15 Jokes From the World's Oldest Jokebook

Images: iStock. Collage: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss.
Images: iStock. Collage: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss.

The oldest recorded joke—a lowbrow Sumerian quip stating "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap"—dates back to 1900 BCE, eking out a pharaoh wisecrack from Ancient Egypt by a solid three centuries.

But to pilfer one of the oldest jokes in the book means dusting off the Philogelos (meaning "Laughter Lover"), a Greek anthology of more than 200 jokes from the 4th or 5th century. From gags about dunces to jests at the expense of great thinkers, here are 15 jokes from the oldest existing collection of jokes, as translated by now-retired classical languages professor William Berg.

1. A student dunce goes swimming

comedians
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A student dunce went swimming and almost drowned. So now he swears he'll never get into water until he's really learned to swim."

2. An intellectual visits a friend

ancient dancers
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man's wife said that he had 'departed,' the intellectual replied: 'When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?'"

3. The miser's will

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A miser writes his will and names himself as the heir."

4. The sharp-witted spectator

ancient theater
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A sharp wit observes a slow runner: 'I know just what that gentleman needs.' 'What's that?' demands the sponsor of the race. 'He needs a horse, otherwise, he can't outrun the competition!'"

5. The hot-headed doctor

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"Consulting a hotheaded doctor, a fellow says, 'Professor, I'm unable to lie down or stand up; I can't even sit down.' The doctor responds: 'I guess the only thing left is to hang yourself.'"

6. The cowardly sailor

treater rehearsal
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A coward is asked which are safer, warships or merchant-ships. 'Dry-docked ships,' he answers."

7. The jealous landlord

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An envious landlord sees how happy his tenants are. So he evicts them all."

8. The drunk barkeeper

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A drunk opens a bar, and stations a chained bear outside."

9. The guy with bad breath

ancient comedian
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A guy with bad breath decides to take his own life. So he wraps his head and asphyxiates himself."

10. The wife-hater

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A wife-hater is attending the burial of his wife, who has just died. When someone asks, 'Who is it who rests in peace here?', he answers, 'Me, now that I'm rid of her!'"

11. The luckless eunuch

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A luckless eunuch got himself a hernia."

12. The husband with halitosis

Roman woman holding a mask
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A husband with bad breath asks his wife, 'My dear, why do you hate me?' She give him an answer: 'Because you kiss me.'"

13. The gluttonous gifter

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A glutton is marrying his daughter off to another glutton. Asked what he's giving her as a dowry, he responds, 'She's getting a house with windows that look out onto the bakery.'"

14. Too tired to care

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"Two lazy-bones are fast asleep. A thief comes in, pulls the blanket from the bed, and makes off with it. One of them is aware of what happened and says to the other, 'Get up! Go after the guy who stole our blanket!' The other responds, 'Forget it. When he comes back to take the mattress, let's grab him then.'"

15. The forgetful teacher

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An incompetent teacher is asked the name of Priam's mother. At a loss, he says, 'Well, we call her Ma'am out of politeness.'"

An earlier version of this story ran in 2014.

World’s Largest Ouija Board Unveiled in Salem, Massachusetts

homeworks255/iStock via Getty Images
homeworks255/iStock via Getty Images

If a young Rick “Ormortis” Schreck ever asked a Ouija board if he’d end up making the world’s largest Ouija board, the answer should’ve been yes.

“OuijaZilla,” as it’s affectionately called, weighs 9000 pounds and covers 3168 square feet—as big a footprint as five 18-wheelers. According to Popular Mechanics, the board took 99 pieces of plywood, 20 quarts of black paint, several gallons of deck stain, and one whole year to complete.

It contains all the classic elements of a traditional Ouija board, including the full alphabet, numbers zero through nine, and the words yes, no, and goodbye. Instead of using their fingers to move the planchette across the board, a few people stand inside the 400-pound planchette’s circular cutout and shuffle their way into a seance.

Schreck, a tattoo artist and vice president of the Talking Board Historical Society (TBHS), originally built the giant Ouija board in New Jersey and then transported it to Salem, Massachusetts, where it was reassembled and unveiled to the public on October 12.

The town, notorious for its witch hunts in the late 17th century, seems an especially eerie resting place for yet another spooky piece of America’s history. But it’s actually where Ouija boards were manufactured for years, after Salem-based toy company Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game in 1966. It’s also the town that inspired Schreck’s initial interest in Ouija boards in 1992.

According to the TBHS website, the Brobdingnagian board is nearly 2.5 times larger than the current Guinness World Record holder, and Ripley's Believe It or Not! has bestowed the title of "world's largest Ouija board" on Schreck's creation. It’s also “fully operational,” which hopefully means that you can use it to commune with extra-large dead people.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

Wizarding World Gold, a Magical New Harry Potter Subscription Service, Has Arrived

The Potter Collector, YouTube
The Potter Collector, YouTube

For Potterheads, Christmas just came early. There’s a new Harry Potter subscription service on the market, and it’ll make you feel like you plunged face-first into one of the magical books—not unlike Harry’s frequent forays into the Pensieve.

Engadget reports that Wizarding World Gold is a 12-month commitment, and includes access to all seven Harry Potter ebooks through the Wizarding World app, collectible pin badges, merchandise discounts, and more.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg-sized rock cake. After signing up, you’ll receive a pin, a print of J.K. Rowling’s sketch of Hogwarts, and a personalized journal called Keys and Curios, designed by the graphic design team behind the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film franchises. It features your name, Hogwarts house, and “enchanted keys” that “unlock hidden secrets” when scanned with the Wizarding World app.

You can also watch Wizarding World Originals, an exclusive video series that delves into the mysteries of the world of Harry Potter; gain early access to collectible merchandise and priority bookings for events like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and enjoy magical quizzes and puzzles. You’ll also make the guest list for festivities like the Wizarding World Gold Christmas Party in the Great Hall at Warner Bros.’s Studio Tour London.

If you register now, your welcome gift with the pin, print, and journal will arrive in about two weeks, and your first official subscription box will follow later this autumn. It’s $75 for the entire year, which is quite a bit cheaper than flying off to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If you have any funds left in your Gringotts vault, you can supplement your fantasy-filled subscription with a Harry Potter pop-up book, sock Advent calendar, bathrobe, or even Pandora jewelry.

[h/t Engadget]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER