One of my recent hilarious columns prompted a written response from a faithful reader. He offered up some hefty praise to your humble cat juggler.
But alas, after reading and re-reading the response several times, I’m afraid I detected a faintly mocking spirit from this fan.
Someone would dare to mock moi? And faintly mocking, you say? Why, the sarcasm came cascading out of that reader like water over Niagara Falls, don’t you know.
Niagara Falls!? Ah, Niagara Falls. That’s a whole other story. Don’t even get me started, pal.
Someone needs to explain to my mocker that there is an art to mocking. It needs to be subtle enough that the subject of the mocking — that is to say, the mockee — moi — doesn’t realize he is being mocked. It is somewhat less effective when you club your intended target over the head with sarcasm.
Because that is just hateful and hurtful, don’t you know. Bullying, even. So we’re going to have a primer in appropriate and inappropriate mocking.
Another example of inappropriate mocking can be found in a letter directed at someone who allegedly used “poor grammar” no less than 17 times in a recent writing example.
This self-appointed grammar cop sent the transgressor an unsigned letter which was basically a self-righteous rant, which I could only surmise was supposed to: (a.) hurt the transgressor’s feelings and (b.) inspire her to do better next time.
Note to grammar cop: You succeeded at “a,” failed at “b.” Please give it up with a tie.
One of the grammar cop’s big complaints — was the transgressor’s — use of — too many — dashes. I’ve been — meaning — to say something — to her — about that, don’t you know, but I would’ve been — much more polite than telling the transgressor, as did the grammar cop, “I don’t see how you passed the fourth grade.”
“I never claimed to have passed the fourth grade — in writing at least,” wailed the transgressor. “What I really hate is that she was mean to my mother.”
That ain’t right.
Too bad the grammar cop wasn’t a little gooder schooled in swingin’ good manners.
The transgressor told me she was just starting to have a reason to live before receiving that hateful, hurtful letter. Now see what you’ve done?
But all is not lost. I axed the transgressor did she want to claim the grammar cop as a fan, and she said, “Naw, it’s obvious I’m not her intellectual equal.”
Now me, I’m not proud. I’ll take anyone. So, anonymous grammar cop, whomsoever you may be, I anoint you: fan no. 41! Congrats!
OK, here’s an example of appropriate mocking.
At a social gathering of some Johnsons, one of them offered up a social commentary on your humble cat juggler.
“Steve writes a column where he tries to see how many people he can irritate,” the Johnson said.
Smooth, yet subtle. No hateful intent.
Another example. One day, for a reason I can’t recall, I told some co-workers that something looked as bad as Jan’s nose when she got hit with the football.
My co-workers just stared at me.
You know, when Jan Brady got smacked with the football? Jan Brady — the Brady Bunch? You know — “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”
I think it was co-worker C.C. Fulton (who did pass fourth grade — or so she claims, now, for the first time in print) who was amazed that I knew all about the Brady Bunch when I hadn’t known about “Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned …”
It was subtle mocking. And it did not hurt my feelings. This was appropriate mocking, gentle reader.
Let me explain this story. You see, on yet another day I had made mention to co-workers that me, Wife and the juniors would be making a visit to Niagara Falls this summer, from whence Wife hales.
Next thing I knew, a co-worker, Gene, and another co-worker, also Gene, were saying in unison, “Slowly I turned … step by step … inch by inch …!”
They were astonished I didn’t have a clue as to what they were talking about. If you’re familiar with the Three Stooges, you probably do have a clue.
Disclaimer: Before we get to this next part, let me tell you it was ghost-written. By the grammar transgressor, no less. (Wow, I’d better check it closely.) So even though I didn’t pen the rest of this column, I am “signing off” on it, saying, yes, ghost-writer, these would be my thoughts if I had thought them.
OK, take it away, ghost:
Anyway (this is the ghost speaking), you don’t have to hit me with a football twice for me to catch on — or maybe you do. Later that same day, I went home, typed “slowly I turned” on the computer, found the clip, and “step by step … inch by inch” watched the Three Stooges so that now I’ll never think of Niagara Falls without also thinking of “slowly I turned …”
Yep, that’s kind of how things work here in the old newsroom — we got all kinds of fun, slow turns and intellectual giants, who may or may not have passed fourth grade. Take that, grammar cop.
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.