Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just Kidding

Ah, but I kid.  Did you ever wonder why we say ‘kid’ to mean gently torturing someone?  Actually, pretty self-evident when you think about it.  Kids are like your own personal torture machine.  Unfortunately, your machina de tortura  is much like a chickpea fart:  You can share it with others, but they are not always happy to encounter it, and you have to live with the guilt of having created it.

I’m not sure ‘kid’ does the parade of sorrow a baby truly is full justice in a purely lexical sense.  Like masking vis-à-vis duct tape, it’s just not strong enough.  People say ‘Just kidding’ so casually, e.g.

A:  Dude, I’m digging that Captain Kirk tie.
B:   Really?
A:  No, man,  I’m kidding.  It’s fucking lame.  If you harbor even a remote hope of offline intercourse, please consider incinerating it.  Just trying to help here.

Kind of jerk-ish, but only real a-holes use if to mean something closer to the true harsh reality that is a child:  

A:  You know, I was just thinking that we should be more than friends.
B:  Really?
A:  Nah, I’m just kidding.  Come on, are you serious?  You remind me of my little sister.  Ol’ Pegleg.

One of the most common uses is probably in the often exasperated declaration of disbelief, ‘Are you kidding me?’  Consider:  Man comes home to find his Chuck Taylors, X-Men collection and assorted plastic-encased action figures strewn about the front yard.  His girlfriend stands in the upstairs window, smirking.  ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME?’ he screams.  The window is closed, and now so are the blinds.  I don’t think she’s kidding, friend.  Stop kidding yourself.

And then there’s the often rhetorical, self-addressed, muttered opinion on a given situation, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’  For example:  You get into a road rage scenario that involves you tailgating, honking, generally going berserker, and throwing out names you wouldn’t call someone who slapped your own mother in the chops.  Five minutes later you meet your blind date at the restaurant, your waiter appears.  It is the driver you harassed.  ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ you say to no one in particular.  Yeah, I’d avoid the Cream of Potato today, too.

My favorite one though is the one you might be wondering right now:  ‘I can’t tell if you’re kidding or not.’  Well, I’ll be kidding for the next 18 years, I can tell you that.  'To kid' as a new verbal meaning.  Could make life a little easier.  ‘Hey man, you want to go out tonight?’ ‘Nah, I can’t.  I’m kidding tonight.  But I don’t have to kid tomorrow afternoon.  Let’s get a burrito.’

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