As you all know, I’ll fire off obscure jokes that sometimes only one person in the room gets. Sometimes, no one in the room gets them, but that doesn’t make them any less funny. It only makes me more obscure.
Sometimes, though, I fire something off and it fails so spectacularly that the very failure is more amusing than the joke itself.
Yesterday, I tweeted:
“schieß dem Fenster” is the only German I know. It’s all one really needs to know to get by, really.
Ha! Get it? No, of course not. Why would you be any different?
“schieß dem Fenster” is from Die Hard. It means “Shoot the window.” It’s the German that Hans Gruber says to Karl. He then switches to English and “Shoot. The. Glass.”
Now, I made the tweet in the context of my QA blog’s account, so the followers expect little bon mots embracing destruction and whatnot. But to understand and get this particular joke, readers needed 1.) to understand German and 2.) to have seen the film, preferably in English.
I mean, some people might have run the translator, which would have come up with the “Shoot the windows” translation, which makes no sense since Gruber does not make a direct translation when he switches to English. Sadly, though, most won’t make the connection.
Secondly, having seen the film in a German would have stripped the moment of its stand-out, spoken in two languages nature. Who knows, a German dub might have simply had the dubbed voice repeat shoot the windows. Or they might have changed both to shoot the glass.
As a result, I had the following exchange with the only native German speaker who follows me:
Him: So, all German you know doesn’t even make any sense. You’re probably aware of it, right? :)
Me: Wait until I try to pronounce it.
Him: well, as it stands, it means to shoot the window. Wonder what your pronunciation might add there. :)
Me: As translated by Hans Gruber, it comes out “Shoot the glass.” A philosophy to test by.
Him: I’d translate it to “zerschiess das Glas” or “Fenster” instead of “Glas”. And due to new German writing, there is no “ß” anymore
Me: Also, I am quoting from the American film “Die Hard”, which is why what I said is supposed to be humorous.
Me: The eszett lives for QA http://bit.ly/cDtPam
Another non-native German speaker (and you know who you are, Gimlet) pointed out the obsolescence of the eszett. But nobody got the joke.
Because it relies on familiarity with a bit of dialogue in a foreign language in a 20-year-old film (hey, old man! How does that feel?) that is indirectly translated in the film itself. Now that’s an obscure quip.
And as I thought about it and the humor’s dependencies, I laughed more about how the joke failed than the joke itself.