The holiday season is here, and like most people, I’m in a litte over my head. Here’s a post from December 2011 which includes one of my favorite holiday movies: Elf.
For me, one of the hardest things about living with a new language is not the lack vocabulary, but the loose of humor. In English, I think I am funny, at times I even make people laugh, but in French, many my comments fall flat. Half of humor is timing, and I’m often still translating as the conversation moves forward. Slowly, I’ve gotten better at this, but there another factor of humor I can’t control: culture. Humor is cultural; a shared experience that collectively strikes a chord in our being. Perhaps it something built upon moments in our childhood that form our understanding of an idea and it is that shared upbringing that makes us laugh at the same things. Christophe and I grew up in completely different cultures; he’s French and I’m American. We can watch certain films together and find the humor, but there are other films that are completely elusive. Once, we were watching the movie Elf and he turned to me and said, “I don’t get it.”
“How do you not get it? The man is over 6 feet tall and thinks he’s an elf”, I said wiping tears of laughter from my eyes.
“It just seems, I don’t know, not funny”, he replied.
And that is where our cultural differences collided. Elf is a modern American Christmas classic. It is built around our childhood ideas of Christmas, Santa Claus, elves, and the North Pole. Christophe is from the South of France. He grew up with Provincial traditions such as blé de Sante Barbe, the crèche or nativity, and traditional foods. Elves existed, but they are tacking lawn ornaments.
Elf takes explaining to Christophe, and sadly, most of its humor is lost in translation but I’m still trying, and I believe. And that’s all it takes, right?