Did I misinterpret …?

December 17th, 2009

Like all bloggers, I get a lot of spam, and I check my spam folder when it’s not too full, to make sure that no legitimate comments got shunted over there. One of the most recent varieties has been these really horrible, sub-Borscht-belt jokes, maybe the kinds of jokes a preschooler would like (if you are the parent of a preschooler, feel free to correct me on this). Things like, “What do young dogs sleep in when they go camping? Pup tents!” or “Why don’t fish play tennis? They are afraid of getting caught in the net!”

A couple of days ago, I got one that read: “What does it mean when the Post Office’s flag is flying at half-mast? They’re hiring!”

Am I missing something here, or is that a workplace-homicide joke? Because I can’t come up with any other way to make sense of it. The phrase was definitely half-mast, not half-staff, the latter of which would be 1) the proper way to refer to a halfway-up-the-pole flag on land, and 2) a poor-quality pun on “staff” meaning both “pole” and “workforce.”

What am I not getting? Or am I getting it?

11 Responses to “Did I misinterpret …?”

  1. akmom on December 17, 2009 7:59 am

    I think you are getting it. Most people are clueless about the mast/staff distinction, and it sounds like a joke that someone with an extremely sick sense of humor would enjoy. I just find it sick.

  2. Molly on December 17, 2009 8:09 am

    Agreed with akmom; sounds like something out of “Truly Tasteless Jokes”.

    (I keep saying “half-mast”, and eeka keeps reminding me that we’re not on a boat. Granted, I was raised by someone who was in the Navy, but I grew up about as far away from the ocean as possible in this country.)

  3. JP on December 17, 2009 9:55 am

    That’s how I took it too. That is awful.

  4. Abby on December 17, 2009 10:18 am

    I agree you got it right. It’s in very poor taste. Also the “joke” seems to be about a decade or more late. Not that it would redeem the joke to be more topical, just saying it fails as a joke on a lot of different levels.

  5. Robin on December 17, 2009 1:19 pm

    Abby, I often find that jokes that are offensive are also just lazy–i.e., they are artistic failures as well as moral failures. (This is part of why I am becoming so disappointed in “The Office” of late … it used to be a character-driven show about flawed and exaggerated, but nonetheless real, people, and now they are resorting to tired cliches and stereotypes.)

  6. Shulamuth on December 17, 2009 1:21 pm

    My kids certainly told it as a joke when it was more topical and going through that pseudo-sophisticated late teen macabre joke phase.

  7. Shulamuth on December 17, 2009 1:28 pm

    Argh — posting before caffeine! “and THEY WERE going through”.

  8. Farhibide on December 17, 2009 3:58 pm

    I wouldn’t allow your grown-up sensibilities to attach too much significance to a joke meant for kids. It sounds like the person who emailed it to you did not “get” the joke in its original/correct form but decided to repeat it anyway. It’s unfortunate that he or she managed to mess up the one word in the entire joke that made it funny to begin with.

  9. Colleen on December 17, 2009 8:23 pm

    Farhibide, I very much doubt that it’s just a misfired “staff” pun. First, the set-up line would have to be completely rephrased to make it work, and second and more tellingly, there’s no reason for to refer very specifically to the post office unless it’s some kind of distasteful “going postal” joke.

  10. Jerry on December 18, 2009 6:04 pm

    “…going through that pseudo-sophisticated late teen macabre joke phase.”

    When does that phase end BTW? I turned forty last week and am apparently still in it.

    P.S. Shulamuth thank you thank you thank you for not spelling it “faze”. It makes me want to gnaw my ears off when people do that.

  11. Shulamuth on December 19, 2009 1:28 pm

    Jerry, I think that as we get older the laugh-meeter needle moves slowly from jokes that are funny because they are macabre to those that are funny and macabre, which is why I made the comment. I could easily be kidding myself, though — I certainly got the joke.

    Misuse of ‘phase’ fazes me!

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