Western Humour

 Feng Jicai

Our institute employed an English teacher. He looked very strange red-faced, golden-haired, with a thick growth of whiskers that reached all the way to the nose. He was really tall– no less than six foot five. When he came in through the door, he had to lower his head to avoid banging against the door frame. It looked as though he always bowed to you at the door and that was much too polite.

What was more, he never laughed, when he chatted with his Chinese students on amusing stories, nor did his face show any expression as if he knew no sense of humour. However, when it came to topics of the most dull nature, he would burst into uncontrollable laughter, roaring while rocking in his chair, almost falling flat on his back, his Adam’s apple dancing up and down in his throat and his whiskers fluttering all over his face. The students would then look at each other, wondering if he was in his right mind.

One day he set the students an essay to see how well they could write in English, the topic being A Comment on Life on the Campus-it her complimentary or critical. That was simple. And his students, quick at writing, finished it at one go and turned it in no time. He went through the papers and picked one that he thought the best. When he read it out to the students, they were greatly perplexed. Of all the comments, why did he like this one best, Not a single word of it was true.

It was about the campus cafeteria and the author was a peaceable and timid guy from a village near the town. In order not to offend the school authorities — a decisive factor: concerning his final grading, evaluation and, above; all, where he was to go after graduation — he had made up a high-sounding story in praise of the cafeteria regardless of reality, thus making his ClaSS- mates very angry. The teacher was as well aware of the cafeteria’s terrible conditions, but why should this piece in particular have appealed to him so much, Someone asked.

“This is undoubtedly a good one,” the teacher insisted. “Unprecedentedly good! Just listen –” He began to read. “‘The most beautiful spot on campus is not the Classrooms, nor the sports ground, nor the small lawn with a fountain at the school gate; it is our cafeteria. Look! The windows are so clean , that you scarcely notice any glass on them’ –” “He paused, his eyes flashing with a glint of humour and his brows shooting upward. “Listen! Isn’t it humorous?”

Humorous? But what was humorous about it? The students were hard put to it.

“If you were not careful enough,’” the teacher read on, ‘”and had a fall on the floor, you would be amazed to find that you had not fallen at all because you did not get a single particle of dust on your clothes. If you had worked in the cafeteria long enough, you would have forgotten what a fly looks like … ” He paused again, his tongue clicking admiration. Working up a very funny expression on his face, he went on, “Listen, please! Could anyone else have made it more humorous?” He laughed so hard that he could scarcely continue.

By now the students seemed to be cottoning on.

The teacher went on his reading punctuated by fits of laughter .”How wonderfully is the food cooked here! What a great variety of dishes you have here and how well your appetite is satisfied! In fact it is only at the cafeteria of the institute that you eating enjoyable….”

Suddenly the students laughed, rocking the classroom with their laughter.

Following this logic, God knows how many articles we would be able to produce, articles that are just as well-worded, quick-witted, artfully-conceived and set you rolling with laughter!

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