The Laughing Phenomenon in French Class

How the notorious ‘Gigglepuss’ species was discovered

Whenever my friend Kieran disfigured any French word out loud in front of the class, it would make me want to laugh uproariously. “Want” is the key word here. The problem with wanting to laugh uproariously in class is that it is obviously very embarrassing and nonsensical. When our teacher Ms. Warkentin-Scott calls on one student to speak in French, the rest of the class is silent. But in this new seating plan, whenever Kieran butchered the French language, I had to try to hold in my laughter. And holding in my laughter really had three stages. In stage one, my teeth would usually be tucked in and I had a big grin on my face. This was accompanied by that throbbing feeling of your chest and stomach jutting and pushing outward because your body wants to urgently laugh. The second stage occurs when your mouth cannot stay closed and Kieran said something really stupid like “Boners arrows” instead of Buenos Aires which is ironically the only instance of him mispronouncing a word that I recall because it Buenos Aires is a city in Argentina (I was fluent enough to discern that was not a French-speaking country). Physically, in the second stage you used your palms to shield your mouth while your elbows rest on the desk. The third stage is when you put your head down flat on your arms which lay on your desk.

This stage is the terminal age when you could die (metaphorically; as in you could make an audibly disturbing sound) at any time and when you make that swooshy, nasal sound because your laughing inwardly. Usually the routine was Kieran says something stupid, I start to almost break down from laughter and Dawson would crucially turn around and look at me which would infect him from the laughing disease and he would start to break down as well. Because we were always plagued by this funny mood, eventually we would just laugh every time one of us was asked a question out loud for oral points in front of everybody. Since we mocked Kieran so much for butchering French words (and we were far from perfect; LOL) we set a pretty high standard for ourselves and every time we made a mistake – which was all too frequent – the other person would laugh resulting in the person speaking in French out loud to dramatically lose composure and potentially even start laughing them self. This high standard we set for ourselves really undermined our seriousness in the class and fostered a disruptive culture of mockery, laughing and incessant trollery. 

All this absurdist display was not met with no consequence of course. Ms. Warkentin-Scott scolded us, made fun of us, and seriously punished us for our chronic nutjobbery (a word coined by the infamous political rapper Ben Shapiro). Once or twice she seriously lectured us after class about not erratically disrupting the class with awkward, suppressed half-laughter. Other times when Dawson and I were breaking down she would ask us in front of the whole class “Are you guys doing okay over there?” which felt like putting acid on a wound since we were already struggling with holding in the symptoms of our disease. A couple of times Ms. Warkentin-Scott was a little savage to us (deservedly). For example, a mandatory component of our course is to complete a certain amount of French quizzes online on an app called Duolingo and Dawson being the cheap nutjob he is decided to spam the very first elementary-level quiz and do it dozens of time to get all the required points in a matter of minutes. Warkentin-Scott is no oblivious individual and she of course saw and told us guys in our section that Dawson did this in front of him. She went as far as to call us to her computer and she pulled up Dawson’s Duolingo record which tragically consisted of a long line of “Level 1” quizzes completed at a time when most students were at Level 30 or 40. The most mortifying reprimand we experienced in that class was when we were so out of hand with out laughter that she kicked Dawson and I out of the class for ten minutes or so. Those ten minutes were the epitome of shame and embarrassment.

On a more playful note, one time Dawson and I were braggadociously talking and because of the high grades we got on our recent unit test I rhetorically said “we’re like French prophets” (kind of like how rapper Kanye West jokingly says “I am a God” in his music) and the teacher uproariously laughed. Whats funny about this incident is she was across the room and because what I said was so patently incongruous, the teacher thought it was incredibly hilarious.

Perhaps another form of consequence we received was being titled something strange. Its kind of like how people who commit crimes get labelled as felons or criminals for the rest of there lives. She said to us a few times “You guys are my little ‘Gigglepusses.'” The etymology of this word is complex and not traditional. Only Urban Dictionary (not a real Dictionary) contains a definition:

“Any person who laughs uncontrollably for extended periods of time about nothing whatsoever, therefore appearing little girlish. A gigglepuss is prone to laugh attacks.”

This label Warkentin-Scott gave us was no triviality. This was essentially the establishment of our puerility and immaturity in the class. She never gave any other group this title but she loved calling us that.

In French 11, Kieran wasn’t with us but like AIDS, our Laugh-attack-Syndrome was still as potent and self-consuming as ever. One great memory was Dawson and I teamed up for the French food project (research and cook a French dish at home and present it to the class) and we prepared Moelleux au Chocolat (a.k.a choco lava cakes) and Chocolat Chaud (a.k.a hot choco). We were on a bit of a time-crunch when we were cooking it at Dawson’s house and were expecting this ambitious undertaking to be catastrophically bad. However, besides the hot chocolate being  a bit too thick, the lava cakes tasted amazing. they were crisp on the outside and when you break into it with a spoon, Chocolate was lusciously oozing from the center. Anyhow, while our food was excellent, our presentation took a major blow right at the start. A mandatory (and incredibly easy) part of the project is to tell the class which place in France our dish is based from and then point to that place on the big French map in the class. The city our dish was based on was the most obviously well-known and famous: Paris.

But being the imbeciles we were, we turned around to the map and could literally not find Paris. We stared at the map and the most visited tourist hot-spot in all of France evaded our stone-cold eyes. After about 20 torturous seconds though we were able to identify Paris. Again, luckily our food was really solid and we ended up with an A on our food project. One last anecdote I want to share also concerns the food projects going on in our class every day. This one time, our classmate Hailey was presenting and she had made peach tart (basically just like a peach pie or something; there’s some fancy-pants French name for it that Kieran would probably demolish but I cannot remember) for everybody. As she was handing out this tart to everyone, Dawson and I were a bit turned off by the revolting appearance of this tart. It was mushy, amorphous and slimy and was therefore clearly not well made. The smell of this dish was also unusually resembling rotten fruit. Dawson, being the sly son of a gun he his, pulled the “I have allergies card” and he didn’t have to eat Hailey’s monstrous creation. I, on the other hand, did — and oh boy, that was one of the worst things I had. Dawson was laughing his brains out watching me gulp down that monstrosity that I swear I could’ve puked out.

French class remains one of the most peculiarly funny experiences in my life.

The Laughing Phenomenon in French Class highlights:

  • Cooking project: forgetting where Paris is on the map
  • L’Bon Carnival
  • Disgusting peach tart
  • Got Kicked out in Grade 10 when Kieran was presenting
  • Dawson spams Duolingo
  • Warkentin-Scott asks “Are you guys doing okay?”
  • The Irony of it all: 88 in French 10 and 91 in French 11
  • WS calls me to read a section but I can’t hold it together and keep on laughing
  • The most relatively unembarrassing (but still embarrassing) ocurrence is when Dawson speaks and I try to hold my laughter in which incredibly distracts him
  • It was reciprocated sadistic mockery: I would mock him and he would mock him. It had a bit of a masochistic element to it
  • emotional juxtaposition of being inundated with laughter but being extremely mortified
  • French Class was essentially a Comedy course or a Drama course
  • That weird grin you get on your face when your extremely amused but extremely mortified.
  • One time me and Dawson were braggadociously talking and because of our high grade I said “we’re like French prophets” and the teacher uproariously laughed
  • Whenever Kieran slaughtered some word like bonvive, I would abruptly chuckle and lay my head down on my desk and laugh. Whether or not it was audible is entirely questionable.
  • We basically trivialized and delegitimatized the entire importance of French culture in two years. We were basically a travesty of serious French scholarship.

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The Thousand-Year View

Time-tested ideas for modern times

Eric Linus Kaplan

I'm a writer for Warner Bros. Television. Currently writing for Young Sheldon. I'm known for "The Big Bang Theory", Futurama, Flight of the Conchords, and Malcom in the Middle. I published a book of philosophy called "Does Santa Exist: A Philosophical Investigation".  I am investigating comedy and philosophy, and sometimes doing some comedy, and some fantasy.

Professor David Faris

Roosevelt University

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