Knock Knock, Who’s There? The Chicken
I’m not a chicken, but I am here to present you with some eggs, so invite me in will you, we can have a coffee by the fireplace as I spin you a little tale about the good and not-so-good humors of our forebears.
For all those that do not know what a ‘Knock knock’ joke is, it’s a joke based on a call and response. Let me show you:
Dozen anybody want to let me in?
These jokes are said to have emerged in 1929; you see there used to be this game called ‘Buff,’ and when the children playing this game thumbed their sticks to the ground, they would follow with “Knock knock”; “Who’s There?”; “Buff”; “What says Buff?”; “Buff says Buff to all his men, And I say Buff to you again.” Good luck understanding what exactly that means, but what’s important is that from there, this evolved to the joke we know and possibly now love.
Now let me take you to the other ‘side,’ so we arrive at the same place the chicken went in that classic joke of why he happened to cross the road. This joke is a little older, dating back to approximately 1847 when it was printed in a New York magazine, and since then it has gone on to become a well aged gem of anti-humor, a cross cultural multiple linguistic-al piece of comedic genius, examples follow:
Why did the chicken cross the road halfway?
To lay it on the line.
Why did the fish cross the ocean?
To get to the other tide.
Both the ‘knock knock’ and ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ jokes are and should remain popular and well known to most people; but what of jokes in other languages? Are there the same historical funnies present in other cultures? Timeless classics spread in a different tongue? There sure is!
In French there is the Blague de Toto, or Toto jokes. These center around a child named Toto while in school, getting up to mischief:
The teacher asks Toto:
“Conjugue-moi le verbe savoir à tous les temps.” – (Conjugate the verb ‘savoir,’ meaning ‘to know,’ in all tenses.)
“Je sais qu’il pleut, je sais qu’il fera beau, je sais qu’il neigeait.” – (I know that it’s raining, I know that it will be nice out, I know that it was snowing.)
The humor here lies in the fact that in French “temps” refers to both tenses and the weather. The Germans have their own equivalent of Toto, with Fritzchen, and England has theirs in Little Johnny.
Of course there are even more jokes that take advantage of puns. You can find these all throughout different languages, take for example this joke in Japanese:
“Hawai ni hashain ga inai” (There aren’t dentists in Hawaii)
“Hee? Naze?” (Huh? Why?)
“Ha wa ii kara!” (Because their teeth are good!)
Humourous because in Japanese Hawaii is hawai, which sounds ominously similar to the phrase “teeth are good,” that happens to be ha wa ii.
Can you think of any other timeless jokes? Do you know some funny material from other countries and languages?