Vn035.01 Hatch Who? 6/24/77
The jokes and puns a child is capable of creating and under-
standing are a fine developmental index of his ability to conceive of
some object or idea in multiple contexts. (For examples of Miriam’s
earlier, limited capability see the discussion in Pre-Readers’ Concepts
of the English Word). Precursors of the pun are typically insulting or
vulgar statements which are humorous to the extent that they are clever
in the context of the conversation. A vulgar example:
Some few weeks ago, having seen on TV a program on the flight
of the ‘Enola Gay’ over Hiroshima, the children asked me why the A-bomb
had a special name, then whether or not there might be a B-bomb, and so
forth. I explained as best I could the A-bomb and the H-bomb, that
although there was no B-bomb, there was a cobalt bomb that could be
called a C-bomb. When asked about the C-bomb I noted it was especially
damaging to people. Miriam interrupted here with her invention of a
bomb that wouldn’t hurt the buildings but would chase away all the
people: the F-bomb. When she had our full attention, Miriam burst out
laughing and said, “It’s a fart bomb.”
This morning, the last day of school, I went to kindergarten
with Miriam with a request that her class sing ‘Little Rabbit Foo-Foo’
so I could make an audio tape recording. We arrived early so Miriam
asked me to read to her and her friends. I read one book. Miriam then
produced a small book about a panda bear from China, Ah Choo. I asked
her to read it, which she did. The simple plot has the panda sneezing
on every page.
At lunch, Miriam began this dialogue:
M Knock, knock. Br Who’s there? M Ah. B Ah who? M No. Choo. B Choo who? M No, no. Ach. Br Ach who? M God bless you.
Miriam now clearly understands (and I believe came to understand through
the mediation of the panda bear joke) the knock-knock/booby-hatch joke
I invented months ago in response to her earlier insult:
M Knock, knock. speaker Who’s there? M Booby. speaker Booby who? M Booby you.
This vignette documents Miriam’s developing understanding of a
pun and contrasts it with her earlier insulting and vulgar jokes.