Fair Enough

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Lincoln used a particular logical sleight of hand, long familiar to humorists, as a means of addressing the tariff question. He told of a fellow who had come into the grocery store in New Salem and asked for a few cents’ worth of crackers. The clerk laid them out on the counter, but after just sitting for a while the fellow said, ‘I don’t want these crackers, take them, and give me a glass of cider.’ So the clerk put the crackers away and gave him the cider, which he drank and headed for the door. ‘Here, Bill!’ called out the clerk, ‘pay me for your cider.’ ‘Why,’ said Bill, ‘I gave you the crackers for it.’ ‘Well, then, pay me for the crackers.’ ‘But I hain’t had any,’ responded Bill. ‘That’s so,’ said the clerk. ‘Well, clear out! It seems to me that I’ve lost a [few cents] somehow, but I can’t make it out exactly.’

— Richard Cawardine, Lincoln’s Sense of Humor, 2017

A Private Affair

For his 2004 book Tell Me Another!, Jack Aspinwall asked members of Parliament to tell him jokes and stories. Richard Ottaway told him this:

The Duchess returned to the Manor one evening and encountered her butler in her boudoir. She looked the butler straight in the eye and said:

“James, take off my dress.” James took off her dress.

“James, take off my petticoat.” James took off her petticoat.

“James, take off my bra.” James took off her bra.

“James, take off my panties.” James took off her panties. The Duchess turned, faced her butler again and in a soft but firm voice said:

“Now then, James, never let me catch you wearing my clothes again.”

Romance at Short Notice

http://scruss.com/wal/chapter1.html

“According to the legend whispered by the retainers and villagers, no sooner did the clock strike twelve than a headless apparition was seen to move slowly across the moonlit hall.”

In 1911 English humorists Edward Verrall Lucas and George Morrow took the illustrations from a department store catalog and arranged them into “a deeply-moving human drama.”

Stewart C. Russell has put the whole thing online (PDF).

“The Sentimental Law Student”

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Writing in the Territorial Enterprise in 1863, Mark Twain claimed to have found the following letter atop Sugarloaf Peak, Nevada. It was addressed to Miss Mary Links of Virginia City from Solon Lycurgus, “law student, and notary public in and for the said County of Storey, and Territory of Nevada”:

To the loveliness to whom these presents shall come, greeting:–This is a lovely day, my own Mary; its unencumbered sunshine reminds me of your happy face, and in the imagination the same doth now appear before me. Such sights and scenes as this ever remind me, the party of the second part, of you, my Mary, the peerless party of the first part. The view from the lonely and segregated mountain peak, of this portion of what is called and known as Creation, with all and singular the hereditaments and appurtenances thereunto appertaining and belonging, is inexpressively grand and inspiring; and I gaze, and gaze, while my soul is filled with holy delight, and my heart expands to receive thy spirit-presence, as aforesaid. Above me is the glory of the sun; around him float the messenger clouds, ready alike to bless the earth with gentle rain, or visit it with lightning, and thunder, and destruction; far below the said sun and the messenger clouds aforesaid, lying prone upon the earth in the verge of the distant horizon, like the burnished shield of a giant, mine eyes behold a lake, which is described and set forth in maps as the Sink of Carson; nearer, in the great plain, I see the Desert, spread abroad like the mantle of a Colossus, glowing by turns, with the warm light of the sun, hereinbefore mentioned, or darkly shaded by the messenger clouds aforesaid; flowing at right angles with said Desert, and adjacent thereto, I see the silver and sinuous thread of the river, commonly called Carson, which winds its tortuous course through the softly tinted valley, and disappears amid the gorges of the bleak and snowy mountains — a simile of man! — leaving the pleasant valley of Peace and Virtue to wander among the dark defiles of Sin, beyond the jurisdiction of the kindly beaming sun aforesaid! And about said sun, and the said clouds, and around the said mountains, and over the plain and the river aforesaid, there floats a purple glory — a yellow mist — as airy and beautiful as the bridal veil of a princess, about to be wedded according to the rites and ceremonies pertaining to, and established by, the laws or edicts of the kingdom or principality wherein she doth reside, and whereof she hath been and doth continue to be, a lawful sovereign or subject. Ah! my Mary, it is sublime! it is lovely! I have declared and made known, and by these presents do declare and make known unto you, that the view from Sugar Loaf Peak, as hereinbefore described and set forth, is the loveliest picture with which the hand of the Creator has adorned the earth, according to the best of my knowledge and belief, so help me God.

Given under my hand, and in the spirit-presence of the bright being whose love has restored the light of hope to a soul once groping in the darkness of despair, on the day and year first above written.

(Signed) Solon Lycurgus

Occupational Hazard

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In his 1874 Lives of the Chief Justices of England, John Campbell tells this anecdote of Lloyd Kenyon, Chief Justice of England and Wales from 1788 to 1802:

In those days retiring-rooms for the use of the Judges were unknown, and a porcelain vase, with a handle to it, was placed in a corner of the Court at the extremity of the bench. In the King’s Bench at Guildhall the students’ box (in which I myself have often sat) was very near this corner. One day a student who was taking notes, finding the ink in his little ink-bottle very thick, used the freedom secretly to discharge the whole of it into my Lord’s porcelain vase. His Lordship soon after having occasion to come to this corner, he was observed in the course of a few moments to become much disconcerted and distressed. In truth, discovering the liquid with which he was filling the vase to be of a jet black colour, he thought the secretion indicated the sudden attack of some mortal disorder. In great confusion and anguish of mind he returned to his seat and attempted to resume the trial of the cause, but finding his hand to shake so much that he could not write, he said that on account of indisposition he was obliged to adjourn the Court.

Happily for Kenyon, “As he was led to his carriage by his servants, the luckless student came up and said to him, ‘My Lord, I hope your Lordship will excuse me, as I suspect that I am unfortunately the cause of your Lordship’s apprehensions.’ He then described what he had done, expressing deep contrition for his thoughtlessness and impertinence, and saying that he considered it his duty to relieve his Lordship’s mind by this confession. Lord Kenyon: ‘Sir, you are a man of sense and a gentleman — dine with me on Sunday.'”

Farewell

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Politicians and public figures may well care to ponder the story of the death of Franco. Surrounded on his deathbed by his faithful generals, he heard outside, beyond the heavily drawn curtains, a strange subdued noise like the sea, and asked someone to investigate. An aide did. He looked down from the palace balcony and returned with a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes and reported: ‘Caudillo, it is the people. Thousands of them. They have come to say goodbye.’ And Franco raised himself on one elbow and barked: ‘Why? Where are they going?’

— British Airways parliamentary affairs officer Norman Lornie to Jack Aspinwall, MP, for his 2004 collection Tell Me Another!

Ah

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A famous artist once painted an angel with six toes.

‘Who ever saw an angel with six toes?’ people inquired.

‘Who ever saw one with less?’ was the counter-question.

Life, June 12, 1890

Action!

don martin sound effects

Don Martin’s cartoons in MAD magazine were famous for their sound effects:

  • ARGLE GLARGLE GLORGLE GLUK: princess using mouthwash
  • BUKKIDA BUKKIDA BAKKIDA BAKKIDA: boxer pummeling opponent’s head
  • CHOOK CHOOK CHOOK CHOOK: man digging
  • DOOT: doctor hitting patient’s knee with a hammer
  • FAGWOOSH SHOSSH GOOGLOOOM FUSH: sounds heard in a seashell
  • FLOOT THWIP THOP KLOP: a man folds up a beach umbrella
  • FOOWOOM: flamethrower
  • FWISK FWISK FWISKITTY FWASK: man sweeping a desert island
  • GEEEN: Plastic Man giving the finger to a guy on the 32nd floor
  • KITTOONG SHKLUNK: brain thrown into Frankenstein’s head like a basketball
  • KOONG: man hit in head with wheelbarrow full of cement
  • MOWM: atomic blast
  • POING POING POING: pogo stick
  • SHKWITZ SHKWITZ: man cleaning eyeglasses
  • SLOOPLE GLIK SPLORP: man eating soup
  • WUNK SPWAPPO KATOONK SPLAT: passengers attacking a hijacker

Doug Gilford maintains an online dictionary.