Did You “Get” It?

An illustrative letter from reader Georges in France:

I have read This is True for many years now and enjoy it. You have readers in 200 countries. I suppose that many of these readers are US citizens who are abroad for some reason such as soldiers, diplomats, engineers etc. But you have also foreigners receiving your mail. I am one of them: French citizen, 72 years old. I have studied English since the age of 11 and have never stopped using it, professionally (I was a physicist). I have written about 100 papers in English, discussed in English with colleagues of all countries, spent one full year in the USA and made about 20 trips to the US. So I thought that I am fluent in English and therefore able to understand all your jokes. Alas, I find every week that it is not true. I understand almost completely your stories, but I miss your final joke or pun once out of three. So please, Randy, when you make a joke, try to think that there are maybe 20,000 readers who might not understand it. Either make it simpler or (this is a suggestion), put a footnote somewhere for us, poor ignorant idiots.

You’re not fooling me, Georges: I know you’re neither ignorant nor an idiot.

Please be assured that only a tiny minority understands it all. Some of it depends on intimate knowledge of American culture, or fine twists on English linguistics, so even if you lived here now, it’s unlikely you’d “get” all of it.

And since some of it depends on higher educational standards, not all Americans will “get” all of it! Many readers consider that one of the fun things about True: those who do understand the esoteric references revel in them.

It’s On Purpose

I’m sure there are many instances of you understanding something many others didn’t, and that appeal to your intellect is likely a large part of your enjoyment. Making True simpler would mean reducing its quality, and I’m simply not going to be doing that.

Over the years I’ve had many notes from people who have said they didn’t understand something, and had fun researching it, from looking up a word in the dictionary to learning about new concepts.

Yes, you can get plenty of enjoyment from reading the stories, even if you scratch your head from time to time. But you can get more enjoyment if you spend the time looking up the stuff you don’t understand or know about, and you get to exercise your brain at the same time.

Don’t do it because “it’s educational,” do it because it’s fun.

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2 Comments on “Did You “Get” It?

  1. Being from Australia I have to agree. There are some references to American culture that despite our large indoctrination of US culture I still don’t understand.

    But I’m still glad you don’t put footnotes, because whenever I read footnotes I always stop there whereas by not putting footnotes what may have started out as a research of a quote will lead me into a search of the author which will have me learn their life and perhaps teach about a cultural period I may have never heard of before.

    It’s great that you’re promoting learning, because learning causes understanding and there’s nothing wrong with understanding more about the world we live in, if anything it would probably do us more favours. In this day and age where ignorance breeds fear, understanding is very useful tool.

    I love it when readers grasp the Big Picture. -rc


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