English jokes

I saw an article that listed top 10 funniest jokes of all time according to Welsh kids (p.21) in the Cardiff and South Wales Advertiser by chance. As an ESL speaker, this called my attention. I noticed that I had come across 3 jokes previously via the Christmas crackers. I don’t often get the point when I see such jokes. I mean I don’t think it’s funny, it’s just some words game. Why is it funny? So I did a bit research.

The list is from the beano.com website, which looks like a very interesting resource. I wished it has explanations to some extend, but unfortunately there isn’t. Thus I add explanations for people who are like me, find it’s not easy to get it. The hints may be accurate, so please leave a comment if you can help me to understand better.

  1. Why was the sand wet? – Because the sea weed!  (The sea wee ed (peed) on the sand.)
  2. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? – Frostbite!  (Here “to cross” means to mix two things together. Vampire bites people. Now it bites snow? It bites on something cold like frost. Therefore Frostbite. Frostbite is frozen body tissues like the skin or deeper tissue.)
  3. What do you call a blind dinosaur?  – Doyouthinkhesaurus (It’s blind. Do you think he saw us?  –> Do you think he saur us? –> Do you think he saurus?)
  4. Why should you be careful when it’s raining cats and dogs?   – You might step in a poodle!  (Poodle is a type of dog. Puddle is a small pool of liquid, especially of rainwater on the ground. Is it from a confusion between the words “poodle” and “puddle”? Or because “raining cats and dogs” means a heavy downpour of rain, this metaphor could imply it is very dangerous in heavy rain like you step into a poodle’s mouth?)
  5. Doctor, Doctor! Help, I feel like a pair of curtains!   – Pull yourself together then. (It could mean that you feel like you are pulled to one way then another. It is a kind of exaggerated expression. “Pull oneself together” means to become calm and behave normally again; recover control of one’s emotions. This is a humorous way to respond the unlikely scenario of a patient hallucinating about feeling like an inanimate object. )
  6. What did the policeman say to his tummy? Freeze you’re under a vest (A vest is a piece of clothing that people wear on the top half of their body. In the law, is a person is vested, it means that the person is legally entitled to what has been promised and may seek relief in court if the benefit is not given. So the tummy is under the cloth (a vest) analogises the policemen often say something like “… anything you do will be used for or against you…”, which is to give legal right to someone.)
  7. What’s black and white, black and white, black and white?  – A penguin rolling down a hill (I feel this one could be multiple answers. I don’t get it still. Is it because a penguin has black and white colours? Could it be a zebra or a giant panda?)
  8. What’s the best time to go the dentist?  – Two-thirty! (Because you will be tooth hurty when see a dentist –> toothurty –> two-thirty)
  9. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Boo. Boo who?  – No need to cry. It’s only me! (“Boo, Boo who” sounds like someone’s crying? So it responds “No need to cry”. Actually I get the fun in another similar joke: Knock, knock. Who’s there? The Doctor. Doctor who?  – No, no. It’s just the doctor.)
  10. What’s the fastest vegetable?  – A runner bean! (This is a riddle. “Fast” is often used to refer to speed. Runners run fast. A runner bean is a kind of vegetable.)



Rhetoric in English and Chinese

In a Christmas visit to a friend, I learnt a bit of rhetoric in English, which I won’t normally notice much. Therefore I note them here.

Often due to an unintentional error in speech (known as misspeaking or a “slip of the tongue”) that interchanges the first letters of some words in a phrase and then creates new words which bring a humorous consequence. In literature, this is used as witty wordplay.


Spoonerism The original phrase
The Lord is a shoving leopard. The Lord is a loving shepherd.
Go and shake a tower. Go and take a shower.
Is the bean dizzy? Is the Dean busy?

In Chinese, it can be translated as “首音误置”, 指的是一种在讲话中由于口误将发音相近的词语重组形成其他词语, 从而形成令人发笑的幽默效果。这种方式被应用为一种诙谐的说话或文字技巧。在中文中,这样的例子并不多。最接近的例子可能是”字位误置”.

  • 把”枫叶红了” 讲成 “红叶疯了”.
  • 把”每況愈下” 讲成 “每下愈況”.
  • 把”深恶痛绝” 讲成 “深痛恶绝”.

Pun (paronomasia)
Refers to a form of intended wordplay where a word is used in a way to suggest two or more possible meanings, which aims for generating an humorous or ironic effect.


Pun Meaning
Seven days without water makes one weak. week
A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tyred. too tired

In Chinese, it can be translated as “双关语” 或 “一语双关”, 指的是用一个词来表达表达两种或更多可能的含意, 多用来形成幽默或讽刺的效果。在中文中这类例子比较多,特别是古诗词中可见, 多运用谐音来隐晦表达,不一定是为形成幽默或讽刺的效果。

  • “日暮乡关何处是”这诗句中的”日暮”既指黄昏, 也暗指人生晚年。
  • “年年有鱼”这句中的”鱼”既指鱼,也指积累富余。

Refers to misusing words by substituting them with similar sounding words that have different, often unconnected meanings, then creating a nonsensical, comic, misunderstanding and amusement effect.


Malapropism Meaning
The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city. evacuate the city
Texas has a lot of electrical votes. electoral votes
Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination. a figment of my imagination

In Chinese, it can be translated as “飞白法”。指的是利用词语的近音、 象形、 异义有意或无意地形成可笑的误用,从而达到诙谐、 讽刺、 仿真的效果。在我们说英语的时候,很有可能会因为记错单词用错单词或发错音而引起这样让人疑惑的”牛头不对马嘴”的效果。中文中例子有:

  • “我们滴祖国是花园~花园滴花朵真现眼~荷兰滴阳光照耀着我们~美国人滴脸上都笑开颜”
  • 玉莲听不懂什么是持久战,她悄悄问金香: “金香,顾县长说的是什么‘战’ 呀?”你真是个笨蛋,连个吃酒战也不知道。” 金香自以为是地说道,”就是喝醉酒打架嘛!喝了酒打架最厉害了…”


Two-day training course of “Leadership”

I always wonder what’s the difference between Leadership and Management? This course helped me to learn it.

What is leadership?

This video explains Leadership through an easy example. To lead is to have the ability to get people to follow. To influence people, we need to do:

  • Start from simple easy movement, which is easy for people to start
  • Be prepare you are alone, people won’t follow
  • Keep doing
  • Keep encouraging
  • Transform

Actually, I quite like Jack Ma’s talk which shows that he is an effective leader.

What is effective leadership and what is effective management?

Leadership and management are not either-or options. They work together as a blended approach. If management is about the procedure, then leadership is about people.

What are leadership styles?

The first approach is to use the Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum to see how we can balance between the level of freedom that a manager chooses to give to a team, and the level of authority used by the manager.

(image is from URL: https://culcj15020110.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/sa.png?w=1000)

The second approach is to use the Situational leadership model to understand different circumstances. Effective leadership is actually  working from high management towards low management. Trust and Believe people can do will make us spend less time on managing people. (e.g., displayed in the diagram below: S1 -> S2 -> S3 -> S4, sometimes it works another way around S4 -> S3 -> S2 -> S1)

(image is from URL: http://www.people.vcu.edu/~rsleeth/HBFigure.jpg)

Understand motivation

Motivation is a drive to satisfaction. It makes people make work forward positively, responsibly, and happily. We can motivate people in many ways, however it all depends on individuals. From Howthorne effect, we can see that more resources do not always make better outcomes and performance.

(image is from URL: http://cdn.b2binternational.com/images/stories/publications/white_papers/herzberg_theory_motivation.png)

So how do we know what motive the person and how can we motivate them? The approach is:

  • Talk to people and find out what’s important for them (their motivators)
  • Open your eyes/ears (try new ways; look opportunities for them)
  • Motivate them using their motivators daily

What are transformational leaders?

Transformational leadership is social skills that get the best of you and people. It creates real, fair, honest interpersonal connections. It creates valuable and positive change in the followers which develop followers into transformational leaders.

(image is from URL: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d8/f2/4c/d8f24c8405a986c97f9ef77b095344a1.jpg)

So how can we develop transformational leadership skills? One crucial approach is to develop Emotional Intelligence, which fits in transformational skills well. According to Dr Goleman’s study, we know that it’s important, we can develop our EQ, we can learn it. It brings out the real self.

(image is from URL: https://managementpocketbooks.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/danielgolemaneimodels.jpg)

Then, we need to learn how we make the team work together. Here is an example of developing plans. It’s not a very good one. And it is not a single direction process. No7, actually linked back to Step 4, 5, 6.

(image from URL: http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/inspb3/html/images/circle.jpg)

Understand objectives

Objectives are difference from aims/goals. Objectives are short-term, highly specific and achievable new state of outcome. It’s never “ongoing”!  As a leader, you need to know your team objectives that you are able to governance.

Objectives can bring the team: motivation, focus on reality/priority, and measurable performace/sucess.

I quite like one of the skills the trainer used. When we state an objective, we should define the output like:

“By xxx (specific deadline), I will have + verb-ed (action) + noun (a new state).”

We can use the SMART checklist when we write objectives.

(image is from URL: http://cdn.zoeticamedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/SMART-Objectives.png)

Deal with tricky cases and conflict 

This is too complicate to discuss here. I have seen many examples, but they were manageable and not exceptional. I was joking with a colleague and said, “The more different-characteristic people you work with, the more you learn.”

A few reminders for myself:

  • It’s a conversation aims to resolve a problem. You don’t solve people’s problems, you offer support and input you can.
  • Always deal with what presents!
  • Don’t mention the individual’s name when bring up a complaint from the person.
  • Bring the issue by saying something like “I notice…”
  • If people ask you a complaint they had, say something like “I will deal with it.”; “I am working on it.”
  • If the person respond silently, you can go back to your expectations for them and say something like “I can suggest… If you notice anything that I can do to support you, tell me.” Then you two need to set a reasonable agreed timescale to resolve it.
  • Divisive conflict needs to be dealt with at the time it happens.
  • Using verbal warning means a formal process starts.

The English Language history and its use

I enjoyed reading the book A History of the English Language in 100 Places written by Prof. Bill Lucas and Prof. Christopher Mulvey. This is the English Project website.

It displays the history of English and its impact:

  • Pamphlet for Grammar by William Bullokar in 1586 was the first grammar of the English Language. (p.71)
  • The scientific journal Philosophical Transactions, first published in 1665, was probably the first international science journal written in English. (p.86)
  • The term “Badminton” originates a game with shuttlecocks invented in southwest England. (p.92)
  • The term “Bungalow” is from a corruption of ‘Bengal’, describing the kind of cottages built by European settlers in that par of India. (p.92)
  • Carl Linnaeus, a Swede, rationalized the ‘binomial nomenclature’ that is the foundation of the modern scientific naming of all living things (animals and plants). Linnaeus insisted that every species should have two names: the first would identify the genus to which it belonged; the second would identify the species within the genus. (p.107)
  • Louis Braille’s six-dot grid provided exactly what was wanted to transcribe writing for the eye into writing for the fingertip. (pp.117-118) Yes. it is still in use today, I found them on the packages of medicines.
  • In 1825, George Stephenson built a steam engine that he called Locomotion to haul a train from Stockton to Darlington. Locomotion was not the first self-moving stream engine, but it was the first passenger locomotive. (p.123)
  • Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch means ‘St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the Rapid Whirlpool of St Tysilio of the Red Cave.’ (p.148) I went to see this longest name station last year, didn’t know it was closed in 1968. I think it’s open at present.
  • The shortest place name in the British Isles is Ae, a village in Dumfries and Galloway. ‘Ae’ is Celtic for river, as are Avon, Ouse and Wey. Many place names owe something to the Romans, particularly those ending in ‘- chester’. That comes from the Latin word castrum – fort. Those are places where Roman armies set up camps that later became cities. Places ending in ‘-by’, ‘-thorp’, ‘-beck’, ‘-dale’ and ‘-thwaite’ were originally Danish settlements and are usually found on the east coast and in the north. (p.150)
  • On 10 March 1876, the world’s first telephone message was sent/received between Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson at Exeter Place, Boston. (p.150)
  • It was The Times of London that developed the technology to print on both sides of the page using high-speed press in the 1820s. (p.166)
  • Arthur Wynne created ‘word-cross’ puzzle. first included in the New York World on 21 December 1913. (p.168)
  • The tarting point of BBC English is an accent that became known as ‘Received English’, or RP. It was a new name for a speech pattern developed in English public schools in the nineteenth century. Its intention was to ensure that it was not possible to detect the birthplace of a speaker. (p.175)
  • In 2000, the Oxford English Dictionary went online, and it is in the process of a complete rewriting. Some 4,000 words are being added every year. What will be called OED3 is promised for 2037; meanwhile, the digital OED lists over 600,000 headwords. (p.178)
  • http://www.plainlanguage.gov/ website dedicates to the use of effective communication by the federal government starting in the United States and has wide acceptance across the world. (p.185)
  • On page 221, it said over 100 countries speak English as their major language, including the Philippines and Pakistan. I didn’t realise it. Indeed English is their official language.

Borrowed Words in English

On this morning BBC radio Wales, they were talking about the English value and words that other languages have had effects on English.

Interesting to know Cardiff earns 12milliom pounds from teaching English from overseas:

  • booze – alcoholic drink, to drink (alcohol); from Dutch.
  • zombie – a person who is or appears to be lifeless, a corpse brought to life in this manner; from Kikongo. the Bantu language of the Kongo people, used as a lingua franca in the lower Congo River basin.
  • dollar – U.S. currency; from Low German daler,  from German Taler, Thaler,  short for Joachimsthaler  coin made from metal mined in Joachimsthal  Jachymov, town now in the Czech Republic.
  • corgi – small dog; from Welsh corgi, from cor “dwarf” + ci “dog”.
  • penguin – origin uncertain, perhaps in Welsh “pen gwyn” literally, white head (referring to the great auk in its winter plumage); later misapplied to the Spheniscidae.
  • bungalow – “Bengalese,” used elliptically for “house in the Bengal style.” Hindi bangla “low, thatched house”.

check #EnglishEffect on twitter.

It’s the culture thing

By watching the BBC “Apprentice”, Susan’s languages and ideas being joked, I can see once again that Western philosphy is so different from Eastern philosphy, especially in the way of using language to express one’s opinion.

The way somehow Susan speaks is related to how she naturally translates her thinking and expressing it in English. I can see her English is excellent and she grew up in a western culture environment. However, for me, she pretty much has the effects from Chinese culture. Her way of thinking and talking is in a Chinese way, to some extent, it’s easy to be understood by Chinese and a Chinese will not really think what she asked “Does French drive?” type of question is because she is lack of common sense and stupid. In a Chinese conversion, this type of expression is everywhere. The question is positive, French people do drive! Susan knows that, the question is just a way to express it. In normal Chinese coversations, the question contains an answer already.

If Susan does not avoid the way of expressing her ideas by translating her Chinese way of thinking, she will be collected more silly questions in the show. I know it’s not easy for her, but I am sure Chinese people, who watch this show, have realised this issue.

I like this young girl, her business sense is good and she is young enough to learn, to grow. Gook luck.


In communication, it is easy to be misunderstood, especially not by face-to-face. That’s why as a ESL speaker, I’d like to double check that I understand others.

There is a clear example from Stephen Covey’s book “The 8th Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness” (pp.200-201) 

A farmer went into his attorney’s office wanting to file for divorce from his wife. The attorney asked, “may I help you?” to which the farmer replied, “Yeah, I want to get one of those dayvorces.”

The attorney said, “Well, do you have any grounds?” and the farmer said, “Yeah, I got about 140 acres.”

The attorney said, “No, you don’t understand,. Do you have a case?” and the farmer replied, “No, I don’t have a Case, but I have a John Deere.”

And the attorney said, “No, you really don’t understand. I mean do you have a grudge?” And the farmer replied to that, “Yeah, I got a grudge. That’s where I park my John Deere.”

The attorney, still trying, asked, “No, sir, I mean do you have a suit?” The farmer replied, “Yes, sir, I got a suit. I wear it to church on Sunday.”

The exasperated and frustrated attorney said, “Well, sir, does your wife beat you up or anything?” The farmer replied, “No, sir. We both get up about 4:30.”

Finally, the attorney says, “Okay. Let me put it this way. WHY DO YOU WANT A DIVORCE?” And the farmer says, “Well, I can never have a meaningful conversation with her.”