What’s in a joke?

In Kimberly-Jean Manchester’s letter (8/2/05), Ms. Manchester quoted me as saying that polish jokes are funny –the full quote was that the “while Irish jokes or the proverbial Polish jokes are funny.” Why did I include the word “proverbial”? Because if you look at the history of jokes, the same jokes are used worldwide in a variety of English speaking counties, but with a slightly different punch-line. For example, doing an online search I found a list of jokes which includes the following: Polish loan shark lends out all his money, skips town. Now, if you take a Polish joke from the states, you will usually find the exact same joke in Canada, but it would read: Newfy (people from New Foundland) loan shark lends out all his money, skips town. Similarly, in England, the joke would be about an Irishman and in Ireland, about a Kerryman (from County Kerry). The key to the joke is that it is not about the person, but the joke. Like chips ‘n salsa: the chip is just a delivery vehicle for the dip! Conversely, the “key” to a Jewish, homosexual, or African-American joke is to hurt a person and put down an ethnicity. But that’s just the opinion of one Irish-Polish American.

Also, I am concerned that Ms. Manchester did not disclose the fact that she is related to Rev. Manchester. Its seems to me that, if Roman Manchester had the same concern for Native Americans that Ms. Manchester wishes for Poles, then there would not have been a back-and-forth in the Providence Journal.

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