Monday 21 December 2009


“Cracker jokes are notoriously terrible”, so on Saturday the Guardian challenged “top comedians to do better”.
(Note to non-Brits: a Christmas cracker is “a decorated paper tube that makes a small exploding sound when you pull it apart. Crackers contain a small gift, a paper hat, and a joke…” — LDOCE)

You may have heard some of these jokes before.
Catherine Tate offered this.
Who’s the bane of Santa’s life?
— The elf and safety officer.
This joke works fine in England, but would fail where you don’t have (a) h dropping in popular speech, (b) th fronting (θ→f) likewise, and lastly (c) widely ridiculed Health and Safety legislation.

Jo Brand’s joke takes us back to the topic of my 8th of December blog, mo dœʁ gus ʁam.
A French cat, Un Deux Trois, and an English cat, One Two Three, went for a swimming race round a lake. Who won?
— One Two Three, because Un Deux Trois Quatre Cinque.

Meera Syal, who ought to know better, came up with this. As you may know, the expression double entendre looks as if it’s French, and is so pronounced, but actually isn’t. In real French the equivalent would be, boringly, ambiguïté or expression à double sens.
A woman walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre…
So the barman gives her one.

Keyword: self-referential.


  1. Jo Brand's joke is a variant on one I learned at about age nine - which is a pretty long time ago.

  2. That was meant to be "variant of," not "variant on."

  3. Maybe it's my not-being-English, but the penny didn't really drop after any of the three jokes. So, could anyone please cast light on them for me?

  4. The first joke is based on the fact that some English people pronounce health like elf.
    The second joke should be funny because "Quatre Cinque" is pronounced similar to “cat sink”.

  5. Not "cat sink", but "cat sank".
    The third joke depends on the slang expression to give someone one = to have sex with them.

  6. Oh, and the first one further on the fact that Santa Claus is supposedly attended by elves. (Santa is the modern, presumably American-derived appellation for the figure that in my childhood was called Father Christmas.)

  7. A longer version of Meera Syal's joke: A man walks into a pub, and it's an English Grammar and Usage theme pub. "What can I get you?" asks the barman, "Subordinate clause? Dangling participle? Nice bit of clefting?" "I'll have an entendre", says the man. "Certainly sir," says the barman smartly, "single or double?" "Make it a double" replies the man. "Oh," says the barman archly, raising an eyebrow and simpering slightly, "you mean a large one."

  8. The one about cats is even worse than "Why is 6 so afraid? Because 7 ate 9". (And the one about the woman in the bar, with a minor change ("give it to her" instead of "give her one"), also works in Italian.)

  9. I, at least, pronounce the double in double entendre the same as the word double.

    Entendre is obviously wrong, being an infinitive, but I find many French-language hits for double entente. Does this mean something different?

  10. Here's a Francophone one for you from a Haitian associate of mine: "A colonel was waking with the President of Haiti in the mountains where it actually gets pretty cold. The President said in excellent French: 'Il fait un froid de Sibérie.' They climbed higher in the mountains and half an hour later the Colonel said: 'Ah, il fait un froid de douze béries.'"

  11. Here's another Franglais one for the mix:
    Q: Why do the French never have more than one egg for breakfast?
    A: Because one egg is "un oeuf".

  12. David Marjanović29 December 2009 at 23:21



    Even though I've heard it pronounced with an extra vowel at the end, when the Métro in Paris had a problem sur la ligne-euh cinq-euh.

  13. WOW! I Love it...
    and i thing thats good for you >>

    THE MOVIE Thank you!


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