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March 11, 2008


I really like that joke, but no one ever says "Close the window, it's cold outside," and I think it works better as a rejoinder than as a narrated joke.

Sure, they say "close the window; it's cold outside". (Maybe you think they don't say that either, but (a) I contest the claim and (b) then how is it possible for there to be a rejoinder thereto?)

I read exactly one page* of Ted Cohen's book on jokes, and this joke was told in that page. (I think he had Jews involved somehow.)

*No more than one page, not because I didn't like it, but because I didn't plan on buying it.

Yes, it's a Jewish couple; the wife is begging the husband to close the window. That is, of course, the way I tell it.

I read all of Cohen's book without intending to buy it, though I did also end up buying it several years later.

After telling a joke which actually is funny

Still kind of funny after the standard 2 International Funny Unit deduction for declaring it so up front (and of course after the fact explanations of humor always push things irretrievably into negative funniness.) But I am struggling with the post-worthy aspect of this little exchange. Is it the possible (but pretty lame) joke, based on a principle somewhat similar to the original, wherein the "funny" in your "find it funny" is willfully misinterpreted by the respondent to modify the act of "finding it" rather than "it" itself, as indicated by their use of "also"? ("Your dog smells funny.""Yes, and he also stinks.") I'm thinking not.

The post-worthiness comes from the "just" in what I said and the "yes, but" in the response. "You just didn't find it funny" has the ring of: that's just your opinion, man—really it is funny, or maybe it isn't funny but at the least all you're doing is opining, you haven't knowledge; it's a statement about you rather than about the joke itself. So if it makes sense to say "yes, but" in that case it should also make sense to say the whole thing as one sentence: "I just didn't find it funny, but also I don't think it's funny". But now we've got both an implicit contrast, because of the "but", and an on-the-surface redundancy: of course if you don't find it funny, you don't think it's funny. If we're going to admit that sentence as legitimate, there seems to be no reason not to admit "I just didn't find it funny, but actually I do think it's funny", or "I found it funny, but also I don't think it's funny".

With enough contortion, you can twist it into something vaguely Moore's-paradoxical. I'm not sure, though, if that's what you were calling lame.

And I said that the joke actually is funny because I knew that I wasn't going to tell the joke itself, but rather summarize it.

No the "lame" was for the potential of the lower form of verbal slapstick of misassigned modifiers.

I now see your point, but I think the "but ... also" may be somewhat legitimately signalling a distinction between the person's subjective experience of the joke (how they "found" it) and their further claim that it is objectively not funny. (And this does not preclude, but it is a stretch, that they could have claimed that it was "objectively" funny, but due to individual circumstances—a family member was murdered while closing a window, who knows?—they themselves did not find it funny.)

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