Another expression that came from the same sad time in history is a barrel of laughs. A barrel of laughs means something or someone that is very funny. It can also be used ironically to describe someone who thinks he’s funny but is not. Its origin is inhuman, as was slavery. White people often thought that slaves’ laughter was a sign of disrespect to them. Some slave owners placed barrels on their plantations and when a slave would laugh out loud, he was supposed to run to the barrel, stick his head inside, and then laugh. Some plantations also had shouting barrels, where a slave could stick his head if he felt the urge to shout. Shouting occurred mostly during secret nighttime religious services. Shouting barrels never turned into an idiomatic expression, but a barrel of laughs is a popular one, although few are aware of its origin. Take a look at some examples of current usage:
• Comedy clubs who have good stand-up comedians actually advertise that an evening with them will be a barrel of laughs.
• I always think it is a barrel of laughs when Alec Baldwin imitates Donald Trump on SNL.
• Family reunions at Aunt Tessie’s farm are usually a barrel of laughs.
Betsy and I worked together as teachers in an English School many years ago. The need of keeping my English fluent and updated inspired me to have classes with her, so, 3 other teachers and I formed a group for these classes. Betsy’s classes were always fun, full of new, challenging and interesting vocabulary, focusing on what was happening in the world and many times, with suggestions for our own classes. I still keep the material she prepared for us at that time and, surprisingly they are still fitted for my students. The environment where she teaches is so cozy that we believed we were abroad; this also contributed to the charm of the classes. Apart from that, Betsy and I have developed a strong friendship that has been kept alive up to now. I still turn to her whenever I need something and she never lets me down.
Betsy is my little sister, and I am very proud of her for her amazing language capabilities. When she was just a small girl, she would sometimes make up new words when she needed to, to avoid being slowed down by not knowing the “mainstream” word. Example: her word, “benext”, a combination of “beside” and “next to”, which simple meant “do lado” (but long before she ever encountered Portuguese, of course).
Betsy is a wonderful English teacher! Not only is she a native English speaker, but she is also “antenada” in what’s going on around the globe, enabling all kinds of subjects to be brought to light through very engaging and in-depth discussions, and providing a rich vocabulary, with words and expressions you don’t normally find in your usual English textbooks (and that are only ever mentioned on advanced English classes after years and years of going to the same English school). She is very open-minded and has a great sense of humor, making “convos” interesting and funny. And…Betsy loves cats – she is the best! Love, Carla & Amanda.
Taking English classes with Betsy is a great pleasure.
She enriches her classes with her wonderful life story, which she happily shares with her students.
Classes are carefully and diligently prepared by Betsy according to the individual needs of each of her students, and always accompany reading material on fresh, new subjects.
She is a very enthusiastic and up-beat teacher, who imparts knowledge to her students through engaging and interesting discussions.
All in all, taking classes with Betsy is a very pleasant, enriching and memorable experience.