Monday, February 13, 2012

Ancient Mama Jokes

I like a good joke now and then. Unfortunately, not too many people "tell" jokes anymore. Most jokes are contained in email forwards which means that you must read rather than hear a joke. And with that we lose an important skill, the delivery. It takes a bit of talent to tell a joke. You can have two people tell the same exact joke, but the one tells it flat, the other delivers it with just the right inflection of voice and knows about the timing of delivery. I always enjoyed telling jokes, but I rarely hear any "good ones" anymore.

When I was growing up there were always lots of jokes going around. Some were meant to cause a laugh, others were intended to insult. The insult jokes were directed at one person while everyone else laughed. I remember various times when, standing in a crowd, we would witness two boys "ranking each other out" as we called it in Long Island. The jokes usually stared off tame and became more serious and crude as the contest persisted. But I remember that things always took a serious turn when someone would say "Yeah, well, yo mama . . . after which something rude would be said about the other person's mother. Sometimes this resulted in fists flying.

It seems that jokes and riddles have been with us for quite some time. And so have the mama jokes.  A recent article in the Jerusalem Post highlights six jokes/riddles written on clay tablets in Akkadian.


The riddles were written in Akkadian, an ancient Semitic language used by the Babylonians and Assyrians and recorded in logograms. They were found in present day Iraq years ago but had been forgotten until a German and Israeli professor, two of just a few-score people in the world today who understand the ancient tongue, translated them.  
And it turns out not much has changed over the millennia. Even in ancient Mesopotamia, people enjoyed crude jokes about politicians, alcoholic drinks and references to (someone else’s) mother’s sex life.



Most of the jokes aren't all that funny when told in the modern world. And the mama joke is not complete since the tablet is broken. But you can read them here and see if you want to attempt telling them today. Let me know if you get any laughs.

1 comment:

  1. Tell me if ya heard this one...
    3 camels went into a bistro......
    It's good to know that God created humor sometime in the beginning.

    ReplyDelete