June 07, 2002
More On Jokes

Continuing my last entry:

Today's Best of the Web updates the Vandal story:

Several readers wrote us to say they thought Schwink was only joking; Iowans, it seems, are famous for their dry wit.

I hope so, but am none too confident. Only Mr. Schwink (if that's his real name) would know for sure.

In dredging up my memories of the mid-1980s, it occurs to me that my Hungarian then-boss may have put the Poles into his joke to adapt it to an American context, where Polish jokes are common while a joke making fun of Croats or Romanians or Slovaks or whatever would not be understood at all.

I know that he once adapted a different joke that way. I can't recall the details, but he told what was supposed to be an old Hungarian joke. I asked him how such a joke could include a 'redneck' -- I don't doubt that there are peasants and hicks in Hungary, but 'redneck' is a little more specific than that. He said that the original joke was actually about a gypsy, but he had changed it since he figured an American wouldn't get it otherwise.

He also provided an example of the even-handed ethnic joke: The difference between a Hungarian and a Romanian is that either one will sell you his grandmother, but the Romanian (or maybe it was the Hungarian) will deliver. I've never been able to figure out whether it's worse to deliver on such a bargain, or not to. And once again the same joke could be adapted to dozens of other pairs of nationalities.

Finally, Murti Bing's comment on the Gepids reminds me of some supposedly serious author's claim about the Walloons, the French-speaking half of the Belgians. Supposedly, before they settled in Belgium they wandered all over Europe for decades saying "where are we going?" ("Où allons nous?").

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 07, 2002 11:50 PM