An Englishman and an Irishman signed on a vessel to work their passage to the United States. The captain insisted the Irishman produce references but did not ask the Englishman for any. This infuriated the Irishman. One day the two men were washing down the deck. The Englishman threw a bucket overboard to get more water and in the process fell overboard and was swallowed up by the sea. The Irishman went to the captain.
‘You remember,’ he said, ‘that you made me give references but not that Englishman.’
‘Yes,’ said the captain, ‘I remember all the fuss you made about it, too.’
‘Well,’ said the Irishman, ‘I just want you to know that the Englishman has now gone off with your pail.’
– Ralph Louis Woods, Modern Handbook of Humor, 1967
A whimsical traveler on one of the main trails in the State of Georgia painted, on a large rock, the words, ‘Turn Me Over.’ Other travelers heaved and struggled to turn the rock over. On the underside of it they found painted, ‘Now Turn Me Back That I May Fool Another.’
– H. Allen Smith, The Compleat Practical Joker, 1953
A touring lecturer started off his favorite lecture: ‘A million years ago this earth was trod by dinosaurs.’ He was immediately interrupted by a well-meaning old lady in the audience, who said, ‘You mean a million and eight years ago, don’t you?’ ‘Why do you say that?’ queried the lecturer. ‘Because I heard you give this same lecture eight years ago,’ explained the old lady.
– Howard Eves, Mathematical Circles Revisited, 1971
Epitaph of the eminent barrister Sir John Strange:
Here lies an honest lawyer,–
that is Strange.
From Epitaphiana: or, The Curiosities of Churchyard Literature, 1873.
A newspaper reporter submitted a story about the theft of 2,025 pigs.
His editor, struck at the size of the theft, called the farmer to confirm.
“Is it true that you lost two thousand twenty-five pigs?” he asked.
“Yeth,” said the farmer.
The editor thanked him, hung up, and changed the phrase to “two sows and 25 pigs.”
Once upon a time, Master Hobson, who was a rich haberdasher in the Poultry, lying in St Alban’s, there came certain musicians to play at his chamber door, hoping that, as they filled his ears with their music, he would fill their purses with money; whereupon he told one of the servants of the inn (that waited upon him) to go and tell them that he did not then want to hear their music, for he mourned for the death of his mother. So the musicians, disappointed of their purpose, went away. The fellow that heard him speak of mourning, asked him how long it was since he buried his mother. ‘Truly,’ quoth Master Hobson, ‘it is now very nearly forty years ago.’
– William Carew Hazlitt, The New London Jest Book, 1871
A Roman Catholic who had filled up the measure of his iniquities as far as he dared went to the priest to confess and obtain absolution. He entered the apartment of the priest and addressed him thus, ‘Holy father, I have sinned.’
The priest bade him kneel before the penitential chair. The penitent was looking about, and saw the priest’s gold watch lying upon the table within his reach; he seized it and put it in his bosom. The priest approached him and requested him to acknowledge the sins for which he wished absolution.
‘Father,’ said the rogue, ‘I have stolen, and what shall I do?’ ‘Restore,’ said the priest, ‘the thing you have stolen to its rightful owner.’ ‘Do you take it,’ said the penitent. ‘No, I shall not,’ said the priest; ‘you must give it to the owner.’ ‘But he has refused to take it.’ ‘If this be the case you may keep it.’
The priest granted him full absolution; and the penitent knelt and kissed his hand, craved his benediction, crossed himself, and departed with a clear conscience, and a very valuable gold watch into the bargain.
– Walter Baxendale, Dictionary of Anecdote, Incident, Illustrative Fact, 1888
‘Well, farmer, you told us your wood was good place for hunting. Now we’ve tramped through it for three hours and found no game.’ ‘Just so! Well, I suppose, as a general thing, the less game there is the more hunting you have.’
– Tit-Bits From All the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals and Newspapers in the World, March 25, 1882
“Boys, I had great presence of mind once. It was at a fire. An old man leaned out of a four-story building, calling for help. Everybody in the crowd below looked up, but nobody did anything. The ladders weren’t long enough. Nobody had any presence of mind–nobody but me. I came to the rescue. I yelled for a rope. When it came I threw the old man the end of it. He caught it, and I told him to tie it around his waist. He did so, and I pulled him down.”
– Mark Twain, in Albert Bigelow Paine, The Boy’s Life of Mark Twain, 1916
In 1950, Simon & Schuster published a new children’s book, Dr. Dan the Bandage Man. Publisher Richard Simon decided to include a few bandages with each copy as a publicity gimmick. He wired a friend at Johnson & Johnson:
PLEASE SHIP TWO MILLION BAND-AIDS IMMEDIATELY.
The friend wired back:
BAND-AIDS ON THE WAY. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU?
A husband and wife are killed in an accident and find themselves in heaven. It’s an immaculate golf course with a beautiful clubhouse and handsomely landscaped greens, and they have it to themselves. They gape at it for a while, and then he asks her if she’d like to play a round.
As they’re teeing up for the first hole, she says, “What’s wrong?”
He says, “We could have been here years ago if it weren’t for your stupid oat bran.”
What do you get when you drop a piano down a mineshaft?
A guy goes into a bank and says he wants to borrow $200 for six months. The loan officer asks him what collateral he has, and he says, “I have a Rolls Royce. Here are the keys — you can keep it until the loan is paid off.”
Six months later the guy comes back and pays off the $200 loan, plus $10 interest. The loan officer says, “Here are the keys. If you don’t mind my asking, why would a man who owns a Rolls Royce need to borrow $200?”
The guy says, “I had to go overseas for six months. Where else could I store a Rolls Royce for $10?”
As he was visiting his parishioners one Saturday afternoon, a new pastor stopped at one house and found that no one answered the door. It was clear that someone was home, but he knocked repeatedly and no one appeared. Finally he pulled out his card, wrote “Revelation 3:20″ on the back, and left it in the door.
That Sunday he found the card in the collection basket. Below his message someone had written “Genesis 3:10.”
Revelation 3:20 reads, “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.”
Genesis 3:10 reads, “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.”
When he was a cadet at West Point, California humorist George Derby had attended a class on military strategy.
“A thousand men are besieging a fortress that contains these quantities of equipment and provisions,” said the instructor, pointing to a chart. “It is a military axiom that at the end of 45 days the fort will surrender. If you were in command of this fortress, what would you do?”
Derby raised his hand and said, “I would march out, let the enemy in, and at the end of 45 days I would change places with him.”
This guy takes a gorilla out golfing. At the first tee the gorilla says, “So what am I supposed to do?” The guy says, “You see that green area about 400 yards from here? You’re supposed to hit the ball onto that.” So the gorilla takes a club and whacks the ball and it soars up into the sky and drops down neatly on the green. The guy tees off and makes about 150 yards, so he hits an iron shot and then another iron shot and finally they arrive at the green. The gorilla says, “What do I do now?” The guy says, “Now you hit it into that cup.” The gorilla says, “Why didn’t you tell me that back there?”
The captain of a freighter was notoriously strict. On one occasion the new first mate, whom he had just hired, became a bit too boisterous after hours, and the captain wrote in the ship’s log, “The first mate was drunk last night.”
The mate was an able, conscientious seaman, and he pleaded with the captain to strike this from the record. He had never been drunk before, he did his job faithfully, and he was off duty when the offense had happened. He begged for leniency, pointing out that such a record would cloud his whole future.
“I can’t help it,” the captain said. “You were drunk last night, and I can’t change the fact. The record must stand.”
Wounded, the mate returned to his duties, and he stood the watch that night without complaint. In the morning he wrote in the log, “The captain was sober last night.”
If you remember how much easier it is to remember what you would rather forget than remember, than remember what you would rather remember than forget, then you can’t forget how much easier it is to forget what you would rather remember than forget, than forget what you would rather forget than remember.
– Elmira Gazette, quoted in New York Times, Feb. 13, 1891
G.K. Chesterton founded a debating club in London called the IDK. When asked what the letters stood for, members would say, “I don’t know!”
In the pub at the Royal Hotel in Pilgrims Rest, South Africa, hangs a board engraved WYBMADIITY. Each time a customer asks what this means, the bartender says, “Will you buy me a drink if I tell you?”
A couple were going to be married, and had proceeded as far as the church door: the gentleman then stopped his intended bride, and thus unexpectedly addressed her:–
‘My dear Eliza, during our courtship I have told you most of my mind, but I have not told you the whole: when we are married, I shall insist upon three things.’
‘What are they?’ asked the lady.
‘The three things are these,’ said the bridegroom: ‘I shall sleep alone, I shall eat alone, and find fault when there is no occasion: can you submit to these conditions?’
‘O yes, sir, very easily,’ was the reply, ‘for if you sleep alone, I shall not; if you eat alone, I shall eat first: and as to your finding fault without occasion, that I think may be prevented, for I will take care you shall never want occasion.’
The conditions being thus adjusted, they proceeded to the altar, and the ceremony was performed.
– The Knot Tied: Marriage Ceremonies of All Nations, 1877
Two communists are sitting on the porch of a nudist colony.
One says, “Have you read Marx?”
The other says, “Yes, I think it’s these wicker chairs.”
(Dr. Johnson abominated puns. When Boswell suggested that perhaps he couldn’t make them himself, Johnson said, “If I were punishéd for every pun I shed, there would not be left a puny shed for my punnish head.”)
A father exhorting his son to rise early in the morning reminded him of the old adage ‘It’s the early bird that picks up the worm.’ ‘Ah,’ replied the son, ‘but the worm gets up earlier than the bird.’
– The Book of Humour: Wit & Wisdom, 1867
Two matrons were taking a train across Canada in the 1940s. The country was beautiful but vast, and eventually they lost track of their location.
The train pulled into a station, and one of the women saw a man on the platform.
“Pardon me, young man,” she said. “Can you tell me what town this is?”
The man tipped his hat and said, “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.”
The woman turned to her friend and said, “Isn’t that charming? They don’t speak English!”
An English professor was training her students in memorization techniques.
“For instance,” she said, “if you want to remember the name of a certain poet, Bobbie Burns, you could visualize a London policeman in flames.” She drew a picture in chalk. “You see? ‘Bobbie Burns.’”
A student raised his hand and asked, “How could we know that’s not ‘Robert Browning’?”