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February 03, 2011


Had a long comment before, viz.

I like how you explained the joke!

(Which I wouldn't have otherwise seen.)

it reminds me a bit of one variation of the "young woman of Ulva" limerick, the one where she keeps a dead bee in her handbag, so that her lover, named Jock, is stung in the finger, but soothed with Turkish Delight.

In The 39 Steps, one of the ladies-underthings traveling salesmen begins telling the other a "young woman of Ulva" limerick, but we don't hear the rest of it, because Hannay must skedaddle.

And in Strangers on a Train, Bruno crashes a diplomatic party and is very charming with a French group. We hear him say to them, "Mais biensûr je connais l'histoire de la fille du croque-mort," which is a pretty risqué histoire.

Counterfactual mugging seems relevant here, and therefore: Newcomb's!

That's a whole style of non-rhyme, as I recall. Of course they only work because, having heard the bubbles in the pot, we can be surprised when we look in and find it's not water about to boil at all. We have to know what it is we're not getting. (And in the books/movies you cite, we have to know what's being intimated and not fully given.)

The joke in the post couldn't actually be successfully told, but I think the (admittedly rather conceptual) artworks in the linked post could be successful. Or, as I've occasionally described (though maybe nowhere online), I think a successful and admirable bookcase could be one visually indistinguishable from the utterly plain, undecorated ones that I own—except these bookcases would contain, on the surfaces that are joined to one another and thus not exposed (the interface between the shelves and the containing case, for instance), detailed filigrees and carvings. You can't see them and ideally they'd be constructed in such a way that taking the case apart would destroy them or render them unrecognizable. I think such a thing would be (again) successful, and pleasing to contemplate, and pleasing to own (though I've been made aware that this is not a generally held opinion). You'd have to take the creator's word for it—and it would have to actually be like that; if you were lied to, though you couldn't tell, it would be a sham. So there would have to actually have been this craft or artistry or whatever, just totally concealed from view. I don't think that can be what enables such a furnishing to be worthwhile while no telling of the above joke could possibly work, though, because the teller of that joke really does have in mind the further description of the scenario that contains the punchlines. In both cases the thing that makes it not just a serviceable case/pointless story does exist. In both cases the thing is unavailable, so why is it that in only one the thing doesn't avail?

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