Does humour travel well?


Over the past year I have blogged, in the main, short stories, emanating from some quirky idea or other, and poems coming from goodness knows where, often disturbing me with possible underlying meanings and inference about my own psyche. Every now and then I’ve included a memoir or two.

In an effort to lighten my mood and limit pretension I decided to write three blogs of lighthearted daft jokes. All was fine until I started to think too much perhaps. Do jokes travel across frontiers? Do they amuse or even make sense if translated? Do they cross cultural boundaries? Do they unintentionally offend? Are they just not funny to the majority?


In our modern age of blogs, global media, social networking and Google culture, are we morphing into commonality?
Well, maybe, if we’re westernised or affluent or aspirational? Mmm, starting to sound political. Heaven forfend!

Blog 1

Knock knock
Who’s there
Doctor who

Geek ending
Pleased to meet you timelord

American unfunny ending
Marcus Welby MD

Charades ending
Doctor Zhivago
I thought you were a book or a film

Beatles ending
Doctor Robert
He’s got everything you need

Challenging ending for the few
Valentino Rossi

Surely some of these endings are baffling to many such that, even ‘knock knock’ jokes can be intractable.

Blog 2

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York

Shakespeare opens Richard the Third with a deliberate and clever pun, using sun rather than son.
As a son of York myself, well, born and brought up in the county of the white rose, I have always thought that Richard gets a raw deal from Tudor propaganda.
However, I stray from my point.
Shakespeare is renowned throughout the world, yet how do puns play out across languages?
Something goes missing?
When the play is seen, rather than read, here in England, how many of the audience realise that Shakespeare is using the pun, even if the actor gestures indicatively? Enough.

Having just downloaded my Translate app, I applied it to my favourite joke.
Since the joke is based round a pun it is surely problematic?
And yet – for some reason I find myself laughing ridiculously if I try reading the joke in languages I do not understand.
Here is the joke, in translation and finally in English.
I do hope this blog makes cents.

In German

Ein dreibeiniger Hund geht in eine Western-Saloon, geht an die Bar und sagt: “. Ich suche den Mann, der meine Pfote Schuss”

In French

Un chien à trois pattes entre dans un saloon, monte à la barre et dit: «. Je suis à la recherche de l’homme qui a tiré ma patte”

In Spanish

Un perro de tres patas entra en un salón occidental, sube a la barra y dice: “. Estoy buscando al hombre que le disparó a mi pata ‘

In Italian

Un cane a tre zampe entra in un saloon occidentale, va al bar e dice: ‘. Sto cercando l’uomo che ha sparato a mio zampa’

In English

A three-legged dog walks into a Western saloon, goes up to the bar and says: ‘I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.’

As for humour….?
Chaplin wouldn’t see this as a problem.
Neither would Rowan Atkinson?
Perhaps written and verbal humour has a finite shelf life, whereas the tramp eating the boot, or Mr Bean changing his swimwear on the beach, may be funny forever?

Blog 3

As an end (currently) to my ‘university satire blog’ I wrote a few ‘one liners’, wondering if they translate from UK higher ed.

UNISTORYNORTH- here is some end of academic year news.

Dr Ampere has left the university. He is no longer a current member of staff  as he has decided to go ohm and join the resistance.

Sam Caesar has successfully completed his degree in Cryptology and has been awarded Gjstu Dmbtt Ipopvst.

Miss F Hill was only partially successful regarding her degree in Escort Studies having passed the written examination. She failed the oral.

Miss Pavlova has completed her Ballet Studies degree and has been awarded a 2.2.

David Trowel has not yet completed his MSc Building Studies dissertation. He has been granted an extension.

And finally…

It remains unclear as to whether Dr Heisenberg will be joining the university in September.

And finally again….

What of political correctness, the requirement not to offend?
A dangerous subject!
OK – well, here is a final joke, not a good one, not a funny one, as exemplar, but, remember I am myself a son of York.

How do you turn a Yorkshireman into a philanthropist?
Apply Inheritance Tax.

Thanks for reading.



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