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Ask Doctor English
Your ESL and English language learning specialist. Ask Dr. English whatever you like about the English language.

Friday, May 20, 2005

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

Do you find understanding jokes confusing? Well, don’t worry - you are not alone. Most students struggle with understanding humor. This is often because of the use of double meanings of words or phrases. See if you can figure out why this joke is supposed to be funny:)

Sally was driving home from one of her business trips in Northern Arizona when she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road. As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride. With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into the car. Resuming the journey, Sally tried in vain to make a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old woman just sat silently, looking intently at everything she saw, studying every little detail, until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to Sally.

"What's in the bag?" asked the old woman.

Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, "It's a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband.

"The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she said, "Good trade."


The reason this joke is meant to be funny is the double meaning of the phrase “I got it for my husband”. Sally meant that she had bought the wine in order to give it to her husband, but the Navajo woman understood that meant that she traded her husband and got a bottle of wine in exchange.

If you would like more information on WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

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