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JOKES SEE ALSO 'AMBIGUITY' AND 'LANGUAGE PLAY' by Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L. F. Nilsen


EXAGGERATION andamp; SURPRISE Exaggeration and surprise are features that can be found in most jokes. Bill Dana demonstrates that the same joke can be told with only the details and local color changing, and the rest of the joke remaining the same.


FIRST TELLING A large group is assembled in an auditorium when from the loudspeaker comes the message: 'Will the person with New York license plate BL 74468459030623145098725, kindly remove it? Your license plate is blocking traffic.


SECOND TELLING Two cowboys are talking and the first one explains that the name of his ranch is the 'Bar Nine Circle Z Rocking O Flying W Lazy R Happy Two Flying Nun Ranch.' A second cowboy asks if he has many cattle, and the first cowboy responds, 'Not many survive the branding.'


THIRD TELLING Two football players are talking and one of them begins describing a heroic run he made during the final game of the season. Nobody on the opposing team could tackle him.


Finally, 'they brought a cannon out onto the field, and they shot me with the cannon, and then airplanes came down with machine guns. They still couldn’t stop me. And I finally made a touchdown. The other player indignantly interjects that 'Anybody who was in the stadium could prove that was a lie.' The first player responded, 'There were no survivors.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 118)


JOKE CYCLES Very often jokes occur in joke cycles. Consider the following joke cycles.


ACRONYM JOKES These jokes are often found on vanity license plates or bumper stickers: 10SNE1 (tennis anyone?) XQUSME (excuse me) 4RGRAN (for our grandchild) BS, MS, PhD (Bull Shit, More of the Same, Piled Higher and Deeper) (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 175)


LIGHTBULB JOKES How many New Yorkers? 3: One to do it and two to criticize. How many grad students? 3: 2 plus a professor to take the credit How many Jewish mothers? None: I’ll just sit in the dark.


How many Los Angeles Police? 6: one to do it and five to smash the old bulb to smithereens. How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 2: but they have to be really small. How many Dolly clones? As many as you’d like. As many as you’d like. As many as you’d like. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 176)


LIGHT BULB JOKE VARIATION: What’s the difference between a pregnant woman and a light bulb? You can unscrew the light bulb. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 176)


NEW DEFINITIONS Artery: The study of painting Bacteria: The back door of a cafeteria Barium: What doctors do when patients die. Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 177)


SNIGLETS Rich Hall invented the term 'sniglet' for a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn’t. Elbonics (el bon’ iks) n. The actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater.


Esso Asso (eso a’so): The person behind you in a right-hand turn lane who cuts through the Esso Station. Pupkus (pup’kus) n. The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it. Phonesia (fo nee’ zhuh) n. The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.


TOM SWIFTIES People who used to read the Tom Swift novels invented a new type of joke: 'My name is Tom, he said Swiftly.' This pattern is extended to: 'I’d like my egg boiled,' she whispered softly.'


'Get to the back of the boat!' he shouted sternly. 'Would you like another pancake?' she asked flippantly. 'She works in the mines,' he roared ironically. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 176)


TOP TEN LIST In 1993 when David Letterman left NBC to move to a better time slot at ABC, he made a list of his 'Top 10 Things I Have To Do Before I Leave NBC.' Here are some of the items on that list: Drop off hairpiece at security desk. Vacuum out Wendell (his announcer) and write down his mileage.


Steal my weight in office supplies. Let my plastic surgeon step out and take a bow—this has been his show as much as mine. Get one more cheap laugh by saying the word Buttafuoco. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 176)


VIRUS JOKES ATandamp;T Virus: Every three minutes it tells you what great service you are getting. MCI Virus: Every three minutes it reminds you that you’re paying too much for the ATandamp;T virus.


Paul Revere Virus: This revolutionary virus does not horse around. It warns you of impending hard disk attack—once if by LAN, twice if by C:andgt;. New World Order Virus: Probably harmless, but it makes a lot of people really mad just thinking about it. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 177)


!EPIPHANY What all jokes seem to have is an epiphany. So here is a joke that illustrates the nature of epiphany: A man has been a customer in a particular restaurant for twenty years. He sits down to his regular dinner and immediately calls the waiter over to his table and demands that he 'taste the soup.'


!! The waiter is most apologetic and says, 'I’m sorry sir. What’s wrong? Here, let me get you another bowl.' 'Taste the soup!' demands the irritated customer.


!!! Again the waiter apologizes and leans forward to whisk away the offending bowl. 'No!' demands the customer, who by now is irate: 'Taste the soup.' The humbled waiter leans over to obey and asks in surprise, 'Where’s the spoon?' 'Ah ha!' cries the customer. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 292)


References: Boskin, Joseph, ed. The Humor Prism in 20th Century America. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1997. Chiaro, Delia. The Language of Jokes: Analysing Verbal Play. New York, NY: Routledge, 1992. Feldman, Gilda, and Phil Feldman. Acronym Soup: A Stirring Guide to Our Newest Word Form. New York, NY: William Morrow, 1994. Hall, Rich. Sniglets (Snig’lit)—Any Word That Doesn’t Appear in the Dictionary, but Should. New York, NY: Collier Books, 1984. Martin, Rod A. The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach. London, England: Elsevier, 2007. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 2000. Raskin, Victor. Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. Dordrecht, Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1985.

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