If These Aren't Nice Things, I Don't Know What Is!
Princess Leia by Wonkette Operative 'Shastakoala'

Time again for our weekly break from the daily grind of awful, which will of course still be with us later. This week's featured critter is Princess Leia, a rescue pupper belonging to Wonkette Operative "Shastakoala." This is what happens when you let your ten-year-old name the adult dog of decidedly non-Alderaan origins you brought home. (She's clearly an Ewok anyway) But hey, the boy was crazy about Star Wars at the time, you love the boy, so Princess Leia it is.

And then some dope of a political blogger gets you a gag gift a few years later, so the dog looks at you and says she'd just as soon kiss a wookiee.

Kids Think Things Funny

All of which makes for a good transition to our top topic this week, the wonderful wonderful Tumblr and Twitter project, Kids Write Jokes, which presents jokes as told by kids. Particularly kids who haven't quite figured out jokes just yet. It's one of the most wonderfully silly things on the interwebs. Enjoy the weirdness! (For the sake of saving space, instead of embedding the tweets, we'll copy the jokes, link to twitter in first few words.)

what hapens when a tiger sits on your head .

you buy a new one
what did the chicken do when he was on a date with the girl chicken when a dog bothers him

he said this is unaceptable

what time do ducks wake up

when ever they like
What did the book say to the other book?

i have problems.

That last one, we're pretty sure, was by Richard Lewis.

Sometimes, it's pretty clear the kid is retelling their version of a joke they didn't quite remember. Or at least it feels like it. I could be wrong, but I bet this one started as one or another version of "What's black and white and red all over?"

have you seen a red zebra

they do not exist

And this sure looks like "How do you keep a bull from charging? Take away its credit card"

How do stop a bull from running away?

Take away its money

This is the Platonic ideal of the lightbulb joke:



How about some observational humor?

do you know the actor of hulk is called mark buffalo and buffalo are dangerous to, so this might be why he is hulk now!! i think this is more coincadence than joke.
donkeys are mad. i knew a donkey called ingird she actualy tried to eat a tree
if one of your friends push you into a tornadoe enioy it for a bit whille you go round and round and then when you run out'a breath you start crying befor you pass out.
wat do old people say

ahhhh my back!

womans brain: you ate them this morning you fool !

woman: wat is the point any more.

How true this is!

Also, poo and farts and toilets and underwear are the funniest things in the world!

A man goes to a shop and spends one hour in the shop.

Eventually he comes outt and his mate asks where have u been all this time. Oh sorry said the man I was using the toilet

Yes, this is a UK-based humour project, but poo jokes are universal;

if you had a piece of mud on your face what would you call yourself ?

poo face

well then eat it in a toilet with a red t-shirt DRINKING COFFEE

superman was in the toilet then batman saw him naked
what did the banana say to the uther banana?

Have you got a potty because I need a pee desporatly please! No because we are at the beach. We will need to go home by a banana taxi we dont have a car.

That's one talkative banana.

And then of course there are the knock-knock jokes:

knock knock
whos there
king who
king smelly
knock knock.
who's there?
a fis.
a fis who?
a fisherman.
go away! i already have hundreds of fish.
knock nock
whos there?
me stupid
knock knock
who's there
spiderman who
spider web
knock knock
who's there
elephant who
knock knock
who's there
p who

Oh, and so, so many more. There's a book, of course. We were curious about how "Kids Write Jokes" collects its examples, but a cursory search didn't find anything, so we gave up. Like a banana.

Also, at the risk of explanation being the death of humor, check out this nifty Atlantic article on the wonderful weirdness of kids' jokes. Preschool kids generally learn the superficial structure of jokes long before they really understand how jokes work, and that has everything to do with how kids' brains work and how they learn. U of Massachusetts psychology professor Allyssa McCabe likens it to how babbies' babbling is a kind of practice for speech: the external structures show up first.

Personal essay example: Long before he ever actually saw a Star Wars movie, but well after he'd played with the toys in daycare, a four-year-old Kid Zoom asked me about the titles of all the movies. Not long after that, he told me and his mom the title of next installment: "Star Wars VII: The Boss of Mark." Pretty close, as it turned out!

Learning to make not-quite-jokes is all about socialization, too:

Kids also tend to pick up on the fact that when an adult tells a joke, the joke teller is often rewarded with attention and approval, which can be empowering to the teller. The same goes for saying swear words, McCabe adds—minus the approval part. "[Kids] get a lot of unfortunate reactions to the swearing," McCabe laughs. But when preschool-age kids attempt to tell jokes, "because it's so nonsensical and cute, they do get a lot of [positive] reactions," which can then encourage more joke-telling attempts.

Kids' jokes illustrate how humor works, also too, according to University of South Carolina English prof Stanley Dubinsky, co-author of Understanding Language Through Humor. Humor, in one model, is all about being presented with an incongruity, then resolving it coherently. But to achieve that resolution (or to construct a joke), you have to be able to draw on a store of cultural knowledge, including the structure of a "joke" itself. (This is a chapter of Yr Dok Zoom's dissertation, in fact.) Kids are still learning and practicing, and the results turn out goofy most of the time:

"Even when their parents are feeding them 'dad jokes' to try to teach them about humor, half of the jokes that kids hear, they don't quite get." So it's only natural, Dubinsky says, for some children to believe that a couple of absurd or mismatched concepts assembled into a familiar "knock-knock" or "What do you call …" structure adds up to a joke.

"Kids say, 'Oh, jokes are about incongruity. I'll show you some incongruity,'" Dubinsky says. "But they haven't got the sophistication to construct an incongruity that's going to be resolvable."

For that matter, the article notes, deliberate subversion of the structure of jokes is where we get anti-humor, like "What's worse than finding a worm in your apple? The Holocaust." And as Dubinsky points out, some kids' jokes work pretty well as anti-humor, like "Why did the tiger throw up on the couch? He was sick."

The important thing here is that kids' jokes aren't at all "dumb." Rather, the nonsense is all about making "smart mistakes," as McCabe calls them (like saying "goed" instead of "went" -- it's the right past tense most of the time, just not for that weird irregular verb). Kids' strange joke formulations are attempts to communicate using a new idiom, little experiments with language that are satisfying simply for the sake of using a formula they've learned is funny and will get approval. The pleasure of wordplay and resolving incongruities will come later, but for now, they're enjoying learning how it all works. POO JOKES FOR EVERYONE!

Now, if only we could explain why anyone thinks Mike Huckabee is funny.

Oh, yeah, and for contrast, take a look at how a neural network fared when a researcher tried to get it to generate jokes. The very best AI outcomes weren't quite as good as a human preschooler's.

What is a neural network's favorite pasttime?
A bacon on a book with a rooster.

Short Stuff!

1) We have now spent entirely too long writing a single part of this thing, so instead of delving into delicious longreads we will simply bring you some brief neat stuff. It's Sunday and we are lazy. So here, some quick neat stuff!

This happened in Canada, and it is why we love The Great White North, eh?

2) Our Twitter friend JJ MacNab,who usually tracks anti-government extremists online, found some wonderful stuff in the police blotter feature of Montana's Flathead Beacon:

8:08 p.m. A Kalispell man called 911 to report that he "felt like an octopus." He then started singing Cher songs.

We're obviously going to have to bookmark that. Lots of stuff happening in rural Montana:

1:21 a.m. Someone was injured in a Whitefish bar fight and needed a ride to the hospital. By the time an ambulance arrived, however, the victim had wandered off.

4:43 a.m. A Kalispell man called 911 to discuss an online money-laundering scheme. He said he hadn't lost any money but that he's concerned other people might.

8:10 a.m. Someone got locked out of their car.

2:09 p.m. A bag of drugs was found at a local coffee shop.

4:53 p.m. A Kalispell man was "tweaking out."

For all we know, these might ALL have been the Octopus Guy.

3) This might be our favorite thing on Twitter all week, posted by an employee of London's Science Museum:

It's a commercial model kit of the Apollo 11 lander on the moon, with this explanatory sign:

This model was made by a 12-year-old boy. He followed the Apollo missions on television and then built kits of the spacecraft on the kitchen table. The lunar surface of this model is light blue because he had no grey paint. The model's descent stage was similarly painted a misleading black and white but was later improved with foil wrappers from a well-known brand of chocolate. The boy now works as Curator of the Museum's Space Technology Collection

Yeah, that last line, huh? The boy, all grown up, is Doug Millard, who has worked at the Science Museum since 1985, is now "deputy keeper of technologies and engineering," and clearly loves his job. He's been having fun with the media attention, not to mention the publicity for the museum.

4) Excellent result of an astonishing bit of journamalism: A January story at Vox sparked outrage about the awful billing practices of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital led the hospital to announce it would change its practices. The hospital is out of network for all private insurance, and mostly treats people on Medicaid or who have no health insurance, at public expense. But if people with insurance were taken to the ER, they would be billed for far more than what their insurance would cover -- apparently as a way of making back some costs of treating all those uninsured folks. Problem is, ordinary folks would be on the hook for the full cost -- like over $20,000 for a woman who broke her arm and bumped her head in a bike accident. Following the hullabaloo, the hospital announced this week it would suspend all such "balance billing" and develop a new billing policy. And the bike accident lady has had her out-of-pocket bill cut to $200.

Journalism can do good things! Also, SINGLE PAYER NOW.

UPDATE: 5) Hey buddy, nice marmot fight!

My Mom the Meme

We'll close with another hobby project: A woman's photo of her mom holding her painting of an egret (only Mom's second try in a painting class) made the internet go rapidly and wonderfully nutso last week:

And so on, like barbershop mirrors or a Quaker Oats box, Only this time with an ever-expanding chain of paintings by amateur artists. It's a thing of beauty, and Cindi Decker, the woman who painted the egret, thinks its hilarious, because when her daughter first posted the photo, she feared people would make fun of her. She even joined Reddit (where all this happened) to thank everyone for the wonderful silliness.

"I was in fear I was going to read a lot of hateful comments," she wrote in a post. "You all have proven me so wrong. I'm assuming most of you could be my kids, and y'all get a bad rap in this world. You all are compassionate, caring, and a ton of fun! Thanks for uplifting me! You all have inspired me instead."

Egrets, she's had a few.

Go read the Washington Post story and feel better about people and this dumb wonderful horrible internet!

And go have a fine Sunday, you!

[Kids Write Jokes on Twitter / Kids Write Jokes on Tumblr / Atlantic / Wabbit Literacy (dissertation) / Narcity / Flathead Beacon / Glynn Morgan on Twitter / Vox / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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