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Monday, September 10, 2007

Two Irish Jokes

In his book of esays, Love, Poverty and War Christopher Hitchens starts his essay of James Joyce with the following joke:

A surly English overseer is standing at the entrance to a construction site in London. It's a filthy wet day. He sees approaching him a shabby figure, with a clay pipe clenched in mouth and a battered raincoat, and scowlingly thinks, Another effing Mick on the scrounge. The Irishman shambles up to him and asks if there's any casual job going. "You don't look to me ," says the supervisor, "as if you know the difference between a girder and a joist." "I do too," says the Irishman indignantly, "The first of them wrote Faust and the second one wrote Ulysses."

This obviously revenges itself on centuries of English caricature of the Irish as stupid and sub-human. I suspect that the references to the weather, shabbiness, clay pipe and raincoat are Joycean but at the moment don't get the allusions. If anyone reading this understands the point of these, please let me know in the comments section.


After reading Hitchens piece on Joyce I decided to start reading some of his writing. I have started with his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as it describes the early life of Stephen Daedalus, who is one of the protagonists in Ulysses. Another reason why I haven't yet attempted Ulysses is that reading another preliminary book is probably required, The Odyssey.


Hitchens' joke reminded me of another Irish joke that I heard many years ago. It is a little risque so only click on the link below if you are not offended by a blue joke.


Men have always wondered about the function of the knob on the end of a man's penis. The English spent $100,000 on research to discover that it gave pleasure to the woman. The Scottish spent $500,000 and concluded that it gave pleasure to the man. The Irish spent $2.50 and discovered that it was to stop the hand slipping off.

I didn't realise it at the time I heard that joke, but now I know that it is very Joycean, though in a different sense to the first one. A fan once seized Joyce by the hand and exclaimed, "May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?" Joyce responded, "No - it did lots of other things too."

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