LINGUIST List 6.1553

Sat Nov 4 1995

Sum: What's Funny? (part 2)

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. Budd Scott, Sum: What's Funny? (part 2)

Message 1: Sum: What's Funny? (part 2)

Date: Fri, 03 Nov 1995 16:02:37 Sum: What's Funny? (part 2)
From: Budd Scott <>
Subject: Sum: What's Funny? (part 2)

Many thanks for this second installment of linguistically based humor

Dom Watt, J. Mead, James Kirchner, Joanna Raczaszek, Mark Robeson,
Mary Neff, Sylvie Berard, Neal (TBONRN1MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU), Tim Baehr,
Waruno Mahdi. Steven Spackman, Paul Baltes, Wayne Cowart, and Jon
Wild (doubly).

Unfortunately, this time for some reason, a number of jokes were best
left unpublished.

Bud Scott


 A sign at the local "Souplantation" (which features an all-you-can-eat
 salad bar) says:

 Customers must consume all food on premises.


The Scottish town of Fife, a well-known fishing centre, hosts an
annual international competition whose winner is he who manages to
consume the greatest quantity of fish. The particular variety of fish
involved is tench, a local favorite, abundant off the North Atlantic
coast and exported throughout the whole EEC.

Last year, a local man by the name of Hicks was by many favored to win
this gastronomic contest, while others predicted the victory of a
former champion from Finland, Sven Oorslaatd. Hicks was a simple
fisherman who had long neglected the dental work he required, and in
the fiery passion of the final stages of the competition he was
bitterly frustrated by the dislodging of one of his bottom molars
while completing his eighth portion, causing his loss. The ensuing
victory for the Finn was announced by the local papers the next
morning in the following headline:


(keep counting!)

Just thought of a couple more. The first is certainly the instance of
the longest sequence of repetitions of one word that I know of. The
topic is a grammar exam:

Al, where Bob had had "had had", had had "had". "Had had" had had the
examiners' approval.


The next one strings together more prepositions than is usually
recommended... The speaker is the parent of a young child, inquiring
about said child's choice of a bedside story during recent vacation in


What did you choose that book to be read to out of down under for?


But my favorite string of prepositions, this time culled from
authentic speech, is the following gem:


Cheers - Jon Wild


1. He who can can can can cans of corn.

2. A English gentleman on a tour of rural America was being shown a
field of ripe corn by a proud farmer. "What do you do with all this
corn?" the English gentleman inquired. The farmer replied, "We eat
what we can and what we can't we can." The Englishman thought that
was very funny indeed and made a mental note to repeat this
conversation to his friends back home at the club. He did just that,
and when he got to the farmer's reply he repeated, as best as he could
remember, word for word, "We eat what we can and what we can't we do
up into tins."

>From Great BritainFrom

One of my colleagues was having her second-semester French class
practice the verb "naitre." She had a difficult time keeping her
composure when one of her students, in response to an exercise
question, replied:

 "Ma mere est nue en Chine..."


This (is) one I heard years ago from my high school French teacher
(who also taught Spanish) in Tucson, Arizona.

A Mexican woman up from Hermosillo is shopping in a large Tucson
department store. With limited English, she is trying to explain to a
helpful but non-Spanish-speaking salesperson what she is looking for.
(Here you can stretch the story out to any length shaggy dog that you
want.) To each fractured description, the salesperson brings out yet
another wrong thing. Finally, the Mexican woman decides to wander
around herself, and suddenly she exclaims in Spanish, "eso si que es!"
(this is it!) To which the salesperson says, "why didn't you spell it
out in the first place?"

Mary S. Neff

Note: A variant of the above joke was also send by Sylvie Berard.
Thanks Sylvie!


> Does anyone know of a compilation of linguistically based jokes (besides
> those of Groucho Marx?). A great deal of humor is indeed based on play
> with language, but has anyone ever compiled this?

Though this doesn't give exactly what you ask for, you might want to
look at a dissertation by Dallin D. Oaks about structural ambiguity,
entitled _Enablers of Grammatical Ambiguity_ and an article in _HUMOR:
International Journal of Humor Research_ 1994 vol 7-1, entitled "The
linear organization of jokes: Analysis of two thousand texts" by
Attardo, Attardo, Baltes and Petray. To my knowledge there is no such
compilation, but these two suggestions have examined and contain data
on the kind of thing you're looking for.

Paul Baltes


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy

(Regarding compilations) You could start with Hockett's "Jokes" from
his THE VIEW FROM LANGUAGE, still the best initial linguistic look at
jokes If you've never read the first part of Freud's JOKES AND THEIR
RELATION TO THE UNCONSCIOUS, let me recommend that too.

I talk about performed jokes in my CONVERSATIONAL JOKING (Indiana UP,
1993), and there's lots of bibliography there. My "Repetition in
canned jokes and spontaneous conversational joking" HUMOR 6, 1993, has
linguistic discussion of some funny jokes, as does my old
"Frame-theoretical analysis of verbal humor" SEMIOTICA 60, 3/4, 1986.


Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick.

Source unknown....



A wealthy cattle rancher died and left his ranch and cattle to his
sons, under one condition: they had to rename the ranch Focus. Why?




 Q: What do you call a little taco?
 A: Taquito

 Q: What do you call a little burro?
 A: Burrito

 Q: What do you call a little judge?
 A: ...

Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science
Chapman University
333 N. Glassell
Orange CA 92666

Phone: (714) 997-6628
Fax: (714) 532-6048


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