Joke of the Week:
The following story is a combination of various real events that took place in classrooms.
Hover over the pink words for definitions.
Monday mornings can be busy, and it was no different for Stuart Pacmin.
Stuart was new to Hong Kong. He’d arrived a month ago, and had just about enough time to get settled and start his new job as an English teacher. He was feeling excited about his new position, but also nervous because he didn’t know much Cantonese. In the last month, he’d managed to somewhat understand the difference between the two thank you’s – “Mm goi” and “door zhe”.
Today, however, Stuart was about to face thirty students, and was nervous about the language barrier. He didn’t want to say something that could be unintentionally offensive, or misunderstand a serious situation. He especially didn’t want to say a student’s name wrong. As he reached the school, he took in a deep breath, put on a smile, and walked into the building.
Stuart found his classroom on the third floor, where his students were already seated quietly. The principal, Mrs. Chan, introduced him as Mr. Pacmin. “This is Mr. Pacmin. Let us welcome him to our class!” she said as she lifted her hands to ask the students to stand.
“Good morning, Mr. Pacmin,” said the class in unison. The principal left the classroom and allowed Stuart to get on with his lesson. He started by taking attendance.
“Lamb Chicken,” said Mr. Pacmin nervously, looking at the class. At first, no one responded. “Lamb Chicken,” repeated the teacher.
Slowly, he began to hear a giggle. Then another. And another. And another and another and another. In seconds, the class was laughing so hard that Mr. Pacmin cleared his throat.
“No Lamb Chicken. Is there a You so tan?” Mr. Pacmin asked again. A girl with fair complexion raised her hand. “Oh!” the teacher smiled, “you not tan!”
It took the class a moment to catch on, but they burst into laughter again when they realised the teacher’s joke.
Mr. Pacmin became less nervous as the class seemed happy and he continued taking attendance. “Is there a Why so dim?” he asked as a girl raised her hand. “It’s so dim, can you please turn on the light?” The girl smiled as her classmates enjoyed the humour.
The new teacher was starting to like his new students a lot, and the kids seemed to really like him, too! This was going to be a good start.
Eventually, one humorous little boy raised his hand. The teacher nodded, and the boy stood politely. “My name is 林志健. Lam Chi-kin. And the other students are Yu So Tan and Wai So Tim.” Chi-kin paused to see if the teacher would get angry, but Mr. Pacmin just smiled and allowed him to continue.
“You, sir,” Chi-kin finally said, trying hard not to laugh, “are Mr. Stupid Butt-face!”
This time, the class laughed so hard that the floors started to shake!
But Mr. Pacmin was confused. He realised that the “stupid” came from his name, Stuart, but he couldn’t understand how they thought of “Butt-face”.
The class settled down after a couple of minutes and Chi-kin stood up to explain the joke. “In Cantonese,” he said, “Pac means butt, and min means face. You are Mr. Stuart Pac-min, so, you are Mr. Stupid Butt-face!”
Everyone, including the teacher, were almost in tears from laughing so much!
At that moment, Mr. Pacmin – or rather, Mr. Butt-face – realised that sometimes having perfect English wasn’t always helpful! That, and he really had to learn Cantonese!
always think of the context
There are many different kinds of English, so not everything is a “model answer”. Sometimes, even English teachers have a hard time with the language.