All Wound Up

Q: Why don’t mummies take vacations from their work?
A: Because they are afraid to unwind!

Explanation: Most people enjoy taking a few days off from school or work to rest and relax, to unwind.  In this sense, to unwind means to relax after work, after school, or after a stressful time.

To unwind also means to undo or open up something that has been wound up.  Think of a ball of string– when you pull the loose end of the string you unwind it.  You can also unwind an electrical extension cord, cassette tape, Christmas lights, ….

Mummies are wrapped up in cloth; if you start to take the cloth off the mummy in one long strip you are unwinding the cloth.

This joke is funny because it uses unwind in two different ways: to relax and to uncoil something.

With the following video you can learn to wind up and throw a traditional top.

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Piqued My Interest

Q: Why can’t you play hide and seek with mountains?
A: Because they are always peaking!

Explanation: Hide and seek is a game that children play.  In this game, one or more child finds a place to hide while another child closes his or her eyes and counts to 10.  When the person counting gets to 10, that person goes to look for the ones who are hiding The person who is counting has to close his or her eyes in order not to see where the people are going to hide.

If the person who is counting secretly looks to see where the others are hiding, that is called peeking.  To peek means to take a small, secret look.  Peeking is not allowed while playing hide and seek.

Peek (to secretly look) sounds just like peak (the top of a mountain).  When you get to the top of a mountain you get to the peak.  (If you like grammar, peek and peak are homophones.)

This joke is funny because it plays with the word peek/peak that sound the same but have very different meanings.  Clearly, mountains cannot peek, but they have a peak.

Here is some motivation from Sister Sledge for you to reach your peak:

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

They Might Be Giants’ Words

Q: What is the best way to talk to a giant?
A: Use big words!

Explanation: When I think of giants, I think of characters like those from Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Jack and the Beanstalk, and A Monster Calls.  They are larger than life beings that can be good or evil, or a bit of both. Giants, though, are generally considered to be the antagonists in a story, the bad guys.

As for the idea of big words, well, sometimes children are told to use words to explain how they are feeling.  Also, at times adults suggest that children use big words to explain an idea with more detail, this could be to talk about feelings or to explain something when they are writing. (That reminds me of a 1st grade student who once told me that his head hurt, that he had a headache.  When I asked him to point to the part that hurt, he pointed to his loose tooth. Yes, a tooth is in your head but we understand toothache better in that situation.)

Big words could also refer to the size of the words.  You usually see big words on a street sign or a billboard, whereas you typically see smaller words in a book or in the small print of a contract.

This joke is funny because it plays with the idea of big words meaning more detailed, or just using large sized words, large like a giant.

Here is They Might Be Giants singing Boss of Me-

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Q: Why did the thief wash his clothes after the robbery?
A: He wanted to make a clean getaway!

Explanation: A thief is a robber, someone who steals things. Washing your clothes, well, you already know, will make your clothes clean. A robbery is the moment when something was stolen.  If you want to get technical, the law in the United States differentiates between burglary, robbery, and theft, but people do not usually make that difference when they speak.

A clean getaway is an idiom meaning that you escape without anyone noticing or without getting caught.

This joke is funny because it plays with the words clean getaway: escaping without getting caught and getting away while being clean.

Maybe if you want to make a clean getaway, it’s time for a cool change…

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zombie Out

Q: Why didn’t the zombie go to work?
A: Because he felt rotten!

Explanation: When you are sick, it is very important that you don’t go to work or school, especially now with COVID still making people sick.  If you feel really sick you might say that you feel rotten; to feel rotten is an idiom meaning to feel sick.

A zombie is a dead body (corpse) that has come back to life. (By the way, zombies are fictional, mythological, not real.)  Once a body stops living, the body begins to decompose, to rot. So, a zombie’s body is in the process of rotting.

This joke is funny because it plays with the idiom to feel rotten and the verb to rot.

Speaking of zombies, this seems like a good time to revisit Michael Jackson’s Thriller-

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

These Wings are Made for Walking

Q: Why do birds fly south for the winter?
A: Because it is too far to walk!

Explanation: Where I grew up, in Minnesota, it was very common to see birds fly south for the winter. When all of the lakes freeze, the trees lose their leaves, and ground is covered with snow, most birds cannot find food.  It’s also just too cold for them to survive.  So, they migrate to an area where they will be able to survive.

While birds can walk a bit, their main way of traveling is by flying. 

This joke is funny because it sets up an expectation for an explanation about why birds have to migrate to a different area.  What you get, though, is a silly answer about birds not being able to walk so far.

Check out The Great Migration from KQED-

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hickory Dickory Clock

Q: What time is it when your clock strikes 13?
A: Time to get a new clock!

Explanation: When a clock “strikes the hour” it means that it is exactly on the hour, 8:00 or 11:00 for example (not 8:17 or 11:36) and the bells will chime.  Here is Big Ben striking the hour.

On a clock or a watch, the only numbers you see are the numbers 1-12; there is no 13.  So if the clock strikes 13, there is a big problem!  Yes, at 13 o’clock you will need a new clock.

(Some readers might argue that the military and some countries use the hours from 13 to 24 to talk about the hours after noon.  Point taken.  You will, however, not see the number 13 on the face of a clock, only on some digital clocks.)

Here is a brief history of how we keep time:

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Them’s Fighting Words!

Q: Why did the dentist and the manicurist decide not to be friends?
A: Because they were always fighting tooth and nail!

Explanation: A dentist is a doctor that improves the health of your teeth.  A manicurist is a specialist who improves the health and appearance of your fingernails.

To “fight tooth and nail” is an idiom that means to fight hard with all of your resources to achieve a goal.  You might fight tooth and nail against an injustice.  A union might fight tooth and nail for its members.  Firefighters fight tooth and nail to put out a fire.

This joke is funny because it plays with the idiom, and the work that these two professions do: dentists work with teeth and manicurists work with nails.

Here is Foreigner singing about fighting tooth and nail.  Some of the lyrics are hard to understand so here they are.

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Picking Up the Pieces

Q: Is collecting shells on the beach easy to learn?
A: Yes, you’ll pick it up right away!

Explanation: Picking up shells on a beach is easy because, if the beach has shells, you just bend over and lift them up with your hands.

To pick something up is also an idiom meaning to learn something.  If I say that my nephew picked up guitar really quickly it means that he learned to play guitar easily.  A few more examples: My friend who speaks Spanish picked up Italian after a few weeks in Rome; Just watch what I am doing and you will ick it up right away.

This joke is funny because it plays with two meanings of “pick up:” to lift something up and to learn something.

Have you always wanted to learn to play guitar?  There are lots of videos online.  This series form Fender is pretty good, in my opinion.

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Weight Off My Shoulder

Q: Why was the pirate sad when his parrot left?
A: It gave him the cold shoulder!

Explanation: Yes, the last parrot joke for a while.

Have you seen those pictures of a pirate with a parrot sitting on his shoulder?  Take a look at this one, if you haven’t.  (That link will also explain about the history of parrots and pirates.) I have never had a parrot sit on my shoulder, but I would expect the parrot to feel warm on my shoulder.  Then, when the parrot flies away, my shoulder would feel cold.

To give someone the cold shoulder” means to purposely ignore that person

This joke is funny because it plays with the phrase cold shoulder, in both the literal sense of feeling colder, and in the meaning of the idiom, to ignore someone.  Perhaps the parrot was ignoring the pirate, giving him the cold shoulder?

Here is Adele with her song Cold Shoulder

Posted in ELL, ESL, humor, Joke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment