Jokes in Teaching

This feature of the magazine aims to give women colleagues jokes ready to tell in class, since jokes are a powerful aid to language learning. People listen to jokes with special attention so they can provide the socially cohesive reaction of laughing when the punch line comes up.

Why are we targeting women teachers? Men remember jokes when they hear them since they are an element of discourse that men use in later conversations to do any and all of the following things:

  • grab people’s attention by going behind the “narrative shield”.
  • compete with other male joke-tellers.
  • pass time pleasurably (for them, but not always for female listeners).
  • Keep the conversation curiously impersonal.

Since most women in the cultures I know (a dozen ) use jokes less than men in conversation they tend to use them less in class. This feature aims to combat this tendency and to make if easy for anybody to use jokes in class.


Paul Davis, Pilgrims and Durham University

Editorial Note: The “rude” words in the article that follows were first keyed in with asterisks replacing their vowels. Paul Davis has complained to me that this procedure misrepresented his text. You will now find the text as he wants it with the vowels re-inserted. Editorially, I am happier to respect authorial intention that to go along with a fudgin, puritan convention.

Mario Rinvolucri in a previous issue pointed out that jokes are useful text. In fact, since they’re a universal form of expression, they’re essential to learning a language.

Jokes are good text but I’d like to go one step further and give examples of jokes which actively deal with language points (see 1 below) and also jokes which challenge the racist and sexist nature of many jokes (see 2 below). Mario illustrated the racist nature of many jokes by his example in the previous issue.

  1. Jokes with a language outcome
    (The below need to be read aloud)

    • What do you call a fish with no eyes?
    • What do you call a fish with 3 eyes?
    • What do you call a fish with one eye?

    • What do you call a deer with no eyes?
      No I-dea?
    • What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?
      Still no idea?

    • What do you call a dinosaur with no eyes?

    If you doubt the jokes above are funny try them on a child. Remember it’s how you tell ’em.

    • Knock, Knock
    • Who’s there?
    • Fuck
    • Fuck who?
    • Fuck WHOM?

    While this is a simple joke if the students are not culturally attuned to this FORM of joke they may need a warm up e.g. Knock, Knock, – Who’s there?, Lettuce, Lettuce who?, Lettuce in we’ve forgotten the key.

    • Professor of English giving a lecture:
      “Of course, it’s well known that in the English language it is not acceptable to have a double negative. The two parts of the sentence cancel each other out and the sentence would become positive thus changing the intended meaning of the speaker. Equally the converse is not true, two positive clauses in the same sentence do not cancel each other out and become negative.”

      Student at back of class: “Yeah, Yeah”

    • Black guy goes into Cambridge University Library:
      “Hey man, which shelves the history books on?”

      “Sir, this is Cambridge University. We do not end a sentence with a preposition at Cambridge”

      Black Guy:
      “Oo Kay, Which shelves the history books on, arsehole?”

    • What do you call an ant with a machine gun?

  2. Many jokes depend on language for their effect. The ant joke above depends on register. Some depend on taboo language (e.g. fuck whom). Others depend on racist and sexist stereotyping. But it reverses expectations so it ends up being unkind to the librarian not the black guy. Unless librarians are a race this means it’s not racist.

    Another example of a non-racist joke:

    • Two Irish men on a building site (needs to be said in an irish accent):

      First Irishman:
      “Oi Paddy, what’s the difference between joist and girder?”

      Second Irishman:
      ” Well, didn’t one of them write Faust and the other write Ulysses?”

    And finally an example of a non-sexist, nay, even anti-sexist joke:

    • Why do men talk to women?
      Because sheep can’t cook

I’d like to acknowledge Simon Marshall and Gill Johnson who told me some of the above jokes.


A Portuguese Joke:


Father to his small son:

“A stork has brought you a little brother; shall I take you up to see him?”

” Dad,…. I’d rather see the stork.”

A Jewish Joke:


Two rich Jews shared a lover …… keep costs down.

As things would have it she got pregnant. It was the ninth month and one of the men was away on a business trip. The other sent him this e-mail:

” Our lover has given birth to twins. Mine was still-born “.

Another Portuguese Joke:


This bloke from Alentejo has nine sons, eight have black hair and one is a red-head. He has spent a life-time wondering if the red-head is really his child.

He falls ill and takes to his bed. He is at death’s door . He calls his wife to his bed-side and says to her:

“Tell me the truth; the red-head isn’t my son, is he?”

“Manuel, suppose I tell you the truth and you don’t die?”

“I’m dying, I’m dying…..don’t let me die wracked by doubt.”

“Listen Manuel, I’ll tell you the whole truth…….the red-head is truly your son”

She falls silent and the seconds tick by. “Jose is the father of the other eight!”

A UK teachers’ joke:


What sort of contraception do OFSTED inspectors use?”

” Their personalities!”

Diambil dari HLT Magazine (


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