Daniel Menaker

PC or Not PC

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Here is an interesting argument I stirred up a couple of days ago–a facebook “conversation” about making fun of peoples’ accents. You have to get down to the fourth or fifth comment before the chow fun begins.  As you can see, like all interesting exchanges, it veered here and there, and I love my friend, No. 2:  all she wants to know is where to get good Chinese food:

My facebook post:

Pardon the pronunciation lampoon. The New York Chinese-food franchise Orrie’s (that is, Ollie’s) is to be green-commended. Because they now ask you, when you order for delivery by phone, “Do you want utensirs?”

The responses:
(The various people who responded are identified by number.)

  • No. 1: Which Ollies are you ordering from? Have you noticed a new dearth Chinese restaurants on the UWS? We tried ordering from the one in the 60s, but they never showed up.
  • Me: Orrie’s To Go, Broadway between 89th and 90th.
  • No. 1: Thanks! Do chopsticks count as utensirs?
  • Me: I berieve so.
  • No. 2: This is a post you might want to delete, Dan.
  • Me: Oh, please! You would probably want to delete this whole site, as well: http://oldjewstellingjokes.com/ (The only reason to do so is it takes so long to load.) When the President of the United States calls himself a “mutt,” I think we can all ease up a little.
  • No. 2: Just trying to be helpful. I look forward to your renditions of old Amos ‘n’ Andy routines.
  • Me: That you couldn’t rest with “helpful” indicates that you weren’t trying to be it.
  • No. 2: Being tactful didn’t work, apparently. I do recommend you use the option to delete the entire thread.
  • Me: So I gather. From the Museum of Broadcast Radio: “Moreover, the denunciation of Amos ‘n Andy was not universal. With its good writing and talented cast, the show was good comedy, and soon became a commercial success. The reaction of the black community over this well produced and very funny program remained divided. Even the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the black community’s most influential publications, which had earlier led in the protest against the motion picture Gone With the Wind, defended the show in an article appearing in June 1951.”
  • No. 3: Enjoy your Chinese food, Dan. Good night. And I’ll really be curious to see whether this thread is here tomorrow morning.
  • No. 4: ‎”You big dummy! You done put the rare coin in the telephone.”
  • No. 5: Well, I’m glad the thread isn’t deleted, because it’s the most interesting exchange I’ve seen on FB in ages. The question seems to be: is it racist to be amused by real speech patterns exhibited in different ethnic groups?
  • No. 2: I just want to know where I can get Chinese food on the UWS. Everything has closed or changed owners.
  • No. 3: As I said in my private message to you (no longer private, I guess), I see it as more a matter of bad taste than offensiveness. Here’s a clip that illustrates what I mean, from the geniuses at The Simpsons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vg7_gaVUd0
  • No. 6: I hesitate to become a party to this dubious discussion, but Dan, do you know about the site Engrish.com?
  • Me: I didn’t know about but was amused to go there. Thanks. There are also all kinds of sites and discussions online about this very subject, many of them focusing on Indian (from India) accents. Speaking of which, No. 3, and speaking of “The Simpsons,” Apu must offend you deeply, isn’t it being true, please? No. 2–I’m sure Ollie’s to Go at 89th would deliver to you, so long as you unfriend me first. It’s acceptable, and they’re very–maybe a little too–fast.
  • No. 3: You must have missed my memo on taste vs. offensiveness above. Anyway, I’m done. I promise I will not become your own private troll. And thanks for refriending me. THAT was classy.
  • Me: The Krusty bit, like all Krusty bits, is more about Krusty than it is about his act. I identify very strongly with Krusty, anyway. So no offense taken, at least on that score.
  • No. 2: I don’t feel like unfriending you. I like you lots and always have. I would love to find someplace in the neighborhood that’s actually good, but all the Chinese restaurants are disappearing.  Someone gave me this quote from the Simpson’s yesterday: “You couldn’t fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine!” -Homer Simpson. Notice how I’m avoiding all the politics here, though I am interested in accents represented in literature and would love to talk to you about that some time. I have a problem in a short story I can’t figure out how to fix. For me this thread was mostly about the food. With Chinese food, “fast” is suspicious because it usually indicates they have all the ingredients cooked all ready and standing around.
  • Me: I was* joking* about unfriending me. Jaysus! (Whoops–just can’t seem to help meself.) On the other hand, fast delivery sometimes indicates to me very high volume and rapid turnover, both of which I think OTG has. So there’s some freshness built in there.
  • No. 7: Sidebar, possibly irrelevant: I recently made what I took to be an innocuous (and certainly obscure) pun on the word “barouche” (the nineteenth-century conveyance, that is) and was promptly accused of anti-Semitism. Go, as they say, figure. Or as the Jews say: Go know.
  • No. 8: I like the Old Jews Telling Jokes (though I suppose “old” is objectionable to some). Kind of wondering when I’ll fall into the category…
  • Me: ‎”Fall into” is about right. I should know. But, on the other hand, age cannot wither nor custom stale…
  • No. 8: Awww.
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