more fan-hitting

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Sun Oct 12 17:02:29 UTC 2008

This is a follow-up to my earlier brief message. The version of the joke I had been told did not merely end with the fellow being asked "Where were you when the shit hit the fan?" but came with a slightly more complete punch-line: "Little man, so spick-and-span, where were you when the shit hit the fan?"

   I.e., the man who asked him this already had a pretty good idea who the culprit was.  (This may be in the N'Archive item, but I don't have access to it).


Original message from John Baker, Sun 10/12/2008 12:27 AM:

Since Gerald hasn't answered yet, I'll provide the version I know.  The=20
joke isn't very commonly told, considering there are so many references=20
to it.  It goes back at least to World War II and is probably older,=20
though it obviously cannot predate the widespread use of electric fans.

Our tale is set in a restaurant, an old-fashioned establishment by=20
contemporary standards, where there is no air conditioning but the=20
patrons manage a degree of comfort in the summer heat through the=20
consumption of copious amounts of lemonade and iced tea and from the=20
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=20
speed, a traveler stopped in the restaurant for lunch.  In the midst of=20
his meal, however, he suddenly realized that he needed a restroom, and=20
quickly.  Looking around the restaurant, he saw none, but there was a=20
stairway going upstairs, and that seemed a promising place to search. =20
When he got upstairs, however, there was still no restroom, and=20
searching further was not an option.  He did see a small hole in the=20
floor, and in desperation he relieved himself there.=20

Attempting to regain some degree of self-possession, he then sauntered=20
back downstairs, hoping that no one from the restaurant staff would be=20
going upstairs and looking at the hole for at least the next few=20
minutes.  When he got back downstairs, though, he found the restaurant=20
entirely empty, with every evidence of a hurried exodus.  Steppping=20
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=20
shit hit the fan?"

John Baker


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?


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