Friday, October 3, 2008

Knock, Knock

Ben has hit a very important developmental milestone: learning to tell knock-knock jokes.

Well, kind of.

The knock-knock joke seems like the perfect form of humor for Ben. The form is the very epitome of theme and variations, a construct that seems to be wired into Ben's brain from birth.

He's always been extremely good at verbal patterns: learning them, deconstructing them and rearranging them. He can substitute a new set of characters in a story, new words into a song, new sounds into a word without missing a beat.

I've been anticipating the day when he would master the knock-knock joke, hoping it would give him another social tool to use with his peers. The knock-knock joke being a key item in the arsenal of any kid bon vivant.

Here's the problem. The first knock-knock joke he learned is, itself, a variation on the knock-knock joke form.

Knock, knock

Who's there

Banana

Banana who?

Knock, knock

Who's there

Banana

Banana who?

Knock, knock

Who's there

Banana

Banana who?

Knock, knock

Who's there

Orange

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn't say banana?


Funny, right? What's the problem, you ask.

The problem is that in learning the variation first, Ben believes that this is the form of the knock-knock joke. His comprehension and context for what a knock-knock joke actually is referring to is limited. His mind is structural, literal, and so his knock-knock jokes go like this:

Knock, knock

Who's there

Strawberry

Strawberry who?

Knock, knock

Who's there

Strawberry

Strawberry who?

Knock, knock

Who's there

Strawberry

Strawberry who?

Knock, knock

Who's there

Kiwi

Kiwi who?

Kiwi you glad I didn't say strawberry?

We just laugh, rather than attempting to explain, and try again with something simpler:

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Ach

Ach who?

Geshundteit!


He follows up with this:

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Ach

Ach who?

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Ach

Ach who?

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Ach

Ach who?

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Ouch

Ouch who?

Ouch you glad I didn't say Ach?


So okay, I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old Dadaist. But what is truly amazing about this to me is the ferocity of his brain - you just point him at words and he learns, sucking up patterns in language like an Electrolux. Yet somehow, the social context and the meaning ("orange you" sounds like "aren't you") don't register.

We'll keep working on it. I know he'll get it eventually. But even when he does, I think we'll both agree that we actually prefer surreal variations like these:

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Nacho

Nacho who?

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Nacho

Nacho who?

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Nacho

Nacho who?

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Blueberry

Blueberry who?

Blueberry you glad I didn't say Nacho?

7 comments:

datri said...

OMG, I thought my 7 year old with PDD-NOS was the only one who just couldn't get knock knock jokes! She does it just like Ben. Wow.

Jordan said...

This is very funny. He and Lyle would get a long verrry well.

Jokes are hard for kids with social communication challenges. They're more complex than we'd ever realize.

Korta said...

That's the first one my daughter learned too...and she has the same trouble, exactly! Did he learn it from Backyardigans like we did? Maybe a small book of knock knock jokes would help?

knock said...

I think all kids have a hard time grasping jokes at first. Despite knock knock jokes being easier... they still require an unusual perspective for them to work.

Of course 'we' instantly pick up on the formula and switch to that "mode". It's quite normal for kids to have difficulty at first.

Tim said...

Actually, yes, I am blueberry that you didn't say nacho.

goodfountain said...

Chee loves the knock knock joke. She knows one. Knock knock. Who's there? Boo. Boo hoo? Aww, you don't have to cry.

No matter how a knock knock joke starts, the end (for her) is always, Aww, you don't have to cry.

Susan said...

I just KNOW this is in our future. On the other hand, I think the Dada versions are so much better.