Saturday, November 19, 2005


Here is a statement that almost never fails to leave me convulsing with hysterical laughter, to the point of occasionally making me physically sick with uncontrollable mirth.

A man, a plan, a canal: Suez!

I can still recall the delicious mix of surprise and joy I had felt when I first saw it in an old dusty copy of Reader's Digest. In certain ways it typifies the kind of smart, but irreverant and completely random and silly humor that appeals to me a lot, and also explains why I adore Monty Python sketches. However, I should confess that while about half the people I know immediately get exactly where I am coming from, the other half probably never will, so any attempt at explanation would be futile.

Incidentally, some minor googling turned up this expanded version of the original: A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, hero's rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a cat, a mane, paper, a Toyota, rep, a pen, a mat, a can, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal, Panama!

In what may not be a completely unrelated aside, a milder and perhaps more accessible version of a similar structure would be what is sometimes referred to as the Polish Knock Knock joke, and goes, simply:

Knock knock
Come in!

A final word, before I sign off, to the reader who may be upset at the frivolity and irrelevance of this post: developmental psychologists study knock-knock-joke usage in younger children, as it provides valuable insight into how children advance their language skills. So, while nothing is just fun and games, there is no reson why most things shouldn't be.


Anonymous said...

time for an update, I think. plisplis?

natalie said...

up-date, up-date, up-date!!