The Universe of Discourse

Sat, 21 May 2022

What's long and hard?

Sometime in the previous millennium, my grandfather told me this joke:

Why is Fulton Street the hottest street in New York?

Because it lies between John and Ann.

I suppose this might have been considered racy back when he heard it from his own grandfather. If you didn't get it, don't worry, it wasn't actually funny.

cropped screenshot from Google Maps, showing
a two-block region of lower Manhattan, bounded by John Street on the
south and Ann Street on the north. Fulton Street lies between them,

Today I learned the Philadelphia version of the joke, which is a little better:

What's long and black and lies between two nuts?

Sansom Street.

cropped screenshot from Google Maps, showing
a two-block region of West Philadelphia, bounded by Walnut Street on the
south and Chestnut Street on the north. Sansom Street lies between them,

I think it that the bogus racial flavor improves it (it looks like it might turn out to be racist, and then doesn't). Some people may be more sensitive; to avoid making them uncomfortable, one can replace the non-racism with additional non-obscenity and ask instead “what's long and stiff and lies between two nuts?”.

There was a “what's long and stiff” joke I heard when I was a kid:

What's long and hard and full of semen?

A submarine.

Eh, okay. My opinion of puns is that they can be excellent, when they are served hot and fresh, but they rapidly become stale and heavy, they are rarely good the next day, and the prepackaged kind is never any good at all.

The antecedents of the “what's long and stiff” joke go back hundreds of years. The Exeter Book, dating to c. 950 CE, contains among other things ninety riddles, including this one I really like:

A curious thing hangs by a man's thigh,
under the lap of its lord. In its front it is pierced,
it is stiff and hard, it has a good position.
When the man lifts his own garment
above his knee, he intends to greet
with the head of his hanging object that familiar hole
which is the same length, and which he has often filled before.

(The implied question is “what is it?”.)

The answer is of course a key. Wikipedia has the original Old English if you want to compare.

Finally, it is off-topic but I do not want to leave the subject of the Exeter Book riddles without mentioning riddle #86. It goes like this:

Wiht cwom gongan
  þær weras sæton
monige on mæðle,
  mode snottre;
hæfde an eage
  ond earan twa,
ond II fet,
  XII hund heafda,
hrycg ond wombe
  ond honda twa,
earmas ond eaxle,
  anne sweoran
ond sidan twa.
  Saga hwæt ic hatte.

I will adapt this very freely as:

What creature has two legs and two feet, two arms and two hands, a back and a belly, two ears and twelve hundred heads, but only one eye?

The answer is a one-eyed garlic vendor.

[Other articles in category /humor] permanent link