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#130414 - 07/14/04 05:57 PM Why a mouse when it spins?
wofahulicodoc Offline
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Q. Why a mouse when it spins?
A. The higher the farther!


Notice it's not "Why is a mouse when it spins," and the answer isn't " The higher the fewer" either. Although both of those are common variants. I'm trying to find a source of the original quotation, which I thought was Lewis Carroll, but no one can find a vetted citation. Which is the correct phrase? Does it really matter? No. But I'm curious.

If you google Why a mouse..., you will see a bunch of references, including http://www.wordwizard.com/clubhouse/founddiscuss1.asp?Num=5902, and
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=125315.
All well and good; people are trying to take the query seriously. But the trail stops there, and I'm trying to go a step or two further back...any thoughts?

This board has wide exposure - anyone out there have an answer?


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#130415 - 07/14/04 06:53 PM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
Faldage Offline
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Never heard that one. Onliest one I know is:

Q: What's the difference between a duck?

A: One of its legs are both the same.


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#130416 - 07/14/04 09:50 PM Re: duck!
tsuwm Offline
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Loc: this too shall pass
or, one leg *is both the same.

or, red door on a motrocycle.


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#130417 - 07/15/04 06:35 AM Re: duck!
Faldage Offline
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Not to mention, giraffe.


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#130418 - 07/15/04 07:40 AM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Wofa, you might try also posting this question on http://p066.ezboard.com/fwordoriginsorgfrm1. Dave Wilton runs a good, if somewhat cumbersome, message board.


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#130419 - 07/15/04 10:04 AM Re: duck!
wow Offline
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Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
Then there is the old and unanswerable question :
"What are Yonkers?"

For non-USns : Yonkers is a town near New York City.


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#130420 - 07/15/04 12:00 PM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
Flatlander Offline
addict

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 428
Loc: Cape Cod, MA, US
Hmm. Never heard it before. It certainly sounds Carrollian (Why is a raven like a writing desk?), but I'm pretty well-read when it comes to old Charlie Dodgson, and it doesn't ring any bells.

Is it possibly a linguistics phrase demonstrating the opposite of the sentence "The gostak distims the doshes."? The "Gostak" sentence is an example of a sentence that parses perfectly well, but doesn't mean anything, while "Why a mouse" uses very simple vocab, but still has no meaning.

I thought there was a more canonical version of "understandable vocab, unintelligible parsing sentence", and there is: Noam Chomsky's "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously." So, I'm at a dead end, but perhaps I've sparked someone else's brain?

In order to add further value to this fairly fact-free post, I'll toss in this joke that I found in my googling for the above sentences:

Rebecca: What's green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?
Samuel: I don't know; what is green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?
Rebecca: A herring.
Samuel: But ... a herring isn't green!
Rebecca: Nu, so you could paint it green.
Samuel: But a herring doesn't hang on the wall!
Rebecca: Nu, so you could hang it on the wall.
Samuel: But a herring doesn't whistle!
Rebecca: Nu, so a herring doesn't whistle.

(Nu = Yiddish expression, sort of the verbal equivalent of a shrug)


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#130421 - 07/15/04 05:14 PM I'm sure I've heard this one before...
wofahulicodoc Offline
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All these jokes have bunches of variants. The one I originally heard went

Speaker 1: What's green, hangs from a tree, and squeaks?
Speaker 2: I don't know. What's green, hangs from a tree, and squeaks?
S1: A herring.
S2: I don't get it.
S1: Can't you paint a herring green?
S2: Yes, but...
S1: Can't you hang a herring from a tree!
S2: Yes, but...
S1: So there you are!
S2: But what about the squeak?
S1: Oh, that was just to make it difficult!

Fap !!! And the ethnicity is totally irrelevant; substitute any name or class or stereotype you like and it changes nothing.

Some years ago there was a soft-porn low-resolution computer game called Leisure Suit Larry, followed by a small raft of sequels. One of the earlier scenes showed LSL in a bar listening to dialogue that went something like "blah-blah-blah ... [punchline of a dirty joke, like "Twenty dollars, same as in town!"] ... HAR-HAR-HAR! ... blah-blah-blah ... [punchline of another dirty joke, like "...'cause tonight's your night in the barrel!"] ... HAR-HAR-HAR! ... " until you/LSL did something to move the action along. They repeated at random, but there were at least 20 punchlines, maybe closer to forty. I was chagrinned (dare I say proud?) and a bit surprised to see how many of the jokes I could recognize from their punchlines. Apparently there is a finite set of jokes that have persisted and become virtually universal, and it's a considerably smaller number than I would have predicted.

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#130422 - 07/15/04 07:00 PM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
Faldage Offline
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Why is a raven like a writing desk?

My favorite answer to this one:

Because there is a b in both and an n in neither.


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#130423 - 07/15/04 08:18 PM Re: I'm sure I've heard this one before...
Faldage Offline
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the ethnicity is totally irrelevant

You've probably all heard that the New Caledonians recently got their independence, and, of course, immediately petioned to join the UN. Well, they waited and waited for news about their membership and heard nothing. Then, one day, just one day before an important pig feast, they got word that they were to send a delegation to the UN for the meeting in which their membership was going to be voted on. They had been fasting in preparation for the feast but they had to get to New York as quickly as possible for the meeting. They took a boat to the main island and caught a plane to Sydney and then to Los Angeles and another to NYC. All this time they were unable to eat anything, due to the scheduling of the flights and when they got to the UN they were extremely hungry, but they had to go directly to the meeting. Naturally, the meeting dragged on for hours and hours before they even got to the question of New Caledonian membership and then, when the question was brought up, every delegation had to speak for five minutes or more about what a great honor it was to be able to vote for their inclusion. Finally, the vote was taken and it was unanimous. The New Caledonians were happy, but more to the point, they were starving. Fortunately, one of the delegation knew about a New Caledonian restaurant in Queens so they decided to go there. As fate would have it, in their haste to leave the building, they all tried to jam into the same section of the revolving door at the exit and it stuck. Helpful suggestions from the other delegation were to no avail and it was hours before someone got a janitor who unlocked the mechanism that held the doors in position and they were free to go.

The moral of the story is:


Don't put all your New Caledonians in one exit.

Well, it was funny when it was about Basques.




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#130424 - 07/15/04 09:35 PM This is where the New Caledonians get off
wofahulicodoc Offline
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Posts: 5012
Loc: Worcester, MA
Ah yes, Basquing in reflected glory, I see.

Another example of the Use-Mention dichotomy...


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#130425 - 07/16/04 03:52 AM New Caledonians
TEd Remington Offline
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You stole that joke from the rightful owners. This will be forever known as Basque-steal Day.

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TEd

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#130426 - 07/16/04 07:00 AM Re: New Caledonians
Faldage Offline
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Just trying to show that not every ethnic joke can be trasnlated willy-nilly from one ethnos to another.


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#130427 - 07/16/04 07:19 AM Re: New Caledonians
TEd Remington Offline
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Actually, I think that's a pun, not an ethnic joke.

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TEd

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#130428 - 07/16/04 05:26 PM Re: New Caledonians
wofahulicodoc Offline
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Registered: 08/06/01
Posts: 5012
Loc: Worcester, MA
Just trying to show that not every ethnic joke can be trasnlated willy-nilly from one ethnos to another.

...never meant that at all, just that the herring joke was invariant under ethnic translation...



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#130429 - 07/16/04 06:32 PM Re: New Caledonians
Zed Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 08/27/02
Posts: 2154
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
I saw a documentary about humor a while ago. They went all over the world asking people on the street/veldt/mountain to tell them a joke. The idea was to see if there were truly ethnic or cultural differences in humor. The most interesting part was that they heard very similar jokes in India, Mongolia, London, etc. Often along the lines of "did you hear about the (fill in name of group who lives near you but who you think is culturally inferior) who tried to blow up a jeep? He burnt his lips on the tailpipe."
They did find a fairly consistant difference between male and female humor which also crossed cultures.
They also used one joke involving two dogs who watch various things happen. (It is fairly long but I won't tell it properly here)) The first dog says woof and the second says "Hey I was going to say that."
They repeated it with about twenty animals and appropriate noises. Apparently the dog is the funniest animal, again across most cultures. I can't remember who came second.

edit or why they thought it mattered.

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#130430 - 07/16/04 08:33 PM Re: New Caledonians
Faldage Offline
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a pun, not an ethnic joke

All right. Y'all have caught me out. It's confession time. What it really was was a reductio ad absurdum of the notion that this sort of thang is (A) funny and (2) clever.


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#130431 - 07/21/04 03:19 PM Re: New Caledonians
RhubarbCommando Offline
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Registered: 08/23/00
Posts: 2204
a pun, not an ethnic joke
To me, it is neither, but that horribly wonderful invention, the Shaggy Dog Story.

The classic SDS relies on inordinate length, culminating in an atrocious inversion of initial letters (which AIN'T a pun!) - like the "Basques in one exit" story (in its many variations.)

Or the punchline to the story of the African chieftain who collected thrones and kept them in the roof of his house, which was constructed of straw and eventually fell down, proving convincingly that people who live in grass houses shouldn't stow thrones.


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#130432 - 07/21/04 04:29 PM (which AIN'T a pun!)
TEd Remington Offline
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Huh? A play on words is not a pun? A pun my word!

Forsooth! "Putting all your basques in one exit" is not, by your definition, an SDS since it is more than "an atrocious inversion of initial letters." And I have to admit that I put in the word atrocious only because you did!

If I were to comment on one's habit of making manifold requests I might say, "Don't put all your begs in one askit" and by your definition that might be an SDS. But in my opinion they is ALL puns.

Am I correct in assuming that you reserve the term pun for those bon mots that use alternative spellings of words with the same pronunciation to invoke a groan from the audience? As in the man whose three sons had a cattle ranch which he called Focus Farm because it's where the son's raise meat. Which the late great IA called the most perfect pun in the English language.

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#130433 - 07/21/04 04:51 PM Yeahbut®
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Loc: lower upstate New York
son's raise meat

How do you spell it?


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#130434 - 07/21/04 05:25 PM SDS is not only a 60s radical campus organization
wofahulicodoc Offline
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The classic SDS relies on inordinate length, culminating in an atrocious inversion of initial letters (which AIN'T a pun!) - like the "Basques in one exit" story (in its many variations.)

My impression of a Shaggy Dog Story is different. It comes from the paradigm tale of a man who lost his dog - it was a very shaggy dog - and has promised a BIG reward, and the story chronicles the adventures of a man trying to find and retrieve this very very shaggy dog and claim the reward. It involves harrowing experiences, narrow escapes, near misses, anything you like to make the story longer, and then when the storyteller finally takes pity on the audience and brings the story to an end, Our Hero brings this enormously shaggy dog back to the man who offered the reward in the first place (this homeward journey with dog in tow can be another adventure in itself), and the owner says..."Oh, no, that's not my dog, my dog wasn't THAT shaggy!"

So a Shaggy Dog Story is any long convoluted story that ends in a major anticlimax. Sometimes it's an utter urrelevancy. Puns are nice but only incidental. The details of the saga are unimportant to being called an SDS, though they certainly add sparkle to the tale, but it's more the length and complexity, and then the letdown.

Selected punchlines include
--the extended search for the famous "Tiz" bottle that ends with a row of bottles that when gently struck sound out the notes "Mike on Tree Tiz..." (to the notes C, C, D, B...)
--the long-lost coat, sought and finally found by an anthropomorphized moth, that turns out to be synthetic, the final line being "Did you ever see a moth bawl?"
to name just two.

I'm confident you know others!

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#130435 - 07/21/04 05:25 PM Re: oy scare 'n' peer of knees
jheem Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/06/04
Posts: 1474
Loc: California
"Basques in one exit" ain't a pun?! But 'tis, ennit? A calembour by any other name is still paronomasiac no matter what. Shakes head: I've heard many a shaggy dog story that had a punning punchline. (Wanders off muttering ...)


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#130436 - 07/21/04 05:30 PM On Beyond Spooner
wofahulicodoc Offline
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There is an Official Name for that kind of wordplay involving inversion of letters or sounds from a common phrase: Puzzlewonks call it "Chiasmus."

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#130437 - 07/22/04 07:37 AM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
Flatlander Offline
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Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 428
Loc: Cape Cod, MA, US
Because there is a b in both and an n in neither.

you forgot "and each begins with e".


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#130438 - 07/22/04 08:01 AM How do you spell it?
TEd Remington Offline
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Registered: 07/17/00
Posts: 3467
Loc: Marion NC
Where the sun's rays meet.

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TEd

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#130439 - 07/22/04 08:03 AM Re: How do you spell it?
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
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Loc: lower upstate New York
Where the sun's rays meet.

That's not what I meant. I was referring to your apostrophized plural in: "where the son's raise meat."


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#130440 - 07/22/04 08:52 AM Re: (which AIN'T a pun!)
belMarduk Offline
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Registered: 09/28/00
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>>>Am I correct in assuming that you reserve the term pun for those bon mots that use alternative spellings of words with the same pronunciation to invoke a groan from the audience?

Gotta tell you folks, Puns, SDS, word switcheroos...they ALL make us groan. We just shake our heads, mime "cuckoo-puffs" to one-another while pointing this way, and carry on as if nothing ever happened.


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#130441 - 07/24/04 06:21 AM Re: (which AIN'T a pun!)
amemeba Offline
journeyman

Registered: 05/02/04
Posts: 89
I got it!

"Whats a mouse when it spins" is a anagram.
But what does it mean?
Follow the deciphering...

What's a mouse
when it spins

rearrangingly becomes...

A tsuwm's a hoe
when it spins

rearrangingly becomes...

"a tsuwm's a hoe"
ain't hip news

This is strange because a tsuwm is not a hoe.
Everyone knows that a tsuwm's a rake.






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#213328 - 11/22/13 02:51 PM Re: Why a mouse when it spins? [Re: wofahulicodoc]
GBH Offline
stranger

Registered: 11/22/13
Posts: 1
Loc: Surrey
I recall this from a children's book In and Out of Doors by Susan, Charlotte, Christopher, Amabel & Clough Williams-Ellis.

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