Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to kill a joke...

I was reading an article that pointed to the Wikipedia entry for False Premise. I think that article could also be used to demonstrate how something isn't funny at all when you try to explain it.
A false premise can also be a premise that is poorly or incompletely defined so as to make the conclusion questionable. The following joke from Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Barillustrates the point:
"An old cowboy goes into a bar and orders a drink. As he sits there sipping his whiskey, a young lady sits down next to him. ... She says, 'I'm a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. ...' A little while later, a couple sits down next to the old cowboy and asks him, 'Are you a real cowboy?' He replies, 'I always thought I was, but I just found out I'm a lesbian.'"
The mistake the cowboy makes is that he assumes that the definition of a lesbian is somebody who spends the "whole day thinking about women." The reason the joke works is because in a certain way that definition could apply to lesbians, but it fails to address the point that a lesbian is a homosexual female. The cowboy is neither homosexual nor female, therefore he is not a lesbian.
Emphasis mine.

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