Not a Good Joke


This is one of my favorite jokes; I think of it as “zen-like” and “koan-like” – except it has one problem: it’s a “blonde” joke.

I haven’t figured out a good way to translate “blonde” jokes because their essential nature is that they are implying there is a class of people that are inherently stupid because of something to do with their hair/skin color. It’s clearly wrong in that way, and it’s also ableist, mean, and a bunch of other things.

stolen from [today I found out]

How do we save this joke? How can we re-write it so it still has the same ‘punch’ but is not ableist?

The joke goes:

A blonde is walking down the sidewalk and sees a banana peel, and says, “Oh no! I am going to fall down again!”

See what I mean? I’ve de-gendered it, but it still hangs on the notion that the blonde is somehow less wise because of their hair color. Maybe the joke is irreparable, which I would consider to be a sad thing since this joke used to be one of my teaching tools.

The person walking up to the banana peel has just enough self-awareness to know that they are going to make a mistake but they lack the self-awareness to try to change the situation. They are not an active agent in their own life – it’s as though them see themselves as a helpless robot that cannot choose to stop or step around the banana peel.

That’s all a nice set of thoughts, but it’s overloaded with a lot of “hurrr hurr look at the dumb person.” I suppose that what I am doing is similar to the comedian who complains that “political correctness has ruined the audience” when nobody laughs at their dick jokes.

Is there any saving this joke, or is it beyond repair?

Let’s look at an example of the banana peel joke and its relevance as a teaching tool. Mother Jones reports [mj]

Campaigns Are at Serious Risk of Being Hacked, and Congress Is Doing Nothing to Help Them

There hasn’t been a single hearing to address cyber threats to political campaigns and parties.

“Oh, no! I am going to fall down again!”

What does the writer think Congress is going to do about campaigns getting hacked? The answer should not surprise you, but it might:

In the face of coordinated hacking efforts backed by the Russian state, there’s only so much Krikorian and his 30-person team can do on their own. When he ran security at Twitter, [DNC Chief Technology Officer] Krikorian had a team of 60 to 70 people. “We don’t have the budget for a 60 to 70-person security team, but we have the same target on our back,” he says. “I think this is where we need the federal government to step in.”

In the course of my career I’ve had many conversations with Chief Technology Officers that go somewhat like that. They say “we don’t have the resources! Someone ought to help us!” And I tell them, “no, sorry, protecting yourself is a cost of doing business. Factoring in security and staffing is what a Chief Technology Officer is supposed to do. So stop complaining and pick up your shovel.”

Seriously, if the DNC’s idea of how to make their horrible, pathetic, lame, repeatedly-penetrated security better is to ask Congress to do something you can begin to see the problem. For one thing, they’re asking the wrong branch of government and for another, they are not themselves a branch of government. Their security failures have been a result of over-important blockheads that fell for the most unsophisticated hacks that are being used in the wild.

They see that banana peel a’comin and they’re shouting for help from Congress, “save me so I don’t fall down again! Goddamit you Russians gotta stop leaving banana peels in our path!”

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DNC or RNC’s security problems are not that great, in my opinion. They could dramatically improve their ability to resist attack for a relatively small investment (around $100k or so) and a couple of good system administrators. Remember, these are the dipsticks that brag about how many bazillions of dollars they raise so they can influence public opinion; surely they could have a GoFundMe for “better security for our email system” and step around the banana peel. It’s not hard: sequestered servers, a VPN, content filtering at the edge, switch to using Macs instead of PCs, ditch Microsoft Office, and don’t click on every email that says “щелкните по важному сообщению”

Comments

  1. Storms says

    A politician walking down the street spies a banana peel and exclaims, “Oh no! I’m going to fall down again.”
     
    There, fixed!

    But seriously? I bet this is how most addicts feel when the cravings are coming on. Training yourself to portion control to curb over-eating, or to better food selection is a work of daily discipline. Choosing as a politician to risk a “no corporate funding” strategy is likewise a risk requiring consistent discipline. I think this principle applies commonly in most of our lives where ever we see a hard iterative choice; and more resonates with us as funny (sad) because we identify with the inevitability of bad choices.

  2. ridana says

    “Blonde” specifically refers to a woman. “Blond” is the gender neutral form.

    As for the joke, maybe replace “blonde” with “fool”? Fools come in every variety. You could even make it a specific person, The Fool.

  3. thud says

    A determinist walks down the sidewalk …
    “Oh no! The laws of physics determine that I’m going to fall down again!”

    Variant: ” … I’d better get my elbow pads and helmet on!”

    🤔🤣

  4. says

    You know we’ve been gifted with a brand new replacement word that isn’t ableist or sexist and that would fit that joke perfectly, right?

    A maga is walking down the sidewalk and sees a banana peel, and says, “Oh no! I am going to fall down again!”

  5. bmiller says

    A maga is walking down the sidewalk and sees a banana peel, and says, “Oh no! I am going to fall down again!”
    …”But I don’t care one but ’cause a LIE-BURR-UHL is also going to slip and fall even worse!.

    Here…let me buy some nanners from this Big Orange Man in a shiny suit (at $124.99 per banana) to spread them over the entire sidewalk!

  6. says

    thud@#3:
    A fatalist walks down the sidewalk …

    I like the idea of determinism/fatalism being the problem!

    “A free will incompatibilist walks down the sidewalk…”

  7. Curt Sampson says

    How about just turning it on yourself?

    I was walking down the sidewalk the other day and I noticed a banana peel in front of me. My first thought was, ‘Dang, I’m going to fall down again.’

    I’m sure we’ve all been there.

    And hmmm, yes, that story might be useful, though it doesn’t feel to me like the most effective way of describing or surfacing the problem. I can very clearly imagine certain IT people I know saying, “We must step on that spot with the banana peel! It’s policy!” But I’m not sure this would do anything to get them to believe that asking for, or even contemplating, a policy change is an alternative.

  8. lanir says

    This is not a direct comparison but may Aldo be useful as a teaching tool. I have a T-shirt that reads “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.”

    If someone doesn’t get it you can explain that the problem is in trusting someone else’s setup. It isn’t about being smart enough to figure out something at all, its just about remembering other people can give you input that doesn’t lead in the right direction. I think you could use this as a tool to talk about program input, sleight of hand in social engineering and other con games, etc.

  9. says

    I haven’t figured out a good way to translate “blonde” jokes because their essential nature is that they are implying there is a class of people that are inherently stupid because of something to do with their hair/skin color. It’s clearly wrong in that way, and it’s also ableist, mean, and a bunch of other things.

    In Russia there are the Chukchi people who are a group of indigenous people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean. They are the victims of Russian equivalent of blonde jokes. These Russian jokes portray Chukchi people as stupid and uneducated. Some of the jokes are also about them having poor personal hygiene. For example:
    A Chukchi person finds a videotape at home. Being curious of its contents, he decides to play it. In the video his wife is having sex with three men. At first he is shocked and angry, but after a while he calms down and feels relieved: “Good thing that this is only a movie.”

    Jokes about dumb blonde women also exist in Russian. If a joke needs a male victim, it will be a Chukchi person; if some joke works better with a female victim, it will be a blonde woman. Russian Chukchi jokes usually have male victims, jokes about female Chukchi are less common—after all for those you can just use a blond woman.

    I suppose that what I am doing is similar to the comedian who complains that “political correctness has ruined the audience” when nobody laughs at their dick jokes.

    Speaking of dick jokes, here’s a Russian one:
    A Chukchi man calls his mother: “On my wife’s last birthday I gave her a weighing scale. Today, on my birthday, she gave me a ruler. Do you know why she could have given me such a weird gift?”

    Incidentally, I don’t perceive such jokes as funny. They are a tool how privileged white men can further abuse certain groups of disadvantaged people. Whenever somebody makes one of these jokes and I say that it wasn’t funny, they attempt to reprimand me. That’s annoying—somebody just insulted me, yet somehow I’m in the wrong because I’m not laughing about the insult. WTF?

    The most annoying case of this happened a few years ago. My boyfriend joked that he’ll spank me if I don’t do whatever he was suggesting I should do. From the context and his tone of voice I knew that he was joking. I also knew that he wasn’t a violent person and wouldn’t hit anybody. Yet I still felt like that was a threat. So I said that I don’t like being threatened with getting hit. His answer: “That wasn’t a threat, that was a joke,” and he insisted that my reaction was inappropriate. That’s when I changed my approach. Next time he made a spanking joke, I answered: “If you even try spanking me, I’ll hit back and beat the crap out of you.” Incidentally, I wasn’t joking—I’m not the kind of person to accept being mistreated. Yet he perceived my threat as a joke. Whenever you try to threaten people with violence while being stuck in a female body, they just assume that you are joking. It sucks having a female body.

    This is now my default approach to annoying jokes. If you are a blonde who is sick of listening to blonde jokes, find the nastiest blonde joke there is. Next time somebody tells a blonde joke in your presence, reply with that joke except for substituting the word “blonde” with the rude person’s name, for example: “John Smith is walking down the sidewalk and sees a banana peel, and says, “Oh no! I am going to fall down again!”” Something nastier and more rude would work even better though.

    don’t click on every email that says “щелкните по важному сообщению”

    Hmm, this one doesn’t sound like something anybody could click on. It translates as “click on an important message,” and I think that by now people have already learned that whenever a message has the word “important” in its subject line, it’s spam and not important at all.

  10. Owlmirror says

    “A president walks down the sidewalk…”

    Or even “president*” . . .

    More seriously, or less seriously, the subject of the joke shouldn’t have any ethnicity, gender, or other irrelevant personal characteristics attached. You could go bland, and say “So this guy is walking along on the sidewalk . . .”, but that doesn’t quite work — there should be something that implies that the individual is so inherently hapless that they will step on a banana peel that they actually spot.

    How about “bozo”?

    Or you could go with Yiddish, and use “schlemiel”. (“The schlemiel spills the soup; the schlimazel gets the soup spilled on them”)

    Thinking about schlimazels got me thinking about bad luck happening despite theoretical due diligence . . . something like:

    So this schlimazel walks down the sidewalk, and spots a banana peel. Worried about slipping on it and falling, the schlimazel carefully aims to walk around it. Viewed more closely, the banana peel looks strange, and the schlimazel finally spots that it is actually a trompe-l’œil picture of a banana peel. Happy to have avoided danger, the schlimazel walks on cheerfully, and slips on the banana peel painted to look like the sidewalk.

  11. avalus says

    Lets go a bit absurd: A Dadaist falls down and says: “I will have seen a Bananapeel!” Maybe not so much teaching value.

    @Marcus: I see the usefullnes for teaching. I would go with “Me/I” or maybe “a Fool”.

    Blonde/blond/female: It was enough that I sported (and still have) long and of course blonde hair as a kid. There are way to many of that shit. And all the “Don’t be so sensitive! / Grow a pair! / Well: cut your hair, hippie!” was all firmly inbuilt in (german) children language some 20 years ago.
    I am with Ieva: Why should I see a clear insult as a joke and laugh about it? Fuck bloody off and don’t miss the peel on your way out!
    As a tangent to that: What’s the deal with laughing at the misfortune of others (I look at you, “Clumsy person/child has an accident”-videos)

  12. avalus says

    Ups, I missed a bit of my sentence:
    ” There are way to many of those shitty “jokes”, be it aubout fat, blonde, woman oder “these other people, that talk ‘funny’ “. “

  13. Bill Spight says

    When I was a kid we had Little Moron jokes, which, I am sure, absorbed many of the jokes that portrayed people of certain races, ethnicities, or genders as stupid. I have trouble seeing this as a little moron joke, however, because I am not sure that a Little Moron would remember falling down before. I like the determinist version, however. ;)

    How about an economist version?

    An economist is walking down the sidewalk and sees a banana peel in his path. He says, “That can’t be a banana peel, or somebody would already have — Oops!”

  14. Bill Spight says

    One of my favorites, cast as a Little Moron joke.

    Did you hear about the two Little Morons who froze to death on the drive-in movie lot? They went to see “Closed for the Season”. They tried to get out of the car, but the doors were locked.

  15. Owlmirror says

    Further to #16:

    Of course, instead of “bozo”, you could just go with “clown”.

    Returning to Yiddish, it occurs to me that one could offer variations based on the inherent characteristics implied by the term:

      • A mench spots a banana skin on the sidewalk, and picks it up and throws it in the garbage so that nobody slips on it.
      • A schlemiel spots a banana skin on the sidewalk, and slips on it anyway.
      • A schlimazel spots a banana skin on the sidewalk, avoids it, and slips on the fresh dog poop also on the sidewalk.
      • A klutz spots a banana skin on the sidewalk, and trips over his own feet trying to avoid it.

  16. ShowMetheData says

    A DNC election staff is walking down the street spies a banana peel and they all exclaim, “Oh no! We’re going to fall down again!”
    More on point.

  17. says

    ShowMetheData@#23:
    A DNC election staff is walking down the street spies a banana peel and they all exclaim, “Oh no! We’re going to fall down again!”

    … Then, they blame the Russians.

  18. says

    Owlmirror@#22:
    Returning to Yiddish, it occurs to me that one could offer variations based on the inherent characteristics implied by the term

    That’s pretty cool, but wouldn’t I have to come up with Norwegian versions?

  19. says

    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden@#12:
    “A president walks down the sidewalk…”

    Because “A president is driving his golf cart down the sidewalk…” doesn’t work.

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