more fan-hitting

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Oct 12 13:41:38 UTC 2008

At 1:27 AM -0400 10/12/08, Baker, John wrote:
>Since Gerald hasn't answered yet, I'll provide the version I know.
>The joke isn't very commonly told, considering there are so many
>references to it.  It goes back at least to World War II and is
>probably older, though it obviously cannot predate the widespread
>use of electric fans.
>Our tale is set in a restaurant, an old-fashioned establishment by
>contemporary standards, where there is no air conditioning but the
>patrons manage a degree of comfort in the summer heat through the
>consumption of copious amounts of lemonade and iced tea and from the
>ceiling fans turning overhead.  On a particularly hot day, when the
>iced tea was particularly in demand and the fans were set to their
>maximum speed, a traveler stopped in the restaurant for lunch.  In
>the midst of his meal, however, he suddenly realized that he needed
>a restroom, and quickly.  Looking around the restaurant, he saw
>none, but there was a stairway going upstairs, and that seemed a
>promising place to search.  When he got upstairs, however, there was
>still no restroom, and searching further was not an option.  He did
>see a small hole in the floor, and in desperation he relieved
>himself there.
>Attempting to regain some degree of self-possession, he then
>sauntered back downstairs, hoping that no one from the restaurant
>staff would be going upstairs and looking at the hole for at least
>the next few minutes.  When he got back downstairs, though, he found
>the restaurant entirely empty, with every evidence of a hurried
>exodus.  Steppping outside himself, he recognized one of the other
>customers and asked him, "What happened?  How come everyone left the
>restaurant all of a sudden?"
>The other man just looked at him and asked, "Where were you when the
>shit hit the fan?"
>John Baker

Thanks.  I asked for it.


>From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Laurence Horn
>Sent: Sat 10/11/2008 10:51 PM
>Subject: Re: more fan-hitting
>At 8:55 PM -0500 10/11/08, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>>Hi Wilson,
>>    It's not based on a pun but on a scatalogical joke, where the
>>stuff really did hit the fan.  I treated this topic in Comments on
>>Etymology, vol. 20, no. 8, May 1991, p. 12.  I'll mail you a copy on
>Ah, but other inquiring minds want to know.  Couldn't you summarize
>the scatological joke in this forum?
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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