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Do you know jokes which presuppose obscure knowledge?
September 23, 2007 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I love esoteric jokes, the kind of humor which presupposes a lot of specialized knowledge. The more opaque the joke is, the better. However, by their very nature they're kinda hard to search for on Google, or at least I rarely hit upon the magic searchterms. So, do you know good sites with specialist jokes? If not, do you know any particularly obscure jokes?

The obscure knowledge can be anything, from jokes about insect migration to Persian satraps to Alkali basalt to flavors of quark, anything goes. The subject matter is not what matters, but how incomprehensible the joke is to laymen.

Note: I'm not looking for jokes about different nationalities or ethnic groups. A joke about Scottish history would be something I'm looking for, not a joke about Scottish people.
posted by Kattullus to Society & Culture (97 answers total) 116 users marked this as a favorite
 
there are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary, and those who don't
posted by mpls2 at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


A few Computer Science ones, although both may be too commonplace to meet what you're looking for:

"There are 10 types of people in the world: those that understand binary and those that don't." (Or, a better variation: "There are 10 types of people in the world: those that understand ternary, those that don't, and those scrambling for a dictionary.")

And then there's the definition of recursion: "See recursion."
posted by fogster at 10:08 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


So, Rene Descartes is in a bar near closing time. The bartender asks him, "Would you like another drink?"

Descartes replies, "I think not" and vanishes.
posted by trim17 at 10:09 AM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


I can think of two, both from big-name movies.

First, from Ghostbusters at one point there's a sign on a wall in the basement that says, "Danger: 10,000 ohms".

Second, in Who framed Roger Rabbit? when Eddie Valiant goes into Toon Town, he loads up a cartoon revolver with cartoon bullets. He eventually fires them all at something, but they get distracted and veer off to fly after something else, at which point he says, in disgust, "Dum dums."

On that last one, I was laughing hysterically, but my girlfriend was completely mystified until I explained to her that "dum dum" was an alternate name for hollowpoint bullets.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:10 AM on September 23, 2007


Not sure if these are what you want, but many xkcd comics require specialized knowledge, usually of science and technology or internet culture.
posted by danb at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2007


Here's one that has worked its way into my regular rotation that I heard (read, actually.) in this thread some of which pertains to your question (but not exactly, as one of that question's caveats is no presupposition).
ANYWAY,

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. The waitress comes out and asks him if he would like to order. "Yes madame, I would like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." The waitress hurries back inside, and just as quickly comes back out and says to Sartre "I'm so very sorry monsueir, but we seem to be out of cream. Would you like it with no milk instead?"
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2007 [12 favorites]


maybe not exactly what you're looking for...

Why don't cannibals eat clowns.
Because they taste funny.
posted by whatisish at 10:19 AM on September 23, 2007


My favorite joke ever - sadly outdated now.

I am pentium of borg, division is futile, you will be approximated.
posted by missmagenta at 10:24 AM on September 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


David Chalmers has a big collection of philosophy jokes, with links to jokes about other professions at the bottom. Some of the philosophy jokes are generally comprehensible. Some require specialized knowledge; for example:

--------- ----------
(from "Proofs that P")

Outline Of A Proof That P (1):
Saul Kripke

Some philosophers have argued that not-p. But none of them seems to me to have made a convincing argument against the intuitive view that this is not the case. Therefore, p.
_________________

(1) This outline was prepared hastily -- at the editor's insistence -- from a taped manuscript of a lecture. Since I was not even given the opportunity to revise the first draft before publication, I cannot be held responsible for any lacunae in the (published version of the) argument, or for any fallacious or garbled inferences resulting from faulty preparation of the typescript. Also, the argument now seems to me to have problems which I did not know when I wrote it, but which I can't discuss here, and which are completely unrelated to any criticisms that have appeared in the literature (or that I have seen in manuscript); all such criticisms misconstrue my argument. It will be noted that the present version of the argument seems to presuppose the (intuitionistically unacceptable) law of double negation. But the argument can easily be reformulated in a way that avoids employing such an inference rule. I hope to expand on these matters further in a separate monograph.

------ -------- --------

A few definitions from Philosophical Lexicon by Daniel Dennett:
austintatious, adj. Displaying in a fine sense the niceties of the language. "I'm not sure what his point was, but his presentation was certainly austintatious."

ayer, v. (from Spanish, ayer, meaning yesterday) To oversimplify elegantly in the direction of a past generation. "Russell, in the Analysis of Mind, ayers a behaviorist account of belief."

bertrand, n. (1) A state of profound abstraction of mind and spirit; a trance. "He went into a bertrand and began to babble about the class of all classes which are not member of themselves." (2) The state of a person who suffers from delusions (e.g. as of one who doubts that, when he sees a table, he sees a table), or has visions (e.g. of the present King of France). (3) A state of linguistic amnesia, as of one who believes that "this" is a proper name and "Plato" a description.

carnap, n. (1) A formally defined symbol, operator, special bit of notation. "His prose is peppered with carnaps" or "the argument will proceed more efficiently if we introduce a few carnaps".n. (2) Loss of consciousness while being taken for a ride.

foucault, n. A howler, an insane mistake. "I'm afraid I've committed an egregious foucault."

-------- ------ --------
And a few from the Causes of Death of the Philosophers:
Abelard: Nun
Adorno: Bad frankfurter
Althusser: Became history without a subject
Anaxagoras: Burned up
Anaximander: Infinite causes
Anaximenes: Evaporated
Anscombe: By intention
Anselm: Than which no deadlier can be conceived
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:26 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Like LobsterMitten, I usually find such jokes by searching for the subject plus the word "jokes".

jokes which presuppose mathematical knowledge
jokes which presuppose philosophical knowledge
jokes which presuppose computer knowledge
jokes which presuppose historical knowledge
etc.

I'm not being snarky here, I used to regularly read the jokes at the first link.
posted by philomathoholic at 10:40 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, a couple years back at the Clearwater Festival, some guy did a standup routine that specifically made fun of all the spurs of Route 9 in Westchester County.

"Yeah, just take route 9 down to--"
"Wait, is that 9, or 9A?"
"Oh, yeah, it's 9A. Or you could always take 9D across to--"
"9D? What about 9C?"
"No, not 9C, that's way up north. But 9G, maybe..."

And so on.
posted by danb at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2007


A physics professor and his lab assistant were trying to liberate negatively charged hydroxyl ions. The assistant turned to the professor and says "but professor, what if the salicylic acid won't accept the hydroxyl ion?" and the professor says "that's no hydroxyl ion, that's my wife!"

The funny part about this joke is that it's not actually funny if you know chemistry. It's just a fun way to make people who don't know chemistry look silly.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


From a recent comment on Languagehat:

years ago my college survey class of European thinkers studied the French Rene weeks before the Spanish Alvaro, so I guess you could say the professor "put Descartes before D'Ors."


[Links added for clarification of references.]
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


There were a few gems in this thread.

What did the Dalai Lama say to the hot dog vendor?

Make me one with everything.

posted by nitsuj at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The existentialist club at my high school voted me the student "Most Likely to Be."

Did you hear about the physicist who was always the half-life of the party?

Pavlov? I'm not sure.....the name does ring a bell.....
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:00 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've tried to explain this joke to people who have no knowledge of baseball, and it always falls flat. Here goes:

The Cleveland Symphony was performing Beethoven's Ninth. In the piece, there's a long passage--about 20 minutes--during which the bass players have nothing to do. Rather than sit around that whole time looking stupid,
some bass players decided to sneak offstage and go to the tavern next door for a quick one. After slamming several beers in quick succession (as bassists are prone to do), one of them looked at his watch. "Hey! We need to get back!" he said.

No need to panic," said a fellow bass player. "I thought we might need some extra time, so I tied the last few pages of the conductor's score together with string. It'll take him a few minutes to get it untangled."

A few moments later they staggered back to the concert hall and took their places in the orchestra. About this time, a member of the audience noticed the conductor seemed a bit edgy and said as much to her companion.

Well, of course," said her companion. Don't you see? It's the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the basses are loaded."
posted by YamwotIam at 11:00 AM on September 23, 2007 [39 favorites]


Always of amusement with my medievalist friends:

Knock knock

Who's there?

Sutton Hoo

(sorry, you didn't specify *good* jokes)
posted by korej at 11:01 AM on September 23, 2007


Math joke:
What's purple and commutes?
An Abelian grape.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:10 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another math joke - the a capella song Finite Simple Group of Order 2 (youtube).
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:19 AM on September 23, 2007


What's yellow and equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?
Zorn's Lemon.
---
What's yellow and a complete normed vector space?
A Bananach space.
---
What do you get when you cross an elephant with a grape?
Elephant Grape Sin(theta).
What do you get when you cross a mountain climber and a billy goat?
You can't cross a mountain climber and a billy goat, silly, they're scalars!
---
So, it turns out that when preparing a version of the Old Testament in English, in one section, there was a careful description of a circular reflecting pool in a courtyard of King David's palace. In this version, the dimensions of the reflecting pool were given as 10 cubits across and 30 cubits around. Several years later, another version of the text was prepared; this time the dimensions of the reflecting pool were that it was 10 cubits across and 31 cubits around!
Therefore, pi is not invariant under translation.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:27 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


David Letterman, sometime in the mid-1990s, ran a segment where specialists came on and told jokes which only people in their field would understand. A fellow math graduate student of mine was somehow chosen to appear, and he told this joke:

A rather hopeless graduate student is taking a qualifying exam, and despite much help from the examiners is not doing well. Examiner: OK -- can you give an example of a compact group? Student: (unsure) The real numbers? (A very long pause follows.) Examiner: With what topology?

I promise, this is pretty funny.
posted by escabeche at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Could someone explain the punchline of this joke to me? I understand the Heisenberg and Gödel parts, but I'm not sure what Chomsky's line refers to.

Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg turns to the other two and says, "Clearly this is a joke, but how can we figure out if it's funny or not?" Gödel replies, "We can't know that because we're inside the joke." Chomsky says, "Of course it's funny. You're just telling it wrong."
posted by Sangermaine at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2007 [15 favorites]


Franz Bibfeldt
posted by felix betachat at 11:31 AM on September 23, 2007


More Bibfeldtiana
posted by felix betachat at 11:32 AM on September 23, 2007


leahwernn: Q: "What do you get when you cross a mountain climber and a mosquito?" A: "You can't cross a scalar with a vector!"

How about Napier's response after conquering Sind?

(I like both of these because they each require some knowledge in more than one field.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Q: Why do Marxists only drink herbal tea?
A: Because proper tea is theft.

A: Knock knock.
B: Who's there?
A: Knock knock.
B: Who's there?
A: Knock knock.
B: Who's there?
A: Knock knock.
B: Who's there?
A: Knock knock.
B: Who's there?

Philip Glass.

You might also like the song "Theory Girl" by CSE Band.
posted by fuzzbean at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2007 [11 favorites]


Ohe of my favourites: "Curiosity may or may not have killed Schroedinger's Cat"...
posted by Phire at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ok, I don't like to gear my material to the audience but I'd like to make an exception because I was told that there is a convention of plumbers in San Francisco this week - I understand about 30 of them came down to the show tonight - so before I came out I worked-up a joke especially for the plumbers. Those of you who aren't plumbers probably won't get this and won't think it's funny, but I think those of you who are plumbers will really enjoy this...

This lawn supervisor was out on a sprinkler maintenance job and he started working on a Findlay sprinkler head with a Langstrom 7" gangly wrench. Just then, this little apprentice leaned over and said, "You can't work on a Findlay sprinkler head with a Langstrom 7" wrench." Well this infuriated the supervisor, so he went and got Volume 14 of the Kinsley manual, and he reads to him and says, "The Langstrom 7" wrench can be used with the Findlay sprocket." Just then, the little apprentice leaned over and said, "It says sprocket not socket!"

(No laughter from the audience)

Were those plumbers supposed to be here this show? Or . . . .


-Steve Martin
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:53 AM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


Yo mama's so fat she causes gravitational lensing.
posted by alby at 11:57 AM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Heisenberg was driving down the Autobahn whereupon he was pulled over by a policeman. The policeman asked, "Do you know how fast you were going back there? Heisenberg replied, "No, but I know where I am."

Google x jokes, where x = a field of knowledge. The more specific you get, the more esoteric the jokes--'physics jokes' will do better than 'science jokes'
posted by happyturtle at 12:03 PM on September 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


1) You know you're a mathematician if when shopping for cars and saying "I'll take the blue one or the red one," you feel compelled to add "but not both."

2) Cosine is having a party and invites a whole bunch of other functions (sin x, tan x, e^x, etc.). Everyone seems to be having a good time, except e^x, who is in a corner all by itself. Cosine goes over to e^x, and says "come on, have a little fun - integrate yourself." Hearing this, e^x, looking even sadder, says "eh, it wouldn't make any difference."

3) How many commutative algebraists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Exactly one, after localizing.

How many noncommutative algebraists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two - one on the right and one on the left.
posted by epimorph at 12:24 PM on September 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


An Indian chief had twin sons with one squaw, and one son with another squaw. The first squaw gave birth on a regular deer hide, the second squaw, the chief's favorite, gave birth on the hide of a rare hippo. The second squaw's son was strong and smart and brave. The twins were nice guys, but nothing special. But the chief loved all three sons.

Which just goes to show that the sons of the squaws on the regular hide are equal to the son of the squaw on the hippopotamus hide.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:29 PM on September 23, 2007 [8 favorites]


One of my favorite nerdy jokes is a meta-joke off the interrupting cow knock-knock joke. The original goes:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting co--
Moo!

The physics one goes:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting coefficient of friction.
Interrupting co--
µ!

Gets me every time.
posted by lilac girl at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2007 [15 favorites]


Said Einstein, "I have an equation
Which science might call Rabelaisian.
Let P be virginity
Approaching infinity,
And U be a constant, persuasion.

"Now if P over U be inverted
And the square root of U be inserted
X times over P,
The result, Q.E.D.
Is a relative," Einstein asserted.
posted by clockwork at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Damn, all of the mathematicians come out of the woodwork on this one. I guess math really lends itself to jokes.

I'm dying to hear an explanation for the David Letterman joke.

I do know a couple of basic programming jokes.

I tell the first one as I first heard it, just to be old skool (and, simultaneously, extremely lame):

Q: How many HyperCard programmers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: That's a hardware problem.

Actually, I lied. I can't remember any more computer programming jokes. But if you google "tech support stories" you can easily laugh for half an hour.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:48 PM on September 23, 2007


It seems that in the sixties a certain Hungarian avant-gardist, a composer who's now well known but was then rather obscure, especially outside his own country, was privileged to have some works of his performed. He was rather nervous because, you see, his works were dissonant and atonal in parts, and music of that type was not generally thought highly of by the then-rulers of Poland. He was true to his art, but as it happened he was right to be concerned, for sure enough, as soon as the opening strains of his Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet floated out from the concert hall, an order came down to apprehend the composer who had so let his muse stray. The audience was likewise agitated and the scene soon became confused. An inferior agent of the secret police, when giving a later report to his superiors on how he had managed to lose track of the counterrevolutionary musician, was only able to state that "everything happened so quickly—Ligeti split".
posted by hototogisu at 12:53 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I saw this on a bumper sticker: "Re-unite Gondwanaland!"
posted by Quietgal at 12:54 PM on September 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Yes, that particular one is a favorite, Quietgal! I've always loved it.

How about this? A math student, a physics student, and a computer programming student were asked this question by a professor: "Prove, true or false: all odd numbers are prime."

The math student said, "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is not prime, so the theorem is false."

The physics student said, "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is experimental error, 11 is prime, 13 is prime, and that's enough data. The theorem is true."

The programmer said, "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is prime, 11 is prime, 13 is prime, 15 is prime, 17 is prime, 19 is prime, 21 is prime..."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Well, it's not directly a joke, but rather a song... it's both barely comprehensible to the layperson and quite funny.

A Finite Simple Group of Order Two by the Klein Four.
posted by Malor at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Which just goes to show that the sons of the squaws on the regular hide are equal to the son of the squaw on the hippopotamus hide.

Close, but it should end: "the the squaw on the hippopotamus are equal to the sons of the squaw on the other two hides." Otherwise it becomes obvious that you don't really get the punchline. This version isn't terribly funny, but it does do the set-up and punchline right. (I haven't seen an accurate version that really was funny--the setup is always too contrived.)

Once upon a time in an Indian village, there lived
three squaws. They had the strange custom of sitting
around on certain animal hides. One squaw spread a
bear hide near a pine grove; the second squaw carefully
laid a moose hide in the shade of a large oak tree; and
the third squaw placed a hippopotamus hide beside a
rippling brook.
The first two squaws would pass away their time
happily playing with their sons, while the third squaw,
who was still childless, had to sit quite alone, waiting
for her time to come. As it just so happened, the two
boys each weighed 50 pounds, while the single squaw
had a weight of one hundred pounds.
To this day mathematicians give credit to these women
for proving the Pythagorean Theorem, because you see:
The squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the
squaws of the other two hides."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


In a small town in New Hampshire, there are two writers. One of them is the best writer in the state, but not the best writer in town. How is that possible?

Pucker-butted pedantic prescriptivist language geek answer: Because in town, he's the better writer.
posted by not that girl at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Part II of the Descartes joke:

After Descartes disappears, the bartender turns to Heisenberg.

"Wow, did you see that?" the bartender asks, to which Heisenberg replies, "Possibly, but I can't be sure."
posted by jtfowl0 at 1:13 PM on September 23, 2007


I always wanted a t-shirt that cried out Free Gondwanaland!^

Obviously, The Far Side relied on a careful balance of popular and obscure knowledge for many of its jokes, as does the cartoonist S. Harris. There's also the webcomic Doctor Fun. [e.g.]

Again, not a joke-joke, but my favorite New Yorker cartoon for a long time was this one. Having long been a NYer fan anyway, then living in NYC, I appreciated it all the more when I found out that people who had not lived in New York didn't get it. (The point is that Chinese restaurants making deliveries in apartment buildings sneak around and slip their menus under other people's doors. This was also a time when a personal fax was pretty new.)

And of course, Nabokov and T.S. Eliot are the masters of the jokey obscure literary reference -- the sort that having it explained to you takes all the fun out of.
posted by dhartung at 1:13 PM on September 23, 2007


Dan, you botched the geological joke. -5 geek cred points
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2007


The two Alice books have all kinds of jokes in them which are only really funny to mathematicians. (Lewis Carroll was a professor of mathematics.) To people outside the field, a lot of those things just pass them right by. They may not even realize they missed it.

The conversation in Through the Looking Glass between Alice and the White Knight is loaded with them. (The White Knight was a conscious author-insert.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:25 PM on September 23, 2007


Dammit, I knew I borked that joke. Thanks for "fixing" it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2007


An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are asked to make a fence enclosing as large an area as possible using four 5-foot lengths of wooden fencing.

The engineer makes a cube 5 feet on a side.

The physicist breaks the four pieces of fencing into smaller pieces and arranges them into a shape closer to a circle.

The mathematician breaks apart one piece of fencing, uses the pieces to make a tiny circle on the ground, steps into the circle, and says, "I declare myself to be on the outside of the fence."
posted by lorimer at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


On a red bumper sticker: "If this sticker is blue, you're driving too fast!"
posted by L'homme armé at 1:43 PM on September 23, 2007 [14 favorites]


Did you hear the one about the new Soviet stealth bomber?

Yeah, it's called the Optical Illyushin.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2007


Chemistry jokes

Biology jokes

posted by porpoise at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2007


There was an international competition for the best book about elephants.

France submitted a lavishly illustrated volume titled "Love triangles in the elephants' families."

England presented a treatise "Elephants and the World Trade."

Germany submitted 24 volume set under the title "Introduction into elephantology."

The USA furnished one million copies of a leaflet announcing a sweepstakes, "Win an Elephant. No purchase necessary."

The USSR sent three volumes, with the following titles:

Vol. 1. Role of elephants in the Great October Socialist Revolution.
Vol. 2. The happy life of elephants under the sun of the most progressive in the world Soviet Constitution.
Vol. 3. Russia - the Motherland of elephants.

There's some more old jokes about the Soviet Union here and also here. Most people I tell these to don't really get them but I think they're funny.
posted by champthom at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Language Log posts linguistics jokes from time to time.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2007


(I'm SURE I read this orginally on mefi, but god knows where. I googled it and found it again. It is has been a favorite of mine for a while)

Charles Dickens: Please, sir, I'd like a martini.
Bartender: Sure thing. Olive or twist?

James Joyce: I'll take a Guinness.
Bartender: So Charles Dickens was in here yesterday.
James Joyce: (drinks)
Bartender: And he asked for a martini and I said, "Olive or twist?"
James Joyce: (drinks)
Bartender: You see, it's funny because he wrote a book called "Oliver Twist."
James Joyce: What a shitty joke.


Ernest Hemingway: Gin.
Bartender: So Charles Dickens was in here two days ago.
Ernest Hemingway: Joyce already told me that story. Fuck off.


Franz Kafka: I'd like a mineral water.
Bartender: Olive or twist?
Franz Kafka: I can't digest solid food.


Mark Twain: Give me a brandy.
Bartender: So Charles Dickens came in the other day and ordered a martini.
Mark Twain: Did he take an olive or twist? Ha ha ha!
Bartender: (tearful) You did that on purpose, didn't you?


Virginia Woolf: I'll take your second-best cognac and unadulterated experience.
Bartender: We don't have that. This is a bar.
Virginia Woolf: Patriarchy! (drowns)
posted by nuclear_soup at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2007 [41 favorites]




Neener-neener, Kattullus, I'm going to post a Scotsman joke anyhow:

Math Professor: Angus, can you give me an example of an imaginary number?
Angus: Aye.
posted by rob511 at 2:57 PM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


Those of you who learned Latin (but not too much), read this one aloud:

O civile, si ergo,
Fortibus es in ero.
O Nobile,
Deus trux,
Vatis enim?
Causan dux.

attrib. CICERO-NOES
posted by rob511 at 3:13 PM on September 23, 2007


Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick.

You see, I'm from the desert.
posted by history is a weapon at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2007


Or non Latin, the version I learned
Saville der dago, Toussin buses inaro, Nojo demis trux, Summit cousin, Summit dux?
posted by mss at 3:39 PM on September 23, 2007


another one from the comp sci field, typically described as the "one-word geek test".

License plate seen on a Volkswagen Beetle: FEATURE
posted by namewithoutwords at 3:40 PM on September 23, 2007 [14 favorites]


A mosquito did cry out in pain,
"A scientist's rotting my brain!"
The cause of his sorrow
was para-dichloro
diphenyl-trichloroethane
posted by anthill at 3:41 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Q: How many bassists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I...V...I...V...I...
posted by bassjump at 3:43 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


A gerund goes into a bar, and the bartender says, “What are you, drinking?”
posted by scruss at 4:42 PM on September 23, 2007 [23 favorites]


A guy gets into a cab in Boston and tells the cabbie, "take me to a place where I can get scrod."

The cabbie pauses a moment and looks puzzled.

The guy asks what the problem is.

The cabbie says, "nothing, I've just never heard it used in the pluperfect subjunctive before."
posted by i love cheese at 4:49 PM on September 23, 2007 [20 favorites]


Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant with a giraffe?

A: Giraffe elephant sin theta. (Explanation)
posted by flashboy at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2007


Two behaviourists bump into each other as they walk down the street. One says to the other, "You are fine, how am I?"
posted by flashboy at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


How many IT consultants do you need to change a lightbulb?

One: to convince the client it's not a bug but a feature.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:13 PM on September 23, 2007


Two artists talking, one a conceptualist:
(Conceptualist) - What's the matter, do I have to draw you a picture?

from "Comments for an Art interview (a Source Book), Installment one" by John Baldessari
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:21 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]



When Curtis Cooper and Steven Boone discovered the 44th Mersenne prime, Bruce Schneier had to change the combination on his luggage.
posted by aninom at 5:28 PM on September 23, 2007 [10 favorites]


What is the definition of a half step?
Two oboes playing in unison.
What is the definition of a major second?
Two baroque oboes playing in unison.
posted by RussHy at 5:52 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Geology jokes

There are two mountains on either side of a rift valley. One says to the other:
"It's not my fault".


Two geologists get married and have a baby. The call it mylonite.


(A rift valley has a fault running through it. And mylonite is the product of intense thrusting)
posted by twirlypen at 6:21 PM on September 23, 2007


186,282 miles per second: It isn't just a good idea, it's the law!

-0.809016994 - the sine of the beast.
438 - the decimal equivalent of an octal beast.
1, 2, 3, 3, 37 - the prime factorization of the number of the beast

The world is divided into two groups of people: Those that own HP's and those that yell "HEY! Where's the equals sign?"

Got Mole problems? Call Avogardo 6.02 X 10^23

How's my programming? Call 1-800-DEV-NULL

The number you have dialled is imaginary, please rotate your phone 90 degrees and try again.

So if Dr. Integral and Captain Derivative touched each other, would there be a huge explosion, with only f(x) remaining?
posted by Mitheral at 6:51 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm dying to hear an explanation for the David Letterman joke.

Really? OK. Whether or not a group is compact depends on an extra piece of data called the topology. But for some groups, there's an absolutely standard topology that you always use, and you would never think to specify this. So in the standard topology , the real numbers are not compact -- in fact, they are the simplest example of a non-compact group. So the student's answer was a really terrible one. And the sympathetic examiner tries to help him by suggesting that perhaps the student had in mind some topology on the real numbers other than the standard one -- which is funny because a subtle point like this would obviously not be what the student was thinking of.

No, seriously, it's funny.
posted by escabeche at 7:31 PM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


There was a very funny joke on the TV show "Frasier" about ancient Greek plays, but, sadly, I can only remember the punchline. It was something about two actors, one of whom had lost his costumes before he was supposed to act in the play. The other actor begrudgingly agrees to lend him his togas, but not without first warning him, "Euripides, Eumenides."

HA!
posted by waywardgirl at 7:51 PM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Frasier joke:
Audrey: [v.o.] So, Dr Crane, I don't see why I should fix the dumb dress when my sister can't even fit into it anymore.
Frasier: Audrey, you borrowed the dress, you tore it. As an old Greek haberdasher once said: "Euripedes, Eumenides." [laughs]
Audrey: What?
Frasier: It's just a little joke on the ancient dramatist Euripedes and the mythological Furies.
Audrey: Huh?
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:17 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


There was this lady biology major I was trying to impress, back in the nineties. She was kind of a pioneering otaku, and used to have us over for bootleg fan-subbed anime. Her source would throw in a free little fan-made music video at the end of each tape, spliced together out of Nausicaa or Kiki's Delivery Service clips, and set to, say, Sting or Billy Joel. (It can be mathematically proven, incidentally, that no physical process could make this nerdier.)

So one day, I walked up to her, probably with a moderately alarming grin, and asked if she had any more tapes in.
Her: "Er, yeah. Why?"
I took a deep breath...

Me: "Do they have the DNA bits at the end?"
Her: "Do they have T&A? Did you actually just ask me if they had T...?!:
Me: "No! DNA! No! With like biology with... helix! It's a joke that I'm making now, about the videos!"
Her: "Uh--huh."
[a pause]
Her: "You're calling them DNA."
Me: "Because they're complementary copies assembled from Miyazaki fragments!!"
[a pause]
Her: "Okazaki fragments, for DNA."
Me: "Yes!!!"

By God, that was a proud day.
posted by ormondsacker at 8:23 PM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


Could someone explain the punchline of this joke to me? I understand the Heisenberg and Gödel parts, but I'm not sure what Chomsky's line refers to.

Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg turns to the other two and says, "Clearly this is a joke, but how can we figure out if it's funny or not?" Gödel replies, "We can't know that because we're inside the joke." Chomsky says, "Of course it's funny. You're just telling it wrong."
posted by Sangermaine at 11:28 AM on September 23 [2 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


Chomsky created this a theory called Universal Grammar (UG), which inspired major changes in the field of linguistics and behavioral psychology. The main idea of UG is that basic structures of language are innate in all of us (and that when children encounter language they learn which parameters/features apply or don't apply for that particular language). The point is, it would be very typical of Chomsky to say that the joke is underlyingly funny (we just inherently "know" it's funny), but that this approach, telling of the joke (the syntax or outward/resulting manifestation of it, so-to-speak) is wrong. There are other subtleties about Chomsky, Chomsky's beliefs and contributions to various fields of knowledge, and ideas about linguistics (ex. prescriptive vs. descriptive) that make this joke even funnier, but only to the wordnerdiest (and you don't want to bark up that syntax tree*).

*I know there's a bad "pro-drop" joke to be had in there, but I refuse to go even farther than I already should have not gone.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:25 PM on September 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


There are pages, pages of viola jokes out there. Go figure.
posted by darksasami at 8:57 PM on September 23, 2007


Yo mama so fat, she spans R^3.
posted by ajshankar at 9:59 PM on September 23, 2007


Dammit! Yes, I botched it, even though I thought I had fixed it. I knew it wasn't right after I typed it. Honest. And I see QuietGal beat me anyway. :-S
posted by dhartung at 10:29 PM on September 23, 2007


comic sans and papyrus walk into a bar

bartender says "sorry, we don't serve your type here"
posted by white light at 10:39 PM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


How can you tell if you are near a desert?
You can hear the dunes barchan (barking).
(this is geology: barchan dunes).
posted by the Real Dan at 11:21 PM on September 23, 2007


Caesar adsum jam forte.

Two hydrogen atoms are walking along, and one of them says to the other: "Damn! I just lost an electron!" "Are you sure?" "I'm positive."

Someone asked Sir Thomas Beecham if he had ever conducted any Stockhausen. He replied "no, but I once trod in some".

Oedipus, schmoedipus, as long as he loves his mother.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:37 PM on September 23, 2007




Man goes into a bar: Can I have a pint of adenosine triphosphate please?
Barman: Certainly sir, that'll be 80p

And Steve Wright: If you're not part of the solution... you're part of the precipitate...

posted by csg77 at 11:42 PM on September 23, 2007


Q: A dog chases cat onto a sloped roof. Both are trapped - the dog starts barking, the cat starts meowing. Eventually, the dog slides off and perishes, but the cat remains. Why?
A: Because the cat had a greater Mu.

(...shudder.)
posted by Jofus at 6:25 AM on September 24, 2007


"And God divided the light from the darkness, and looked upon the light, and saw it was good with p<0.05. Many people have since suggested that this is also the first example of a Type I failure."
posted by methylsalicylate at 7:17 AM on September 24, 2007


My father (an electrical engineer) often responds to the question, "What's new?" with the answer, "c over lambda."
posted by leapfrog at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


A conversation between my boyfriend (a programmer) and me, very early in our relationship.

Him: I'm going to go make myself some pseudo-tea.
Me: Oh, okay, I'll do it.

*pause*

Him: Wait, what?
Me: Sudo make me a sandwich.

THAT was a good day.
posted by fuzzbean at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Q: What is a polar bear?
A: A rectangular bear after a coordinate transform.
posted by kindall at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


There are a bunch of Bruce Schneier facts, in the vein of Chuck Norris facts. E.g.:

Bruce Schneier once decrypted a box of AlphaBits.
Bruce Schneier knows the state of schroedinger's cat.
Bruce Schneier writes his books and essays by generating random alphanumeric text of an appropriate length and then decrypting it.
posted by callmejay at 12:07 PM on September 24, 2007


Do you think Marx's tomb is a communist plot?
posted by Tallguy at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


Thanks everyone! That brought me much joy.
posted by Kattullus at 6:18 PM on September 24, 2007


(AskMeFi Joke questionsalways get many favorites)
posted by growabrain at 11:13 PM on September 27, 2007


Just realised this one isn't in there:

Q. Why do computers confuse Halloween and Christmas?

A. Because 31 OCT = 25 DEC
posted by d7415 at 2:35 PM on September 28, 2007


Stop, you're killing me.


Here's one from my schooldays...

Draw a parrot.

Draw another parrot.

Now draw a third parrot.

Decide which is the best one, and draw a line under it. Write S at one end and T at the other. Which well known proverb have you just illustrated ?

'On S-T is the best poll, I see.'

LATIN JOKES....

Quando ianua ianua non est ?

Quando semiapertus est !

INSCRIPTION FOUND ON A LARGE URN IN HERCULANEUM...

ITIS
APIS
POTANDA
BIGONE

But wait, there's more...

IN AUTA SPES
NOMEN CANTARE
TU STARATA SCENA
FABULUS BUTI

and more !

TODAVI ARGONA C.IULIUS CAESAR.
CAESAR CARI DONA MILITARI ORGI VERSUS BELGAE,
BRITTANNI, ALEMANNI, AQUITANNI, HELVETII,IUNEMIT.*
'ROMAS GLORIAS' SED CAESAR,'NOMEN ME IMPUNIT.'
MENI TRAEDIT---VERCINGETORIX FOR INSTANS---
CAESAR NOCTEM SILI FORS TICIN IIS NEC AUT.
AB LUDU NERVI GAIUS CAESAR, IUBET.

* I have finally got 'iunemit'; at last the denarius has dropped.

These must be read aloud.

The 'semper ubi sub ubi ' joke is good, but better with the last line 'ubique'.

Semper ubi sub ubi ubique-always wear underwear everywhere !

And finally...can anyone punctuate the following so that it makes sense ? It does if you do.

Tom where Joe had had had had had had had had had had had more favour with the examiner.



Does anyone know the limerick about 'the young man of St John's ' as written by Dr Johnson ? If so, please post it !

The Wife of Bath
posted by The Wife of Bath at 1:35 PM on November 29, 2007


OOOPS ! It should be AB LUDI NERVI GAIUS CAESAR not AB LUDU-my mistake. W o B (COGITO OGRE SUM)
posted by The Wife of Bath at 1:40 PM on November 29, 2007


Here is a poem by Bill Manhire; a truly great poet. I find it very funny.


DECLINING THE NAKED HORSE


The naked horse came into the room.
The naked horse comes into the room.
The naked horse has come into the room
The naked horse will be coming into the room.
The naked horse does come into the room.
The naked horse had come into the room.
The naked horse would of come into the room again if we hadn't of stopped it.

ANOTHER LATIN JOKE....

What did the Latin verb say to the Latin noun ?

"I'd ask you to conjugate, but I'm afraid you'd decline.'

The Wife of Bath
posted by The Wife of Bath at 1:08 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


A response by my friend TomWest to the mosquito who cried out in pain....


As it died, though, it chortled with glee,
'You may think that you've murdered just me-
But it goes through the chain
And will addle YOUR brain !'
And that's why they've banned DDT.

Tee hee.
posted by The Wife of Bath at 11:59 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


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