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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 27 19:18:43 EDT 2020

Update: The earliest newspaper (dated October 19, 1907) containing the
joke pointed to the English language magazine "Transatlantic Tales"
(and "Fliegende Blätter"). Now I've found the desired issue of
"Transatlantic Tales". Interestingly, the joke appeared in the
November 1907 issue. This happens because magazine issues are often
available before their cover dates.

Still looking for a German instance of the quip.

[ref] 1907 November, Transatlantic Tales, Volume 37, Number 1,
Misunderstood (Filler item), Quote Page 97, Ess Ess Publishing
Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
"How many people work in your office?"
"Work? Perhaps two-thirds of them."
--Translated for Transatlantic Tales from "Fliegende Blätter."
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Aug 27, 2020 at 2:50 PM ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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

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

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