April 17, 2008

#01-099: Jokes - Part II: Chickens, Light Bulbs, and Differences

a chicken walking across a road
There she goes!

Note: "Why did the chicken...?" "How many people does it take...?" "What's the difference between...?" Three classic types of jokes in one lesson!

Get Ready: Do you know any jokes that start with the above questions? If so, tell some.

In Lesson #01-098, we did the Knock Knock jokes, among the best-known type in English. Here are a few more types, with their background and some examples.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"

This is one of the corniest old jokes. It dates back to the middle of the 19th century, where the original went like this:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To get to the other side.

The joke was so popular that it has spawned hundreds of variations. Here are a few:

Q: Why did the duck cross the road?
A: It was the chicken's day off.

Q: Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
A: Because chickens hadn't been invented yet.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road halfway?
A: She wanted to lay it on the line. [To "lay it on the line" means to be honest; here, "it" is an egg, and "the line" is the road marking.]

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road twice?
A: Because it was a double-crosser. [A "double-crosser" is one who breaks a promise or cheats.]

"How many [something] does it take to change a light bulb?"

These jokes have a simple form. They look like this:

Q: How many [some kind of people] does it take to change [or screw in] a light bulb?
A: [something that makes fun of that kind of people]

The original joke was probably this one, making fun of some group that the speaker thinks is stupid or inefficient:

Q: How many [insert target group here] does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Ten: one to hold the light bulb and nine to turn the ladder around. 

Other examples:

Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, it's a hardware problem! [Software and hardware people often deny responsibility for each others' areas.]

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, but the bulb has got to really want to change. [Psychiatrists often insist that they can't change anyone; it's like the saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."]

"What's the difference between [one thing] and [another]?"

In this kind of joke, the punch line depends on a double pun where the parts are switched, like "claws/paws" and "pause/clause" in the following:

Q: What is the difference between a cat and a comma?
A: A cat has claws at the end of its paws, and a comma is a pause at the end of a clause.

As you can guess, these are really hard to do. Here's one more:

Q: What's the difference between a pretty glove and a silent cat?
A: One is a cute mitten and then other is a mute kitten.

And in this one, whole words are switched:

Q: What's the difference between a dog and a painter?
A: One can shed a coat and the other can coat a shed. [Dogs shed hair before summer; "to coat" can mean "to paint."]

More jokes in Lesson #01-100!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_did_the_chicken_cross_the_road%3F

Practice: Match the set-up to its punchline below:

  1. Why did the chicken run across the road?
  2. Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?
  3. Why did the chicken cross the playground?
  4. Why did the cow cross the road?
  5. How many Einsteins does it take to change a lightbulb?
  6. How many musicians does it take to replace a lightbulb?
  7. How many rude people does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
  8. What's the difference between America and a flash drive?
  9. What's the difference between a photocopier and the flu?
  10. What's the difference between a jeweler and a sea captain?

  1. Because he didn't have the guts.
  2. One is the USA, and the other is a USB.
  3. To get to the other slide.
  4. To get to the udder side.
  5. That depends on the speed of the change and the mass of the bulb. It's all relative.
  6. A-one, a-two, a one-two-three-four!
  7. None of your business!
  8. One makes facsimiles; the other makes sick families.
  9. One sees the watches, and the other watches the seas.
  10. To get to the other side faster.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 17, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. a; 3. c; 4. d; 5. e; 6. f; 7. g; 8. b; 9. h; 10. i
    (Leave a question in the comments if there's a joke here that you don't understand!)