LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||08/JAN/2006 11:28 AM|
"Kneeslapper" is very old slang and rather "caipira". I would expect to hear it from country people, not from people from the city. And I would expect to hear it from older people, not from younger people. As you say, it means a funny joke. Also as you say, it can be said in sarcasm.
In addition to context, sometimes you need to be able to observe body language, hear the tone of voice, etc. Have you noticed how many times in e-mails or chatrooms we are misunderstood? We say one thing, but people understand another. We need tobe VERY careful with what we write.
The term "kneeslapper" is not difficult to imagine. Men are sitting around telling stories, and someone tells a joke or makes a funny remark. One of his listeners then "slaps his knee" in glee.
When I was a kid....long, long ago..."bad" meant "good, wonderful, fantastic, etc."
"Dave's car is really bad." = "Dave's car is really nice."
"The party was bad." = "The party was wonderful."
You can imagine the confusion this caused. And if I said, "Bob thinks he's bad," what was I telling you? I was saying that Bob thinks he is strong, a good fighter, very mature, tough, etc. Odd.
In a high school English class the teacher read aloud some short papers that we had written. When she came to a paper written by one of the class mafiosi or hoodlums, she read aloud "The Indians were bad mothers." My classmates almost died laughing. Everyone shouted, "Not 'mothers', 'mothas'!" I'm pretty sure you know what was meant by "mothers". It certainly didn't mean "mães". When you are saying that palavrão, you don't pronounce it "mother" but rather "motha". (Actually, "motha" isn't a palavrão but merely the first of a two word combination that is a palavrão.) And "bad" didn't really mean "bad". So... instead of "bad mothers" meaning "mães más", the expression meant "strong, good fighters, tough, etc." Very odd.
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