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January 29th, 2006

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10:13 pm
This afternoon's excursion to McIntyre & Moore netted me a few decent books -- a dictionary of catch phrases, copryight 1977 and including such turn-of-the-century and long-forgotten gems as "You can't sell me any wooden nutmegs", a history of "Mad & Magnificent Yankees" such as the Newburyport fellow who bought up stray cats at thruppence apiece and shipped them to a Caribbean plantation for $2.50 a head, and a small paperback which Jodie actually found first, but declined to buy: a 1965 copy of PLAYBOY'S PARTY JOKES: "A brand-new collection of sophisticated humor from America's most sophisticated magazine."

Well, now, how could I pass such a book up?

For those people whose fathers didn't have a subscription to Playboy, the "Party Jokes" section was (is) a monthly feature, printed on the back of the centerfold next to the data sheet listing the centerfold's various turn-ons and turn-offs, and providing vaguely smutty one-liners and situational quips with some of Leroy Neiman's "femlin" caricatures prancing about in between columns of joke copy. The jokes in this book are far from smutty; in fact, they're downright tame:
He offered her a Scotch & soda, and she reclined.

Passionate picnickers should keep in mind that some girls are like flowers: they grow wild in the woods.

Some girls get a lot out of a dress, and leave it out.
As can be expected from this treasury, most of the jokes are remnants of the chauvinistic businessman's 60s. There's more secretary jokes than you can shake your stick at, a lot of wife and mistress jokes ("the difference between a mistress and a wife is night and day") and drunk jokes.

There's also a batch of prototypical blonde jokes, but at this stage in the game, it was merely enough to insinuate that this beautiful yet stupid female was just that -- stupid. And female. But hair color didn't enter into it yet. (Isn't that nice? They're being all-inclusive!) All they needed to say was:
We know a beautiful yet vacant acquaintance who...
...thinks the English Channel is the one on TV where you can view British programs.

...thinks that 'vice versa' is dirty poetry.
And then there's the Unabashed Dictionary. Take a word, make a smutty definition for it, and hey presto, you've got an entry for "Our Unabased Dictionary!"
Our Unabashed Dictionary...
...defines 'high fidelity' as a drunk who goes home regularly to his wife.

...defines 'neurotic' as a woman who prefers a psychiatrist's couch to a double bed.

...defines 'nudists' as people who go all in for altogetherness.

...defines 'protein' as a call girl too young to vote.
These are the jokes, folks.

And what a fascinating relic. A real glimpse back into the sophisticated days of sophisticated parties, where sophisticated types could bring forth a swaggering, sophisticated line about a marriage ring being "a vicious circle". Then the laughter would flow as freely as the Scotch and clinkle as sweetly as the ice cubes.

Or maybe it was a glimpse into the days when office men who thought they were funny might pull out a tired line or two about a marriage ring being a "vicious circle", thereby only vaguely impressing the only person in the room who didn't read that month's Playboy Party Jokes.

You get to pick!

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2006 04:50 am (UTC)
Wow. This brought back a very vague memory of trying to buy a copy of "The World's Most Offensive Jokes Volume 3" in an airport bookstore at Dallas Fort-Worth. I was probably ten or twelve. The clerk asked me how old I was and I said eighteen. They asked me if my parents would care if I bought the book, and I said no, of course. I don't know why, but they sold it to me. The jokes were pretty offensive, but not actually funny.
[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)
There were several dog-eared volumes of "Truly Tasteless Jokes" that circulated among my 5th grade class. Each one had a lifespan of several days, at which point it'd be found and confiscated by someone's parent. We blithely skipped through the jokes we had no idea how to comprehend ("How can you tell when a WASP woman achieves climax? She drops her briefcase") and went straight to the ones that had smutty and racist words we recognized.
[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2006 01:54 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating. I became sentient at the tail end of this era and remember a sort of confusion as men who were neither feminist nor anti-feminist tried to slot women into these stereotypes, not to be malicious but because that was the idea of masculinity they thought they should aspire to. Professional success meant claiming the right to talk this way. The trouble was it didn't really work, since the women around them were their friends, not bimbos or the Ol' Ball-n-Chain, so the jokes fell flat (not only because they were bad) and left the men seeming sort of hollow and lost. God, I haven't thought about this in forever. Thanks for posting this.
[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)
You get to pick!

Maybe people would just have a mutual snicker over them, like when someone tosses off a Seinfeld reference and knows everyone else in the room will get it because they've all seen it too.
Date:January 30th, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)
The dirtiest joke I've ever written, of which I am not proud ... well, maybe a little ... is an "unabashed" definition of a lesbian which involves a play on the phrase "have your cake and eat it, too."

No, really, I'm a good liberal intellectual! I promise!


[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
My grandparents had a Morey Amsterdam joke book. When I was 5 or 6, I thought it was the height of hilarity, slightly less so through to the age of 10 when I understood the ribald jokes more.

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