Our coalman is very posh - you can have it a la cart or coal de sack...
Man on embassy steps to smartly dressed gentleman:
Call me a cab!
You’re a cab, sir.
How dare you - summon me a taxi!
I'm afraid I can't – I'm the American ambassador. And if I'd had time to think, I'd have called you a hansom cab, sir.
(A hansom cab was a kind of horse-drawn taxi.)
Two academics were greeted with "Good Morning" by a third. One said to the other, "Now what on earth did he mean by that?" (via the Rev David Grieve)
A man bumped into a lady of a certain age in upmarket grocery store Fortnum's. He knew he knew her, but couldn’t remember who she was. He asked more and more probing questions: “How are you?” “Still at the old firm.” "And... your husband?" "Oh, he's fine." "And your children?" "Flourishing." "And your sister?" "Still Queen."
Sir Hugh Casson bumps into an old friend: Good heavens, X, I thought we were both dead!
Conductor Sir Adrian Boult was credited with a sense of humour:
Sir Adrian: This afternoon's rehearsal of Brahms' Fourth is cancelled.
New band member: But I've never played Brahms' Fourth!
Sir Adrian: Really? I think you’ll like it.
Another new band member: My name is Ball.
Sir Adrian: How very singular.
A man making an inflammatory speech in Hyde Park was hauled off by the police, tried and sent to prison. At the end of his sentence he returned to Speakers' Corner and began: "As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted..."
Three very rich women were trying to impress each other:
First lady: When my diamonds get dirty, I wash them in milk.
Second lady: Oh, I scrub mine with toothpaste.
Third lady: When my diamonds get dirty I throw them away and get some new ones.
When the Lord Chancellor, Quintin Hogg, was processing through the Houses of Parliament in his elaborate official costume, he saw a friend and called out “Neil!”. A party of visiting Americans fell to its knees.
The inflatable boy went to his inflatable school and stuck a pin in it, in his teacher, and then in himself. And the teacher said: You’ve let me down, you’ve let the whole school down, but worst of all, you’ve let yourself down.
A WWII soldier is being interviewed by the Medical officer.
MO: Have you had your bowels open?
Solder: I haven't been issued with any, sir.
MO: I mean, are you constipated?
Soldier: No, sir, I volunteered!
MO: Good god, man, don't you know the King’s English?
Soldier: Really, sir, is he?
(The soldier thinks he's being asked if he was conscripted (drafted).)
Waiter, what’s this?
It’s bean soup, Sir.
I don’t care what it’s been, what is it now?
I'd like some soap.
Do you want it scented?
No, I’ll take it with me.
A man died and went to Heaven. St Peter gave him the guided tour – of the library, the golf course, the concert hall... They passed a high wall, and the man could hear people talking behind it. He asked:
Shhh - those are the Catholics. They think they’re the only ones here.
A cartographer in WWI was making a map of Greece. His CO dropped in to see how he was getting on.
Good work! But what are all these little marks over the letters?
They're to show you where to emphasise the word.
Oh, quite unnecessary, leave them out.
Sir, what would you say if someone asked you the way to ExETTah?
You can’t expect me to know the name of every tiny Greek village!
(The city of Exeter in southwest England is accented on the first syllable.)
What do you get if you cross a chicken with a lawyer?
Eggs that are legally binding.
Why are you writing 'F... the Pope' on that wall, my man?
Because I don’t know how to spell ‘F... the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland’.
In the days of telegrams (a bit like Twitter), the necessary brevity sometimes caused problems.
A magazine seeking information about the stars once cabled a film company: How old Cary Grant?
Grant himself happened to see the message and cabled back: Old Cary Grant fine, how you?
And here are some from the magazine Punch, which made people laugh from the 1840s to the 1980s:
Angelina: Yes, darling?
Edwin: Nothing, darling. Just darling, darling!
Young man, complaining about rotten service in a hotel: In the end we had to tell them who we were.
Old lady: And who were you?
Bishop (at breakfast): I'm afraid you have a bad egg, Mr Smith.
Sycophantic curate: I assure you, My Lord, parts of it are excellent.
A short-haired woman is lolling on a sofa showing her stocking tops and smoking. Her daughter (in a long dress): Must you be so modern, Mother? It’s terribly old-fashioned.
A girl explains how she got one over her boyfriend: I treated him with complete ignoral!
An older woman explains how she won an argument: I sez to ‘im, Pig! I sez, and swep’ aht.
Suburban matron: We did this room ourselves, and all our friends think it’s Liberty!
Smart friend (murmurs): Ah, Liberty, how many crimes are committed in thy name!
(Liberty is a department store which in the 1880s sold artistic knick knacks.)
Someone has suggested that people should print their interests on their business cards, to facilitate conversation. A roomful of smart people in evening dress is exchanging cards. A shy man in uniform hands over his card (reading "hunting, shooting, India") to a beautiful lady, and is mortified to receive one reading "Painting, poetry, Italian lakes".
This is not a joke, but a play on words. In the 1840s, women who walked the streets were known as "gay". Two girls in fine outfits are standing miserably in the rain (by a torn poster advertising La Traviata). One asks the other: Why Fanny, how long have you been gay?