[Ads-l] Joke: "How Many People Work Here?" "About Half of Them"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 27 14:50:26 EDT 2020


A request was sent to me to explore the joke in the subject line. I
found a version in 1907 attributed to a German Humor magazine. If you
can locate an early German version of the joke that would be
excellent:

[Begin excerpt 1907 instance]
“How many people work in your office?”
“Work? Perhaps two-thirds of them?”
—Translated for Transatlantic Tales from “Fliegende Blaetter.”
[End excerpt]

Here is a link to the Quote Investigator article.
https://quoteinvestigator.com/2020/08/27/how-many/

The article includes a October 19, 1959 citation attributing an
instance of the punchline to Pope John XXIII.

Barry Popik examined this topic previously.
https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/how_many_people_work_here_oh_about_half_joke

[Begin acknowledgment]
Great thanks to Eccles whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question
and perform this exploration. Also, thanks to Barry Popik for his
helpful research. Popik located multiple instances of the joke
beginning in 1918 together with a 1963 version with the punchline
attributed to the Pope.
[Begin acknowledgment]

Garson O'Toole

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


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