Category Archives: Humour

A rhyme for ‘orange’

‘Orange’ is a famously difficult word to rhyme. Here’s an effort I came up with some years ago (it needs to be read quite quickly!).

Down in Spain I was eating an orange
By myself when a certain foreign
Gentleman came up and said
‘I’ll give you money if you shoot me dead’.

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Tom Ashe, punster

Thomas Ashe (1656–1722) was a member of the Irish parliament, first for Swords and then for Clogher, and a friend of Jonathan Swift (who wrote Ashe’s dying speech years before he died).

Ashe was described as

‘a facetious pleasant companion, but the most eternal unwearied punster that ever lived. He was thick and short in his person, being not above five feet high at the most, and had something very droll in his appearance … There is a whimsical story, and a very true one, of Tom Ashe, which is well remembered to this day. It happened that, while he was travelling on horseback, and a considerable distance from any town, there burst from the clouds such a torrent of rain as wetted him through. He galloped forward; and as soon as he came to an inn, he was met instantly by a drawer; “Here,” said he to the fellow, stretching out one of his arms, “take off my coat immediately.” No, sir, I won’t,” said the drawer. “… confound you,” said Ashe, “take off my coat this instant!” “No, sir,” replied the drawer, “I dare not take off your coat, for it is a felony to strip an ash.” Ireland in the eighteenth century was almost denuded of trees [bark was used in the tanning industry] and this referred to a statute, probably that of 1698, aimed at their preservation. Tom was delighted beyond measure, frequently told the story, and said he would have given fifty guineas to be the author of that pun.’

[Quoted matter is from E.M. Johnston-Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692–1800: Commons, Constituencies and Statutes (Ulster Historical Foundation 2002), Vol. IV, p. 114.]

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Filed under Anecdotes, History, Humour, Ireland, Stories

Double negatives

The Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin was giving a lecture in New York to a group of fellow philosophers. In it he raised the question of double negatives. ‘In some languages,’ said he in his precise Oxford voice, ‘a double negative yields an affirmative. In others it yields a more emphatic negative. But I know of no language in which a double affirmative yields an negative.’ From the back of the hall came a drawling professorial Brooklyn accent: ‘yeah, yeah’.

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