Linguistic humor

I was reminded today of my favorite linguistic joke, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

A linguistics professor was teaching a class in a large lecture hall, and he was musing on the idea of negatives. “In some languages,” he said, “such as English, two negatives become a positive. In others like Spanish or Russian, two negatives still constitute a negative. However, there is no language in which two positives make a negative.”

From the back of the lecture hall, a voice muttered, “Yeah, right.

And for those who know Spanish…

A Spanish speaker who knows no English goes into a clothes store in an English-speaking country and wants a garment but doesn’t know how to ask for it. After the manager shows the Spanish speaker every article of clothing in the store, she shows the Spanish speaker a pair of socks, and the Spanish speaker says: “¡Eso sí que es!” (“That’s what it is!”)

The manager responds: “If you could spell it all along, why didn’t you say so?”

(Sorry, I stole that version from Wikipedia; the joke is funnier when drawn out with all the Spanish vocabulary, but I don’t want to write it all out or locate another version.)

And a bad Spanish pun:

Q: ¿Qué hace un pez? (What does a fish do?)
A: Nada. (Nothing, or, it swims.)

If anyone else has any funny (or bad!) linguistic jokes or puns, post them in the comments!


6 Responses to Linguistic humor

  1. Steven Carr says:

    My favourite linguistic joke?

    What did Sigmund Freud think was the connecting factor between ‘fear’ and ‘sex’?

    What did Freud think lined ‘fear’ and ‘sex’ in the minds of his countrymen?

    Answer – ‘Funf’

  2. Brody says:

    Nice and subtle (although that one might just go in the same category as the last Spanish pun).

  3. mattghg says:

    Steven, did you take that joke from my blog post of November 14th? The “u” in “fünf” is missing an umlaut in your version.

  4. Brody says:

    Ha! What synchronicity.

  5. mattghg says:

    Here’s another:

    Q: An English cat named “one two three” and a French cat named “un deux trois” had a boat race across the Channel. Which cat won and why?
    A: The English cat, because un deux trois cat sank (un deux trois quatre cinq).


  6. Brody says:

    Now that was a serious groaner.

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