“The Poet and the Boy”

The Russian Poet Lomonossow was accustomed to read his plays to a rude young peasant, whom he had taken into his service for that purpose, to judge (in imitation of Moliere) the more certainly of their theatrical effect, by their impression on an uninformed and unprejudiced mind. One evening the little Huron, while holding the light as usual, suddenly began to weep and sob, in a most piteous way, to the delight of the poet, who cried out in a transport, ‘Waste not your tears before the time, my child; the scenes, in which you will most need them, come not till the fifth act.’ — ‘Oh, no,’ replied the boy, ‘it is not for that, but I want to ***.’

— William Oxberry, ed., The Flowers of Literature, 1822

A Modest Proposal

As a teenager, John Kenneth Galbraith was romancing the daughter of a neighboring farmer when a bull entered a nearby corral and began servicing one of the cows.

“That looks like it would be fun,” Galbraith said.

The girl said, “Well … it’s your cow.”


It’s been reported that proud Soviet automakers challenged their American counterparts to a competition at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.

A Swiss engineer made an exhaustive comparison of a Soviet and an American car, and he favored the American.

After an awkward pause, the Soviet press reported that “in a recent international auto competition, the Russian car placed second and the American car was next to last.”

“Old Joke Versified”


Says Tom to Bill, pray tell me, sir,
Why is it that the devil,
In spite of all his naughty ways,
Can never be uncivil?

Says Bill to Tom, the answer’s plain
To any mind that’s bright:
Because the imp of darkness, sir,
Can ne’er be imp o’ light.

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890


A young schizophrenic named Struther,
When told of the death of his brother,
Said: “Yes, it’s too bad,
But I can’t feel too sad —
After all, I still have each other.”

— Anonymous

“The Pig”


It was an evening in November,
As I very well remember,
I was strolling down the street in drunken pride,
But my knees were all a-flutter,
And I landed in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.

Yes, I lay there in the gutter
Thinking thoughts I could not utter,
When a colleen passing by did softly say
“You can tell a man who boozes
By the company he chooses” —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

— Anonymous


Bob Hope once told an audience, “The hotel room where I’m staying is so small that the rats are round-shouldered.”

The hotel manager threatened to sue, so Hope promised to take back the remark.

The next night he announced, “I’m sorry I said that the rats in that hotel were round-shouldered. They’re not.”


‘Did you hear the story of the extraordinary precocity of Mrs. Perkins’s baby that died last week?’ asked Mrs. Allgood. ‘It was only three months old, and lying at the point of death, when the grief-stricken mother asked the doctor if nothing could save it. “Absolutely nothing!” said the doctor. Then the infant looked up pitifully into its mother’s face and said—absolutely nothing!’

‘Impossible!’ insisted Mildred. ‘And only three months old!’

— Henry Ernest Dudeney, Amusements in Mathematics, 1917


“I saw a big rat in my cook-stove and when I went for my revolver he ran out.”

“Did you shoot him?”

“No. He was out of my range.”

The Pun Book, 1906