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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oh, Tapster...

Research in the BL. Sometimes you get nothing, and sometimes you come up with pure gold. During my last visit there, I made a ground-breaking discovery, one which will force us all to reconsider the ways in which we think about the history of humor: they had "Waiter, there's a fly in my drink/soup" jokes in 1641. And back then, they rhymed. This, from the fascinating collection of jests, Wits Recreations.
A Fly out of his glass a guest did take,
Ere with the liquor his thirst would slake,
When he had drunke his fill, againe the Fly
Into the glass he put, and said, though I
Love not flyes in my drinke, yet others may,
Whose humour I nor like, nor will gainsay.

It's nearly funny. But not as funny as the earliest "knock knock" joke known, recorded in PRO MS SP 154/3 f. 45b, dated 1515 and attributed to John Skelton:
Here followeth a methode for makynge of a ieste wherein the iester doth sette hymselfe as iff behynde a dore, and beginneth thus:

Knochte, knocchte.
[nowe th'other must replie: Who ist?]
Who ist?
Ist Henrie!
[now the same must replie: Henrie who?]
Henrie who?
Henrie the VIII of that name ruler over England Wales Ireland Scotland and France, of blessed name and sovereign over us all. Hast thou seen mine groome of the dore-knocchter? Mine knocctynge is unkyngliche, verily.

And then they would laugh and laugh and laugh and tell it again.

  • At 7/10/2007 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Adam wrote…

    and then of course there are all those 'and lo how dost the capon cross the road?' gags, apparently a favourite sub-genre of Wolsey.


  • At 7/10/2007 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Good lord...those are some fine discoveries.

    But how did you ever end up poking around in PRO MS SP 154/3? Is 154 the humor collection? Or were you continuing your ongoing research into Skeltonics?


  • At 7/10/2007 12:19:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    According to Wikipedia, "A possible origin of knock knock comedy is the humorous lines (Act2 Scene3 of Macbeth) of the porter in Shakespeare's Macbeth as he tend the castle gate for knocking visitors."

    Clearly wrong. If you want a little publicity and to rewrite the popular history of the joke, it looks like there's an opportunity out there fore you.


  • At 7/10/2007 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Wait... Simplicius does understand that part 2 of this post is a joke, right? Right?


  • At 7/10/2007 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Just trying to further the faux scholarship...

    I mean, really, wouldn't it be fun for this to end up in Wikipedia?


  • At 7/10/2007 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    Does the falseness of the second one ruin the chances of this being filed under Notes and Queries?


  • At 7/10/2007 06:05:00 PM, Blogger Fretful Porpentine wrote…

    "Knock, knock!"

    "Who's there?"


    "Equivocator who?"

    "Ha! I knew you wouldn't be able to deny it if I called you an equivocator."

    ... OK, maybe not.


  • At 7/11/2007 04:25:00 AM, Blogger Rachel Roberts wrote…

    "Knock Knock."

    "Who's there?"


    "Ivor Who?"

    "Ivor Manwereaporterohellgateheshouldhaveoldturningthekey."


  • At 7/12/2007 06:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Ok, why did the capon cross the road? Perchance, to see a coxcombe? That were a triple paranomasia: come, comb, and coombe, and passing difficult. (Would it were unpossible...)


  • At 7/12/2007 09:29:00 AM, Blogger Adam wrote…

    re: why did the capon cross the road?

    a: to meet the Other.


  • At 7/14/2007 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    There are some jokes in Puttenham that are supposed to be funny that I really don't get. Andrew Flammock, Henry VIIIs standard bearer, who has his "wind" at his "commandment" (i.e, he can fart upon occasion) is one of the "funnier" anecdotes. Flammock lets fly an enormous "wind" whilst the king is courting Anne Boleyn. When reprimanded by the king he replies "But I blew one for the master and one for his man."

    And they all laughed and laughed. I guess.


 Scribble some marginalia

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