LANGUAGE AND HUMOUR. PART ONE.

thepractice2All the jokes that follow are based on some linguistic phenomena: eponymy (joke 1), division of speech into functional styles (2) play on the polysemy of words (3, 6, 7, 10), slang (4, 7), the direct and idiomatic meanings of word combinations (5, 6), jargon (8, 9), homonymy (11), conversion of parts of speech (12). ENJOY:

  1. It is an interesting thought that if the Lords Cardigan and Sandwich had each other’s name we might today have been wearing sandwiches and eating cardigans (a sandwich and a cardigan are named after persons who are in some way or another associated with these items)
  2. A dizzy blonde snuggled up to her escort. “How about giving me a diamond bracelet?” she breathed into his ear.” – “My dear,” replied her companion slowly, “extenuating circumstances coerce me to preclude you from such a bauble of extravagance.” – “I don’t get it,” said the girl. – “That’s just what I said,” was the reply.
  3. There lives one ham actor who is still burning at a Chicago critic’s notice of his performance as King Richard the Third. “Mr. So-and-so played the king as if he were afraid someone else might played the ace.” (“a ham actor” — an actor or performer who overacts; “to play the king” — also: to play the card of king)
  4. Cannibal – “We’ve just captured an actor.” Chief – “Hurray! I was hoping for a good ham
  5. A confirmed woman-hater looked up from the piece of wood he was whittling by the old cracker barrel. “Women wouldn’t be here except for a little misunderstanding,” he snarled. “The Lord came down from the sky one day and asked Adam how things were going. Adam felt a little pernickety that day and he said, “Lord, you ain’t keeping me no company.” – “That’s right”, said the Lord. “Maybe what you need is a nice woman.” Adam turned white at that, “Aw, Lord, can’t you take a rib?” Well, sir, that’s just what the Lord did. The next day Eve put in an appearance and you, fellers, know the rest of the terrible story.” (1. a “cracker barrel” suggests the simple rustic informality and directness thought to be characteristic of life in and around a country store — like “home-spun, cracker-barrel philosophy.” A symbol of talkers who supposedly gathered round it in a country store; 2) “to take a rib” — also: to understand a joke)
  6. A customer told a hardware-store clerk that she wanted a three-quarterinch pipe plug. The man asked, “Do you want a male plug, a female plug or both?” – “I just want to stop a leak,” the woman replied. “I don’t plan to raise them.” (a female plug is a connector with recessed holes which have electrical terminals inside; a male plug is a plug with exposed conductors which can be inserted snugly into a female plug to insure an electrical connection; to raise —  to breed and care for to maturity)
  7. A (with a newspaper) – “It says here that cooks are often decorated in France.” Mr. A – “I sometimes feel like crowning the one we’ve got.” (to crown: 1) to put a crown on one’s head; 2) slang: to hit on the head)
  8. “In God we trust. All others cash” (a notice in a village shop); “to trust — to give credit.
  9. “Do you know that Noah was the greatest financier that ever lived?” – “How do you make that out?” – “Well, he was able to float a company when the whole world was in liquidation.” (to floatto keep financially healthy and stable; to be in liquidation — to go bankrupt)
  10. This is a circular of the Zanesville (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce: “Zanesville is an exceptionally rich city; so rich that every blade of grass has a green back, every bird has a bill, the chimneys have their drafts, every horse has a check, and every ditch has two banks, even our streets are flushed and the lawns get a rake off; every cloud has a silver lining, and every flower in the city has a scent, when you put a five-dollar bill in your pocket you double it, and when you take it out, you find it in creases. Now, do you want to live here or not?”
  11. There were three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches. What did they do? – They threw out one cigarette and made their boat a cigarette lighter (also: more light, not so heavy).
  12. A wise man is one who noes a lot (the third person singular of the converted word “no” = “to no”, which is homonymous with “to know”. A similar situation: the ex-Foreign Minister of the ex-USSR Andrey Gromyko was nicknamed Mr. Nyet for his frequent objections to international decisions).
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