Words & Stuff

GG: Tidbits

(17 August 1998)

A man got engaged to two women at the same time: one named Edith, and the other named Kate. Unfortunately for the rascal, the two women met by accident, discovered the truth, and confronted him with the following admonition: You can't have your Kate, and Edith, too.

My files are full of short jokes, riddles, anecdotes, and quotations that don't fit any particular topic well enough to form a coherent column. So here's a selection of assorted tidbits.

Let's start with a riddle I heard from "Flash Gordon" at a science fiction convention, maybe ten years ago:

Q. What's the difference between a chicken with one wing and a chicken with two wings?
A. A matter of a pinion.

Don't know where this one came from:

Q. What happens when you don't pay your exorcist bill?
A. You get repossessed.

A trio from Seth Mackay-Smith:

Q. What do you call the ratio between New York prostitutes and caviar?
A. Tough ho's to roe.
Q. What do you call a young Dr. Kevorkian in China?
A. Youth in Asia.
Q. What did Jim Morrison sing at the bard competition?
A. Come on baby, fight my lyre.

David Powers provides this one:

Q. What has seven letters; is greater than God and worse than the Devil; dead people eat it; and when living people eat it they die a slow death?
A. Nothing! (This is a variant of one from a previous column.)

Which reminds me of the proof that a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness:

  1. Nothing is better than eternal happiness.
  2. A ham sandwich is better than nothing.
  3. Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness.

Here are some definitions which could just as easily be turned into riddles:

Moving right along, we have a couple of items about pronunciation:

"Erudite [pronouncing it /er ju 'daI ti/]? Wasn't she the Greek goddess of wisdom?"  -- Jennifer Skurnick

Bhadrika Love tells me that medical professionals often have odd pronunciations for some words. /,@m bI 'laI k@s/, for instance, for "umbilicus"; /'sAn tI mi tR/ for "centimeter"; and /'pEt It 'mAl/ for "petit mal" (though this last was admittedly from only one person).

In high school, I heard about a chemistry class in which the teacher wrote the word "unionized" on the board. "If you're a chemist," she said, "you pronounce this /@n 'aI n- ,aIzd/, while if you're a political scientist you pronounce it /'jun j@n ,aIzd/." A student in the back of the room called out, "And if you're weird, you pronounce it /,u ni ,oU n@ 'zEd/!"

Which reminds me of my other favorite student-in-back-of-room story: My tenth-grade math teacher suddenly stopped in the middle of a lecture one day to say, "I'm going to tell a racist joke." In the momentary lull that followed, someone at the back of the room called out, "...is anyone here racist?"

A joke, apparently from Car Talk:

A stranger rides into a western town and notes people gathered around the town's gallows, anticipating a hanging. The stranger rides up to a townperson and inquires who is getting hung that day, and the townperson replies, "Oh, they're hanging Brown Paper Joe today."

"Brown Paper Joe?" asks the stranger. "Why in the world do they call him Brown Paper Joe?" The townperson replies, "Well, 'cause he wears brown paper shoes and brown paper hats; sometimes he even wears brown paper shirts and chaps -- that's why they call him Brown Paper Joe." The stranger then inquires why Brown Paper Joe is being hung, and the townperson replies:

"'Cause he was rustlin'."

Speaking of public radio, an item from the Unfortunate Choice of Words Dept.: I tuned in awhile back on an NPR report which discussed the aftermath of the rape of two Japanese girls by American soldiers stationed in Hokkaido. The commander of the American military base in Hokkaido was interviewed on the air; he commented that relations with the locals were strained. It would be difficult to regain their trust, he said, adding, "We'll just have to start over from ground zero."

And finally, a couple of things you can say to a baby if you don't believe in baby talk:

"Gucci Gucci goo!" ( -- Jere7my Tho?rpe)
"Kitschy coup!" ( -- Arthur D. Hlavaty)


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>