Ben Johnson Jokes: Flaws in the Canadian Mosaic

Ben Johnson Jokes: Flaws in the Canadian Mosaic Pauline Greenhill, Winnipeg The 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, were marked for many Canadians by the Brief glory of runner Ben Johnson's gold medal and world record, followed quickly by bis loss of both when he tested positive for steroid use. The public response to these events - particularly to Johnson's disgrace included an extensive cycle of topical jokes. Following an analytical perspective suggested by the work of anthropologist Mary Douglas1, I contend that the linguistic structure of these jokes reflects problems in Canadian social structures, especially with respect to immigrants and other citizens who form the so-called national cultural mosaic2. That is, while the federal and national vision encourages cultural, social, and linguistic pluralism, regional and populär views may differ3. Such concerns lead to a cycle of jokes which prominently display an exploration of how Johnson's personal nationality may be represented, and an evaluation of his fitness to be a Canadian heroic figure. The folkloric representations of Johnson contrast tellingly with those pertaining to another contemporary Canadian hero, Marathon runner and cancer victim Terry Fox. The joke texts I discuss here were gathered in several ways. Initially learning about the existence of Ben Johnson jokes http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Fabula de Gruyter

Ben Johnson Jokes: Flaws in the Canadian Mosaic

Fabula, Volume 34 (1-2) – Jan 1, 1993

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 Walter de Gruyter
ISSN
0014-6242
eISSN
1316-0464
DOI
10.1515/fabl.1993.34.1-2.78
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Pauline Greenhill, Winnipeg The 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, were marked for many Canadians by the Brief glory of runner Ben Johnson's gold medal and world record, followed quickly by bis loss of both when he tested positive for steroid use. The public response to these events - particularly to Johnson's disgrace included an extensive cycle of topical jokes. Following an analytical perspective suggested by the work of anthropologist Mary Douglas1, I contend that the linguistic structure of these jokes reflects problems in Canadian social structures, especially with respect to immigrants and other citizens who form the so-called national cultural mosaic2. That is, while the federal and national vision encourages cultural, social, and linguistic pluralism, regional and populär views may differ3. Such concerns lead to a cycle of jokes which prominently display an exploration of how Johnson's personal nationality may be represented, and an evaluation of his fitness to be a Canadian heroic figure. The folkloric representations of Johnson contrast tellingly with those pertaining to another contemporary Canadian hero, Marathon runner and cancer victim Terry Fox. The joke texts I discuss here were gathered in several ways. Initially learning about the existence of Ben Johnson jokes

Journal

Fabulade Gruyter

Published: Jan 1, 1993

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