“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog

Forms of Embarrassment (1)

A project to enumerate unusual forms of embarrassment (part 1).

One particular form of embarrassment that catches me by surprise is when people think that I have said something much more shocking/out of character than I actually had.

For example, a couple of years ago I was talking about hash tables and dictionary lookup in a lecture and used an example of animals and their names. One example pairing was (Panda, “Eats, shoots and leaves”). I was familiar with a version of the joke about a panda who eats a meal, shoots the waiter and then walks out of the restaurant; I was not familiar at the time with a variant in which the “shoots” refers to ejaculation. As I began to tell the joke, a few members of the audience (should I really be thinking of students as “audience”!) began to titter or look shocked that their lecturer was going to tell an off-colour joke. I found out after the lecture by talking to students what had caused this.

Of course, it is a shocking indictment of our society’s values that a joke about someone being murdered in cold blood is inoffensive, whereas the slightest sexual reference is shocking.

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