794: Inside Joke
Title text: I've looked through a few annotated versions of classic books, and it's shocking how much of what's in there is basically pop-culture references totally lost on us now.
Inside jokes occur between friends and family members that live through a shared experience, which makes them laugh when they make reference to it later on. For people not "in the know", these inside jokes can come across as being completely incomprehensible, and in extreme cases just sound like random words strung together.
Randall posits the hypothesis that this has been going on throughout history and that historical figures probably had the same number of inside jokes as any modern group of high-school students. He probably chose to compare them to high-school students because that is a time of complex social interactions and cliques, which are conducive to the formation of inside jokes.
The title text says that there are several classic books that make pop-culture references to events that no modern reader was alive to see. Topicality sometimes has the unfortunate side-effect of the work being far less understood to later generations. Suggested examples so far include Homer's Odyssey, Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and Lewis Carroll's Alice books, whose many nineteenth-century cultural references are enumerated in The Annotated Alice.
The inside joke presented in the comic appears to be a reference to the esoterically-named Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, a type of fish soup that allegedly smelled so delicious, Buddhist disciples would sneak out of their meditative ceremonies to eat it. In this case, the ham seller comments that his products are so delicious that even the monk nearby is climbing over the wall to get some ham after the buyer remarked that his product was too expensive.
- [A man with a beard and a turban stands to the left of a crude wooden counter. On the right of the counter is a man with a beard and no turban. Further behind the counter is a woman with a bun kneeling on the ground and putting something into a box.]
- Turban man: Nine silvers for a ham? That's too much!
- No-turban man: Too much? There's a monk out back with a ladder!
- [Both men start laughing.]
- Caption: There's no reason to think that people throughout history didn't have just as many inside jokes and catchphrases as any modern group of high-schoolers.
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