Thursday, August 26, 2004

Nerdy? Funny? Double positive!

Only a linguistics fan, an editor, or a hopeless nerd could enjoy this joke, which I ran across today via a leisurely Wikipedia-browsing marathon that eventually led me to the entry on philosophy professor Sidney Morgenbesser of Columbia University, who passed away at the beginning of this month. Fortunately, I am all three of these things.
A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. "In English," he said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."


Blogger The Apologist said...

My dad told me that one when I was about 12 years old. I thought it was hilarious and told everyone I knew. They just stared at me. You know how when you explain a joke, it isn't funny anymore? Imagine a kid trying to explain a joke that he "gets" but doesn't really understand how or why it's funny, not in a way that he could articulate anyway. Stares and shaking heads followed by "What are you talking about? That's not a joke."

Having written that story out and having re-read it, I'm not really sure what my point was anymore. Thanks for the reminder though. I really loved those days with my dad. He was a very funny guy back then. Still is, but back then he was the funniest guy I had ever seen or heard.

9/01/2004 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Lynn said...

Actually, I made a point of telling this one to a particular co-worker, knowing full well that she wouldn't get it. What I got in return was the most beautiful "waiting for the punchline" expression ever -- it was all open-mouthed anticipation and blankness. Even more rewarding than laughter, in its way.

9/01/2004 11:33:00 AM  

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