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Funny Bones, 1918 (Special edition: World War I)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 10, 2009

Our great-grandparents laughed in the face of danger and whistled past the graveyard in these Juvenile Instructor jokes from the last year of the Great War. Will we pull humor from the hard times of our own era?

Sudden Fortune

Two young Irishmen in a Canadian regiment were going into the trenches for the first time, and their captain promised them a dollar for every German they killed.

Pat lay down to rest, while Mike performed the duty of watching. Pat had not lain long when he was awakened by Mike’s shouting:

“They’re coming! They’re coming!”

“Who’s coming?” shouted Pat.

“The Germans,” replied Mike.

“How many are there?”

“About fifty thousand.”

“Begorra,” shouted Pat, jumping up and grabbing his rifle, “our fortune’s made.”

Hit You?

Snappy: “I see here in the paper that the Germans are shooting a ton of lead in a single shot.”

Happy: “That’s nothing. Our boys are shooting Teutons.”

A Tight Squeeze

A young cadet was complaining of the tight fit of his uniform.

“Why, father, this collar presses my Adam’s apple so hard that I can taste cider.”

American Efficiency

“I see the American troops in France are going to use ready-made trenches.”

“Who made ’em?”

“The Germans.”

Nobody Home

A certain naval officer was very pompous and conceited when on duty. One day when he was officer of the watch and he could not, as usual, find anything of consequence to grumble about, he attempted to vent his spite on one of the stokers of the vessel, who was in the engine room on duty.

Going to the speaking tube the officer yelled, “Is there a blithering idiot at the end of this tube?”

The reply came quick and startling, “Not at this end, sir!”

War Activities

“I notice that a woman prominent in war activities got hurt in a motor car accident.”

“Was she badly injured?”

“Evidently not. The car turned turtle. When it was raised she was found underneath it, still knitting away for dear life, but much flustered because she had dropped a stitch.”

Teuton Word of Cheer

When his subjects ask him for food all the Kaiser can answer is: “Cheer up! The wurst is yet to come.”

Duffle

What is the difference between an elephant and a microbe?

One carries a trunk, and the other the grip.

Not to Be “Licked”

A frivolous young English girl, with no love for the Stars and Stripes, once exclaimed at a celebration where the American flag was very much in evidence:

“Oh, what a silly-looking thing the American flag is! It suggests nothing but checkerberry candy.”

“Yes,” replied a bystander, “the kind of candy that has made everybody sick who ever tried to lick it.”

More Than One Use

“Well, after all,” remarked Tommy, who had lost a leg in the war, ‘there’s one advantage in having a wooden leg.”

“What’s that?” asked his friend.

“You can hold up your bloomin’ sock with a tin-tack!” chuckled the hero.

Mutual Conservation

Fond Father: “And is my dear good little girl going to save her nickels to buy Thrift Stamps instead of spending them for gum and candy?”

Good little girl: “Yes! Papa dear. And is my big good papa going to buy Liberty Bonds instead of tobacco and cigars?”

Fond father: “Ye-ye-ye-e-e-r-r—yes–darling!”

Charge of the Light Brigade

The attorney for the company was making a popular address.

“Think of the good the gas company has done!” he cried. “If I were permitted a pun, I would say, in the words of the immortal poet, ‘Honor the Light Brigade.’”

Voice of a consumer from the audience: “Oh, what a charge they made!”

The High Cost

He – I feel like 30 cents.

She – How things have gone up since the war.

Only Camouflage

“Why is George Washington described as ‘First in war and first in peace’?”

“I dunno,” replied the Senator. “I suspect somebody was trying to square him with both the preparedness people and the pacifists.”

Doing His Bit

“Books are wanted for the soldiers, Tommy.”

“I got a nice ’rithmetic they kin have.”

Lilacs

“And,” went on the American yarn-spinner in the trenches somewhere in France, “lilac bushes over in my country grow fifty feet high.”

“Ah,” said a Britisher, enviously, “if I could only lilac that.”

Stiff Remarks

A little Irishman was being examined for admission to the army. He seemed all right in every way except one. The doctor said: “You’re a little stiff.” Quickly the Irish blood mounted as the applicant retorted, “And you’re a big stiff!”

In Style

“Mrs. Bings’ new baby is just in the fashion.”

“How do you mean?”

“It is such a red cross affair.”

Red Cross Activity

Patient (with a broken arm): “It’s awful not to be able to do any war work while I’m laid up.”

Doctor: “That’s all right; my dear Mrs. Willney – your bones are knitting.”

Peppery

She: “Why don’t these troops display more ginger?”

He: “Why, you see, they were so lately mustered.”

Uncertain

Officer (as company is temporarily about to vacate trench which had been reported mined): “You two will remain here, and if there is an explosion, you will blow a whistle. You understand?”

Private Spuds: “Yes, sorr! Will we blow it going up or coming down, sorr?”



15 Comments »

  1. Ah, these are great! The grip, is that a coughing thing?

    Comment by Tatiana — January 10, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  2. grippe

    1. (pathology) influenza, the flu

    Ah, it’s about the 1918 flu pandemic! I didn’t notice the date.

    Comment by Tatiana — January 10, 2009 @ 7:55 am

  3. Well, I guess a society that could laugh (amid the tears, I’m sure) about things like the flu and wooden legs had the resiliency to make it through such a trying time.

    Comment by Researcher — January 10, 2009 @ 8:06 am

  4. “Nobody Home” is my favorite. Any time you an call an officer a blithering idiot and get away with it . . .

    Comment by Ray — January 10, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  5. “I feel Like 30 cents”
    What was the expression before the war? I’ve heard “I feel like a million bucks” but with inflation being what it was since then….

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 10, 2009 @ 11:18 am

  6. Oops — just found one more in my file I had intended to include:

    A Hot One

    The teacher was giving a geography lesson and the class, having traveled from London to Labrador, and from Thessaly to Timbuctoo, was thoroughly worn out. “And now,” said the teacher, “we come to Germany, that important country governed by the kaiser. Tommy Jones, what is a kaiser?”

    “Please’m,” yawned Tommy Jones, “a stream o’ hot water springin’ up an’ disturbin’ the earth.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  7. “He – I feel like 30 cents.
    She – How things have gone up since the war.”

    Ha! That one made me laugh.

    Comment by Hunter — January 10, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  8. Oh, and I love the picture! It reminds me of some of the illustrations from my youth, sort of sumptuous and Maxfield Parish like. The lady is knitting left-handed, too. I wonder if that’s how it was made or if the picture was reversed at some point.

    Comment by Tatiana — January 10, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  9. Wow, you’re observant! I knit and realize that you’re right (if she is knitting and not crocheting), but I certainly never noticed.

    And Bruce, I did some googling to try to find out if “30 cents” or some other amount was a common phrase, but among all the refrences to “my two cents” and that half-dollar rapper, there are too many hits to sort through. Unless somebody — hint, Justin — comes up with something, you and I both will have to be satisfied with laughing at the general principle without knowing the exact original history.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  10. Well, there’s the phrase “feel like a nickel” or “feel like a wooden nickel.” (Alternately: “not worth a nickel” or not worth a wooden nickel.”) I don’t know where they came from, but I recall saying “I feel like a wooden nickel” to my unmarried brother-in-law to describe the early stages of pregnancy (meaning the first–say–nine months of it).

    I see in Google Books a quote from P.G. Wodehouse: “To himself he put it, broadly, that she made him feel like a nickel with a hole in it.”

    Comment by Researcher — January 10, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  11. Now that makes “30 cents” inflation!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

  12. #8 I guess the answer could come from finding out on which side the Red Cross brassard was supposed to be worn.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — January 11, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  13. Ouch for all German saints! This makes me wonder if in these times of suspected globalization, people are still ethnocentric during war in order to enemize the opponent.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — January 12, 2009 @ 4:19 am

  14. #13 – Why would anyone care about giving enemas to their opponents? :)

    Comment by Ray — January 12, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  15. 13: Michelle, you are of course right. These are all nationalistic (or at least western ally) jokes, not Mormon ones, and show no sensitivity toward the German saints. I’ll try to atone by putting up a few German-centered posts in the next few days, starting with Monday’s post about German sponsorship of some world-class health exhibitions.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 12, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

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