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#130414 - 07/14/04 05:57 PM Why a mouse when it spins?
wofahulicodoc Offline
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Posts: 6929
Loc: Worcester, MA
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
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?

#130415 - 07/14/04 06:53 PM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
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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.

#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.

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

#130418 - 07/15/04 07:40 AM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
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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.

#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.

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

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)

#130421 - 07/15/04 05:14 PM I'm sure I've heard this one before...
wofahulicodoc Offline
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Posts: 6929
Loc: Worcester, MA
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.

#130422 - 07/15/04 07:00 PM Re: Why a mouse when it spins?
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
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.

#130423 - 07/15/04 08:18 PM Re: I'm sure I've heard this one before...
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
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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