire of Djelibeybi (lit. child of the Djel).

Little things like that. So if ever you're talking to me and I happen to trail off mid-sentence and chuckle quietly, that's probably what just happened. Little timebombs in my brain.

Tick tick tick.