Is there anything quite so pathetic as an inside joke that no one is in on anymore?

When I was in college, some friends and I were playing that game where each card is a category and there are ten things under the category that your teammates have to guess–kind of like Family Feud, actually–but I think it was Outburst. Probably it was Outburst!–you know, with the exclamation mark, just to make it seem more fun. Anyway, we were playing the Family Feud-like game that was probably called Outburst! and the category was “isms.” After running through all the obvious “isms”–communism, fascism, socialism, capitalism–the well was starting to run dry and there were still several isms left to guess, and one desperate player exclaimed–outbursted, you might say–“Sarcasm!”

“That’s an asm, not an ism,” I said, and realizing her mistake, she laughed–or maybe we just laughed at her, I don’t really remember. I only remember that for the rest of our college careers we mocked her momentary lapse of language facility by pronouncing the word sarcasm as “sarc-ism.” You’re being sarkistic, aren’t you? Wait, was that sarkism? Yeah, it was dumb, but it was a dry campus, what can I say? We got our jollies where we could.

My point is that I haven’t seen any of these people since I graduated, but I still feel the need to pronounce it “sarkism.”  But I know it’s not funny to anyone but me.  See, I just explained it to you all and it wasn’t funny.  You really had to be there.  Sorry you weren’t.  I’d love to have the old gang back together.  Sigh.

I’m also thinking of when I was in the 11th grade and we had to read Oedipus Rex for our English class.  It was a rather odd translation, and at one point Oedipus says to somebody something along the lines of, “What do you mean?  I don’t follow your drift.”  For some reason that line just struck me and my friends as incongruous and amusing.  I mean, we couldn’t make heads or tails of the play’s thematic elements, so what else were we going to make commentary on?  Anyway, I can’t remember for the life of me what the context of that line was.  The only reason I remember that Oedipus said it was that for the remainder of the school year we would occasionally punctuate sentences with “if you follow my drift, like Oedipus didn’t.”  Which makes no flipping sense, it’s not funny, nor is it clever, but it still amuses me–and no, I can’t think about following any kind of drift without thinking of poor Oedipus.  It’s a burden I’ve had to bear for twenty years now.  I hope you can appreciate that.

I keep meaning to re-read Oedipus Rex.  There are several things I read in high school that I didn’t quite get at the time, and I’m sure I would get them now, if I just took the time to re-experience them.  I think my 11th grade English class spent all of two days on Oedipus Rex, and the first day was with a substitute, who relayed our real teacher’s instructions to compose an essay on the major themes of Oedipus Rex, and since none of us had any freaking idea what we were supposed to make of such a story, the substitute decided to help us out by telling us all she knew about Greek tragedies and that Oedipus had tried to escape the will of the gods but he just couldn’t because, brother, you don’t escape the will of the gods.  Period.  Well, upon her return our real teacher was quite disappointed to learn that we’d all gone with the substitute’s interpretation of the play, and she thought it was all the more amusing that the substitute had in fact supposedly majored in literature and yet she only had this incredibly simplistic take on Oedipus Rex, which was actually about illusion vs. reality, as all sophisticated scholars of the classics know.  Wrap your adolescent heads around that, class.  I was in college before I realized that sometimes incest is just fate.  And an asm can be an ism if you will it so.

Yeah, I just needed a concluding sentence, and I figured that was as good as any.  I’m starting a new anti-depressant and you’re just going to have to be patient with me.

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