[Ads-l] "Full Nine Yards" from 1894

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Aug 10 17:23:11 UTC 2015

Wow.  That's some piece.  I didn't make it all the way through, but I was struck by this "elephant joke" partway down:

The Judge’s Shirt was not the only humorous story to allude to nine yards of cloth.  In 1902, an elephant joke asked, “if it takes nine yards of pink calico to make an apron for an elephant, how long will it take a mosquito with a wooden leg to bore a hole through a cake of sandsoap?” (Answer – No matter how thick the apple sauce is – remember she’s your mother.) The San Francisco Call, August 16, 1904, page 7.

We were just discussing shaggy dog stories/jokes, and I take it this isn't one (not being long enough, for one thing).  But does it have a name?  I recall jokes from childhood that have equally non-sequiturian punch lines, and sometimes the whole joke would make no sense and possibly not be parsable either.  One example in riddle form I think I'm recollecting more or less accurately went:

Q: What's the difference between a duck? 
A:  The higher, the fewer.

Another is a joke about penguins on icebergs crossing paths with each other at the Equator, one asking the other "Pass the soap" and the other replying "No soap. Radio."  At this point in the telling, everyone laughs, "That's a good one!", except for one shnook who's not in it and says he doesn't get it.  Now I don't know if the one above whose punchline about apple sauce and your mother is about as non-sequiturian as it gets was similarly designed to put one over on naive readers/listeners--god knows San Franciscans deserved whatever yucks they could get considering what was coming their way two years after the calico/elephant joke appeared in print--but these do seem to be instances of a rather hoary kind of device.  Can anyone suggest a name and description?


> On Aug 9, 2015, at 8:42 PM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> By the way, Peter Reitan published something earlier this year on a
> possible fabric-based origin for the idiomatic usage of "the
> whole/full six/nine yards" (boy, this is getting complicated).  It was
> published in Comments on Etymology, but a modified form appears at the
> link below.  (He mentions Civil-War bandages there too.)
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__esnpc.blogspot.com_2015_02_nine-2Dyards-2Dto-2Ddollar-2Dhistory-2Dand.html&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=RFwaPmq8HAk9459fRUMeuhXAkxAR6EyeUtypQmqwHCA&s=by9LL2vx4u08LdAAOhAWC-yKsdmE33TVbJuIfgvkLnM&e= 
> -- Bonnie
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=RFwaPmq8HAk9459fRUMeuhXAkxAR6EyeUtypQmqwHCA&s=W_Qqnjt0DCswYzeu46ERJ5pSlA4_bEtrDxC8fldDJ34&e= 

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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