The English language is a wonderfully complex thing. It allows single words to have wide varieties of definitions, some of them known to only a few fortunate people. The term “inside joke” is a perfect example of this. An inside joke is when a small group of people have redefined an otherwise humorless word or phrase, associating it with something hilarious. Its very name refers to the fact that the people the joke is on are on the outside, and therefore have no understanding of what is so funny.
When someone tells you, “Oh, it’s an inside joke,” you can bet that it’s on you. I involuntarily check my fly and wipe my face every time I hear someone laughing and talking about inside jokes. Not that I’m in the habit of making myself the target of others’ mirth, but one can never be too careful these days.
In order to avoid being on the receiving end of unnecessary ribbing, I arm myself with enough inside jokes to even things out. To that end, I’ve come up with my own personal definitions of many words and phrases that Mr. Webster would likely disagree with. Personally, I’ve always felt his work could stand a little revision, anyway.
For example, most people would tell you that a picnicker is someone who carries a meal outdoors with the intention of performing a picnic. I disagree. To me, a picnicker is any of about a thousand different types of outdoor neophytes, ranging from people who think that camping is anyplace they can park their forty foot travel trailer to people who think that if a four lane highway doesn’t go there, it doesn’t exist.
‘Picnicker’ as defined in Webster’s is a seemingly innocuous term, bordering on the complimentary. It says a picnicker is “one who goes on or participates in a picnic”. ‘Picnic’ is defined as:
1. An open air meal, especially one eaten on an excursion.
2. An easy task or pleasant experience.
I expand on the second explanation to get my own definition of ‘picnickers’.
Put simply, picnickers are sissies.
Anybody who wants their outdoor experience to be “easy or pleasant” is a sissy in my book. I’m willing to bet that Lewis and Clark didn’t invite any picnickers along when they went off in search of the Northwest Passage. Deviled eggs just don’t last that long, anyway. When their food ran out along the way and they found themselves trying to come up with interesting ways to prepare dog, they may well have wished they had some deviled eggs along, but that can be excused due to the severity of their situation.
A note about deviled eggs: They are the preferred treat of most picnickers. Eating and enjoying them does not automatically make one a picnicker, but caution should be exercised around them. Caution should also be exercised around anyone who has eaten them within the last half hour, as the after effects can be quite annoying. If you go on a camping trip into a wilderness and your tent mate produces and begins to consume a supply of deviled eggs, you should first become suspicious of his character as an outdoorsman, and immediately after that, make provisions for him to sleep not only outside the tent, but ideally someplace well downwind.
The only proper place to consume deviled eggs is at large holiday feasts such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. The large quantities of other food available at these events tend to keep people from ingesting lethal doses of deviled eggs. I must admit that I have been known to be fond of the things, to the extent of throwing elbows at any of my brothers who get near the egg plate before I do. This is, of course, perfectly acceptable behavior. High society types would no doubt be appalled by such a display, but then they would probably see nothing wrong with being identified as picnickers, either.
Back to the subject at hand. Being the youngest of twelve children, I spent the better part of my life as the object of inside jokes. Being younger and less experienced, I was a likely (and easy) target. In an ideal world, siblings would treat each other with love and consideration, but my world was less than ideal. The upside of my cruel upbringing is that I studied at the feet of masters.
My brothers and sisters (and at times, my parents) were all experts at the art of the inside joke. They’d all be laughing uproariously, and I’d be walking away thinking, “I don’t get it.” As I grew older and learned that many words had meanings known only to my family, I started to understand what was so funny. Of course, the moment they realized I was on to them, they went off in search of other victims for their inside jokes. Now that my sense of humor was in concert with theirs, I started to realize what a fun crowd my family really was. Up to about my thirteenth birthday, I just thought they were a bunch of big meanies.
My brothers and I now have a vocabulary all our own, and we entertain ourselves with it on a regular basis. Almost no one outside our family understands our vocabulary or our sense of humor, and now I quite often notice people walking away from us muttering, “I don’t get it” as my brothers and I hold our sides and wipe tears of hysterical mirth from our cheeks. In order to understand our sense of humor, one must understand our version of the English language. To that end, I’ve compiled a basic dictionary of terms to allow the reader near, if not inside, our inner circle of humor.
Apple – A nearly round fruit that grows on trees. Ideally suited for throwing at dogs, neighbor kids, passing pedestrians, and brothers. When ripe, they are edible for people. When rotten, they are edible for cows. To determine ripeness, one finds a suitable target, i.e., dogs, neighbor kids, brothers, cows, etc. If the apple bounces off the target, it is ripe. If, upon impact, the apple resembles applesauce, it is rotten.
Axe – A club with a blunt metal end employed for breaking up firewood.
Big Meany – Anyone who enjoys inside jokes at my expense.
Brother – Tormentor, nemesis, enemy, camping partner, instigator, Big Meany, best friend. Any of these can and do apply, depending on the situation at hand.
Camping – Self inflicted outdoor torture. Almost always fun, if only in retrospect.
Chisel – A tool used to drive screws.
Day Hike – Death March.
Deviled Eggs – Toxic waste topped with paprika. Edible only on holidays, unless you’re a picnicker.
Dog Dish – Any dish the dog can reach.
Dog Food – Any food on or near the dog dish. Also anything the cat refuses to eat.
Doof – Derived from Doofus, meaning anyone of limited or non-existent intelligence.
Duck Hunting – Sitting in a marsh, drinking coffee, and swearing at the dog. Ducks seldom participate.
Elk Hunting – Wandering aimlessly through the woods, splitting time looking for elk and the last place you saw the truck. Elk almost never participate.
Flashlight – A storage container for dead batteries.
Hammer – A tool used to alter the shape of your thumb.
Instant Macaroni and Cheese – Poor man’s Deviled Eggs.
Matches – Sulphur – tipped strips of wood or paper for collecting moisture from your other camping gear; also used by sailors to attract wind.
Mittens – Insulated fabric objects used to keep knees dry while kneeling in snow.
Nailgun – A tool used to fasten your foot to the floor.
Picnicker – Sissy.
Sasquatch – Large hairy primate thought to inhabit the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Believed by some (myself included) to be a man eater. Also known as Bigfoot, or to his friends, simply The Foot. Squirrels, birds, chipmunks, deer, and the wind are all quite adept at imitating The Foot, especially when you’re alone at night in the woods and the only weapon you have in camp is a can opener and some leftover deviled eggs.
Screwdriver – A tool used to chisel wood.
Sleeping Bag – An insulated fabric bag used for sleeping, but probably more effective as an earwig trap.
SPAM – Nitrite infused death in a can. Considered a delicacy in Hawaii. Considered an atrocity everywhere else.
Stooge – See Doof. Also, any one of the greatest comedic actors of our time, known collectively as the The Three Stooges.
Two Man Raft – Something used on water excursions to keep one’s drinks afloat. Accommodates two men only in the catalog, or if neither of them minds drowning.
Two Man Tent – A Ziploc bag with poles. Accommodates two men only if they are stacked on top of each other and folded in thirds.
Zipper – Longitudinal fabric fastener engineered to lock you in your sleeping bag at the worst possible moment; i.e., when your bladder realizes it can’t hold out until dawn, or when The Foot is stomping around behind your Two Man Tent.
While this list is hardly complete, it is a good start on the road to understanding my family’s sense of humor. With any luck, this knowledge will keep you from walking away from a conversation with one of us muttering to yourself, “I don’t get it….”