[Ads-l] Joke: I hope your honor will have mercy on a poor orphan

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 26 20:50:34 UTC 2018

Jonathan Lighter  wrote:
> This is a more amusing variation of the classic ex. of "ad
> misericordiam," viz. a man convicted of murdering his
> parents pleads for mercy on the ground that he is a poor
> orphan.
> I don't know the origin of the earlier version, but I read it in
> a logic textbook, maybe 45 years ago.

The Yale Book of Quotations has a version of the "poor orphan" joke
from Artemus Ward in 1867. Here is a version in 1856:

Date: June 1856
Periodical: The Knickerbocker: Or, New-York Monthly Magazine
Section: Editor's Table
Start Page 632, Quote Page 653
Publisher: Samuel Hueston, New York
Database: Google Books Full View


[Begin excerpt]
A Frenchman was tried for murdering his father and mother under very
revolting circumstances; was found guilty; and finally brought up for
sentence. The judge put the usual question, preliminary to sentence:
'Have you any thing to say?' etc. 'No, your honor' was the reply; 'but
I hope your honor will have mercy on a poor Orphan!' Isn't that
slightly cool, considering what it was that made him a 'poor orphan?'
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

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

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