THE CAT’S MEOW
What’s so funny about this? As I did the preparation to explain this joke, I ran across a fact I was unaware of. I didn’t know that cats ate frogs. I shouldn’t be surprised. Cats are meat-eating predators who also play with their food, especially little things that they capture alive, such as mice. One of the first images I saw was a cat eating a frog it had just killed. My cute images of a kitty and a frog leisurely hanging out together quickly vanished. That’s why you see a statue of a cat and frog in the photo accompanying this joke. OK, let’s get to the actual joke. Cats and mice couldn’t be more different. These differences far outweigh similarities. It would be correct to say that cats have fur while frogs have a slimy skin, but that wouldn’t be funny. The trick is to find something similar or almost similar yet still different enough. The solution is in the word “croak”, which, not surprisingly, has at least two meanings. The first one is a noun or a verb referring to the sound that frogs make. Sometimes this sound is jokingly written as ribit!. The other meaning of “croak” is the slang verb meaning “to die”. It’s a kind of callous and not very nice term. You wouldn’t say it to a friend or a relative in mourning over a dead friend. When you hear that someone has croaked it tells you not only that the person is dead, but that the person telling you this doesn’t have a close connection to the deceased. There is a superstition and an expression that a cat has nine lives. This is probably because cats are always getting into trouble yet seem to be able to escape injuries and death. BTW, in Arabic and Russian cats only get to have seven lives. Both nine and seven are considered “lucky” numbers in many cultures. So frogs croak all day and all night long - not that they die, they just make their croaking noise; but cats can only croak nine times. That’s the difference and THAT’s what’s so funny!
Listen to my audioboo: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2070822-the-cat-s-meow
AIN’T GOIN’ NOWHERE
WHEN CAN YOU NO LONGER GET YOUR DEPOSIT BACK ON A BEER BOTTLE?
What’s so funny about this? This joke totally depends on the photo that accompanies it. It’s a word play on the expression “the point of no return.” The origin of the phrase comes from the early days of commercial air flights when airplanes had to make frequent stops to refuel. When Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean he couldn’t make a refueling stop. He had to carry enough fuel to make it across to Paris. Once he passed the midway point in the air he didn’t have enough fuel to return in case he got into trouble. This was his “point of no return.” It was applied to all such long distance flights over water afterwards. But it’s also an idiomatic expression referring to any distance or time that exceeds a stated limit. In the US many states have a recycling policy on glass, plastic and metal containers. Customers have to pay a five cent deposit on all glass and plastic drink containers; this includes bottled beer. So a six pack will cost 30 extra cents. You can get your money back when you return the bottles or the cans to the store. Unfortunately there are people who actually have to live on money they get from bottles and cans they find and bring to the store for five cents each. But some places have a “no deposit, no return” policy where they sell you the container at the actual cost. In the photo you see a pint glass of beer locked up in a jail cell. This pint is not going to be returned for a deposit. It’s going to be in jail for so long that it’s past the “the pint of no return.” And THAT’s what’s so funny!
Listen to my audioboo: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2069770-ain-t-goin-nowhere
RAISE THE ANTE
Origin: Early to mid 19th century, American English - To raise or up the ante is an expression that comes from the game of poker. It refers to the amount of money the players have to put on the center of the table before each round or “hand” of play. This money is also known as the “pot” or the “kitty” Ante can be a verb or a noun and can also be a synonym for the stakes or the amount of money being wagered. Ante originates from Latin and is a pronoun prefix meaning “before” or “in front of”. In the US, in real estate they often talk about antebellum mansions, meaning “built before the civil war”. Though it looks like the letter “e” should be silent, it’s not. It’s pronounced like a short “i”
Usage: Informal and formal, spoken and written, general British and American English.
Idiomatic Meaning: Increase the stakes or the amount of a bet or wager. Usually means money but can refer to anything being wagered on or negotiated.
Literal Meaning: Based on the photo, the expression can mean raising or elevating one’s auntie, or lifting money being wagered into the air.
Why is this funny? In the photo accompanying this idiom you see a hot air balloon rising in the air, carrying some people. The caption is “I’ll bet that’s your mother’s sister on the left.” This is actually a pun on the idiom. One’s mother’s sister is an “aunt.” Depending on one’s English dialect, this word can either rhyme with the insect “ant,” or the letter shape “font.” In this case it rhymes with the insect. Furthermore, as an expression of endearment, people will add an “ie” to the end of the words making in “auntie.” The word now rhymes with “ante” of today’s idiom. So in the picture we see the auntie being raised and the caption indicating that the speaker is willing to bet on the identity of the auntie. He’s raising the ante about raising the auntie.
Sample sentence: The workers at the factory “raised the ante” at contract negotiations by threatening to go on strike.
Hint: Increase the stakes
AN OLD SMOOTHIE
What’s so funny about this? One of the most common questions that adults will ask a child is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids have come up with some great answers to that question. Usually, it’s a firefighter, a cop; I wanted to be a cowboy. Sometimes, the answer is a doctor, a lawyer, the President. Occasionally it might be something specific like A baseball player, a paleontologist (and study dinosaurs), a trapeze artist, a rock star, a ballerina. Our daughter wanted to open a fruit and vegetable stand because, she told us, at the age of three, “There’s good money in that.” Of course, when we’re kids we don’t have a clue. A few of us will have made a specific career choice in high school or college. My college roommate came to Penn State already knowing he wanted to be a journalist. A child musical prodigy, such as Keith Jarret, grows up usually intending to be musician. There are those parents who try to decide for their children, sending them to specialized camps and schools for dance, acting, sports, etc. I maintain that the majority of us continue being clueless after we’re finished with school or it’s finished with us. I totally include myself in this category. Many’s the time we have said, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. We say this mostly because we still feel and act like children, at times. This joke plays with this common phrase and presents us not with a glamorous or even boring career, but with the inevitable, old age. The fact is we ALL will get old and start looking old. Wrinkles are a sure sign of old age, because our skin dries up and become loose. Admittedly some people and some nationalities appear to age slower than others, but sooner or later we’ll all have the same wrinkled skin as the old lady in the joke does. And THAT’s what’s so funny!
This joke was sent to me by Bob Wiener
Listen to my audioboo: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2065105-an-old-smoothie
GO TOGETHER LIKE A HORSE AND CARRIAGE
WHEN HE DECIDED TO END THE MARRIAGE IT ADDED YEARS TO HIS WIFE
What’s so funny about this? The battle of the sexes is without doubt the longest running battle on the planet Earth. It has taken many forms throughout history and it shows no signs of stopping any time soon. And of course, these days with same-sex marriage as well as the variety of sexual orientations ‒ straight, gay, bi, trans, etc., the conflicts can only increase. That’s because as much as all these people might love each other, they will always fight with each other too, regardless of their sexual orientation. That said, this is almost an old school, traditional joke, especially if you look at the illustration. Even though the meaning of “wife” may have expanded since the illustration was drawn, it’s pretty clear that we’re talking about a straight, heterosexual marriage and divorce. You gotta love the way the artist depicts the divorce ceremony, with all the pomp and celebration of a marriage, except the soon to be ex-wife is already wearing black, but a very pretty black outfit at that. Statistics show that married people live longer than single people. In fact they say that marriage can “add years to your life.” This is assuming that it’s a relatively happy, stress-free marriage. If it is, then both husband and wife get the life extended benefits of a good relationship that include, love, sex, companionship, potentially more secure finances, and so on. BUT in an unhappy marriage, these very same benefits turn to detriments. Marital stress is very taxing on the heart; no love and no sex are very painful emotionally and physically. Constant arguing about money or jealousy or general opinions also takes a large physical toll. In these cases, divorce is the best answer because it can restore years to your life. And in the case of the joke it restored years to the guy’s wife. That’s the pun and THAT’s what’s so funny!
This joke came from fb buddy, Owen McMahon
LET ME FINISH!
What’s so funny about this? If you get this joke, you either are or know a mother who never lets anyone speak, or you are or know someone who has such a mother. Of course this does not apply to all mothers, just a certain personality type. This is actually a stereotype, an oversimplified concept of certain mothers who are supposed to be very talkative and controlling at the same time. Two of their more popular tools of control are guilt and shame. Both are common, but guilt is used more in the West and the Middle East, while shame is more popular in the East; no country or culture can claim to have a monopoly on either one. But the joke is more about a tendency to use speech as a controlling devise. If someone talks all the time, obviously they don’t do a lot of listening. At some dinner tables, families sit around politely and listen to each other speak. They are very polite and let each other finish their own statements and sentences. It’s considered impolite to interrupt. Whereas in other cultures the dinner table is a very loud place and it seems as if everyone is talking all at the same time and competing for attention. Interruption is the rule, not the exception. And, as we know, some mothers are masters of this art of interruption. But the joke contains a double meaning which is key to understanding it. The word “sentence” means a group of words expressing a complete thought, BUT it can also mean a judgment, opinion or decision handed down by a judge indicating the amount of prison time a convicted criminal must. It always specifies the number of months and years. In our prison system, if you behave, follow all rules and don’t get into trouble, you can be eligible for parole after serving a part of your sentence. “Parole,” means to be released from prison prior to completing your sentence. It’s kind of a reward for good behavior. But if you are paroled, you have to report to a parole officer for a given period of time. This officer’s job it is to help you readjust to normal life. So the mother in the joke might be a phenomenal parole officer if she always finishes other people’s sentences for them. And THAT’s what’s so funny!
This joke was sent to me by Mike Edwards
Listen to my audioboo:
THE BIG YAWN
SPOONERISM: YOU HAVE HISSED ALL MY MYSTERY LECTURES
What’s so funny about this? I’m going to try a new format with spoonerisms. I’ll show you a photograph with one half of the spoonerism and you will have to guess the other half. As long as you know how spoonerisms are constructed, you should have no problem. But in case you have forgotten, spoonerisms generally consist of two word phrases where the initial letters of the two words are interchanged. Occasionally, as in this spoonerism, the phrase may contain more than two words but they are minor and not the focus of the phrase. Usually the two spoonerized words are either nouns or verbs; pronouns and prepositions would be considered minor. In the photo you see a college or university, or perhaps a private school lecture hall. As a side note, what we call “private schools” in the US, are call “public schools” in the UK. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, it’s clear that the students, who are mostly boys, are attending and listening to a lecture. It is an old photo, taken, no doubt, when private schools were usually for one sex or the other. If you haven’t figured out the spoonerism yet, take note of what is unusual in the sentence. It is not common for students to hiss at an instructor, professor or lecturer. It’s considered extremely rude or impolite. When done, it signifies a high degree of disapproval. It’s the lecturer who’s talking and saying that the boys all hate his lectures about mysteries. It could be lectures about crime novels, which are known as mysteries; or they could be religious mysteries, but the students seem too young for that; or maybe no one knows the topic ahead of time. Whatever, the statement seems a little out of whack, or strange. That’s because if you flip the first two letters of “hissed” and “mystery”, the spoonerism becomes: You have missed all my history lectures. So he’s scolding them for not attending his classes. This guy must really be boring. And THAT’s what’s so funny!
This spoonerism came from Procrastination@twitter.com
Listen to my audioboo: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2053057-the-big-yawn
CAN YOU GUESS THE EXPRESSION?
Click a button on the right to:
If you like guessing our idioms or learning about their origins be sure to check out our ENGLISH IDIOMS INTERACTIVE APP on ITunes.