6 thoughts on “From the Department of Dad Jokes

  1. I’ve recently discovered a mathematical version of the old chicken joke.

    Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    A: The answer is trivial, and we leave its solution to the curious reader*.

    Of course, it’s only really funny to people who had to wade through stacks of math textbooks.

    “Eft” is a good word though. That’s one of the things I like about English, it’s full of oddly specific words and terms that have an infinitesimal chance of being used in everyday conversation, but have a really satisfying sound. Like “a murmuration of starlings”. Now, “murmuration” is already evocative, but the fact that it’s specifically starling and no other bird. You immediately get a picture.

    *For maximum effect should be delivered in a droning tone and with a supercilious expression.


    1. Ha, ha! That version, I hadn’t heard. And I thought I knew every permutation of the chicken joke, from the vulgar (yeah, I said it again) to the cerebral!

      Does Russian have words like that, those strange and specific ones? Russian is a closed book to me, which is odd, given my love of Russian literature: I only know enough to mock the occasional long-nosed neighbour. I couldn’t construct even the simplest of sentences, and the Cyrillic alphabet is a mystery to me.

      Also…I just realised I haven’t seen a single starling since my move, let alone a murmuration….


      1. Russian definitely has words like that, but they’re always difficult to present outside of the context of the language. Because every language has a slightly different pallette of sounds and inflections. Although… Only a few days ago I learned that the specific Russian word for bats of the genus Myotis is “nochnitsa”, which literally means “she of the night”, how cool is that? Or here’s another good one, the Russian word for a screech-owl is “sych” (the y is pronounced as a kind of throaty/burpy ee sound), which immediately conjures up an image of something tiny, puffed up and ferociously grumpy… It even can be inflected into the verb “vy-sych-itsa”, which literally means “to stare at someone in that bug eyed, ferocious, frumpy way that screech-owls do”. That’s the fun of synthetic languages, you can easily conjure up a new word and it’ll be picturesquely descriptive and feel right in the framework of the language despite being completely new and thus may even be quickly adopted into common usage (I didn’t invent that screed-owl verb right now, honest, it’s a thing).

        The Cyrillic alphabet is fairly simple, it’s just a fusion of Latin and Greek alphabets with two or three additional letters thrown in for unique sounds (like that throaty ee), and in case of Russian two silent letters that indicate whether a vowel is palatalised or not.


        1. I like that owl word. Coining new words from old ones in English tends to be more of a tall order, especially if you want them to stick. I’ve been trying to get people to call flocking birds (especially of the urban nuisance variety) “packbawkies” for nearly 20 years, but it’s yet to spread much beyond my birding group. I also tried to make “goat-hole” popular, as in “Shut your goat-hole!”, but though the meaning was clear enough—“stop talking!”, the phrase didn’t catch on.

          Russian was once on my list of languages to learn: not sure why I never got round to it. I think I got too interested in Italian, and sort of stuck there. I dream in English and Italian, but never in French or Swedish: maybe my brain is just…full up on words.


  2. I think “goat-hole” is almost/but not quite too harsh to use as an affectionate insult, which is what limits potential popularity.

    “Packbawky” though is great. It really captures the essence of something noisy, irreverent, but occasionally endearing.

    By the way, in Israel everyone has to bring a bible (Old Testament) to school and attend a bible lesson even if the school is secular. It’s taught more as a national heritage/history thing though (that just happens to involve god), the result is that everyone knows the rude and shocking bits (that are, mostly… Not part of the curriculum… Except for the genocide that the Israelites perpetrate on the Cnaanites (where god tells them not spare a single woman, child, or cattle of the enemy… They do spare some women and cattle, because war spoils, and god, predictably, punishes them), which does get taught, and while we’re never explicitly taught to sympathize with the Israelites, we’re kinda implied to, because “that’s us” and the Cnaanites are “a pagan abomination”). It is, however, the go to answer to the “why aren’t you religious” question, especially to pushy annoying types.

    Me? I got mocked for wearing those nerdy button-down shirt (that nobody else wore) with pants’ waistline way too high. Because that’s what you wear to school when you come from a broke Russian family.


    1. You’re right: “goat-hole” does sound a bit on the aggressive side. I can see why people wouldn’t latch onto that so readily.

      My schools had uniforms, at least in Britain, and you’d think that would’ve staved off mockery, but there was a choice of shirts, and one was “cool” and one was not, though they were both white button-downs. And you still got judged on your overcoat, which was not part of the uniform, and on your shoes and jewellery. Also, my mother liked to buy my non-school clothes at bargain shops, and the other kids could definitely tell. I think that confused them, as we had a nice car, and my parents obviously had money, but I was dressed in a way that was almost aggressively boring. The reason was that kids tend to destroy their clothes pretty quickly, and my mother saw no point in wasting a lot of money on clothes that would only get ruined. Practical, but maybe a little out of touch.

      I saw an episode of a TV show recently, though—“Atlanta,” I think—where a kid got beaten up for wearing a fake designer shirt. At my school, if you did that, people just pointed and laughed. Childhood seems to have got more violent, lately, or maybe it’s an American thing.


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