05 August, 2011

Six Degrees of Cleverness

I'm bachelor this week; my wife is in Denver visiting the older daughter. So it's just my younger daughter and I - although often not her. Her boyfriend started a new job today and works to 11:00 pm. So she and I had dinner and settled in to watch whatever was least objectionable on television.

What we watched has me thinking about Bazinga! - even though it wasn't said once in tonight's rerun. "What’s that?" you ask. Dude, you don’t know Bazinga! ? Well, you’re probably a better person for it since it means your not glued to your 85 inch 1080p High Definition Plasma Surround Sound television. In defense of television viewers though, The Big Bang Theory is a clever and well-written show. We could watch far worse.

According to one online dictionary, Bazinga! is a catchy phrase to accompany your clever pranks and popularized by Sheldon Cooper, one of the main characters on that show. For example, when Leonard and Sheldon discuss Leonard's not-yet-blossomed relationship with Penny, the script reads: 
Sheldon: "Leonard, you may be right. It appears Penny secretly wants you in her life in a very intimate and carnal fashion."
 Leonard gullibly: "You really think so?" 
Sheldon: "Of course not. Even in my sleep-deprived state I've managed to pull off one of my classic pranks. Bazinga!"

So ... just what is it that I’m thinking about when I think about Bazinga!? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck … I'm not certain I know the answer to either of those. I find the phrase very funny when I hear it in its flat screen context. Nevertheless I really don’t think I want to hear it in my everyday life, and although I haven’t heard it yet, a year ago I would have predicted we'd be hearing it everywhere by now. That would have been too bad. My sense is that it's a tad insulting, and the message in its usage is “Look at what I just did (or said). Wasn’t I clever? Of course, I was, but you were just too slow to catch on to my rapier wit.” Since it wasn't part of tonight's show, perhaps it is on the way out.

Surely we all want to live in a society where embarrassing strangers is discouraged, but I’m not sure I want to do that even to my best friends. I love a laugh as much - if not more - than the next person, but maybe it is the more clever among us who can find ways to tease or play jokes on our friends that don’t diminish them. There clearly exist degrees of cleverness, and maybe those who cannot tease without offense aren’t as clever as they think they are.

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