Marcus Pinchas, the tailor

      8 Comments on Marcus Pinchas, the tailor

So. It seems clear to me that in telling the Marcus Pinchas the Tailor joke the two brothers must have names. I am in favor, generally, of giving names to characters in jokes, and I am particularly in favor of giving names to characters in those kinds of jokes, where a meandering story winds its way to an unexpected punchline. But in this particular joke, where the tailor’s name turns out to be the relevant part of the joke, it’s even more important to say the brothers’ names, because otherwise the listener is likely to wonder why the joketeller is repeating the tailor’s name so often. But if the teller also repeats the brothers’ names (Sol and Nathan seem like good names for this joke, although I think I first heard it with Hyman and Samuel, and really the names don’t matter, so long as they are names) then the repetition of the tailor’s name just slides into the rhythm of the joke. When I tell the joke, I use names for the nuns, as well. This isn’t absolutely necessary, I suppose, although I don’t see why the joketeller should miss the opportunity to say “Sister Mary Peter said to Sister Brigid…, which is just jocular on the face of it. Still, you could say “One nun says to the other…” and it doesn’t ruin the joke or anything, unlike saying “One brother says to the other, what about Marcus Pinchas the tailor?”

But what I don’t know, Gentle Reader, is whether the f-bomb in the punchline is an absolute necessity. The thing is, while Sol and Nathan would have used the cruder language, and it was appropriate to the setting, it would be more common today to say that they had been screwed than that they had been fucked. And scrudus sounds every bit as dog-Latin as fuctus, really. On the other hand, I’m not sure but that part of the hilarity is that that Sister Mary Peter doesn’t recognize the word fuck at all.

Of course, part of the joke is just the unexpected use of the word fuck. On the other hand, though, there are situations that I could tell the scrudus version of the joke where the fuctus version of the joke would be inappropriate. I suppose, really, the question is whether it’s worth telling the joke at all in a PG-13 setting, or whether it’s better to keep that one for after the kids have gone.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

8 thoughts on “Marcus Pinchas, the tailor

  1. Jed

    Now I’m curious about whether you invented this joke. Googling “Marcus Pinchas, the tailor” brings up this page as the first three results or so, and nothing else that looks relevant.

    (…If I were sure you’d invented it, and if I were more awake, I would invent and post an erudite discussion of the joke’s history and context. But I’m not quite up to that this morning.)

    1. Jim Bell

      No, this is a VERY old joke! An excellent version was told on the BBC TV show, “Old Jews Telling Jokes”

  2. irilyth is an Old Jews Telling Jokes telling of it. Very short, though, not meandering at all.

    I don’t have any deep thoughts about Vardibidian’s other questions, other than to wonder if it’s the kind of joke that I *would* tell around the kids, as an example of when it’s fine (i.e. “funny”, rather than “angry”) to say “fuck”.

    1. irilyth

      Huh, someone found this old post and revived it. :^ )

      Well, while I’m here, I’ll say that I have in fact told the kids jokes with “fuck” in them, such as the foul-mouthed parrot joke, which I also learned from Old Jews Telling Jokes. If you haven’t heard it, ask me next time we see each other and I’ll tell it.

      (Also, when I saw “Old Jews Telling Jokes” and “tailor”, I thought this was *Moishe* The Tailor, which is a different joke altogether. Which I will also cheerfully tell at the slightest provocation.)

      (Oy: Are *we* old Jews telling jokes?)

      1. Vardibidian Post author


        I don’t know if I have, in the ten years since posting this, told my children the Marcus Pinchas the Tailor joke. I might have, but now that I’m an alte kocker, my memory isn’t what it used to be.



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