In the almost eight years she’s been living in Canada, Akemi has mastered many aspects of western culture – its unreliable transportation system, the English language, Beef Wellington – but there’s one uniquely North American oddity she’s yet to grasp: the knock-knock joke.  And yet, despite her repeated failures to fully grasp its nuanced set-up and delivery, she keeps trying.  Like last night, when she insisted we, once again, go down the knock-knock route.  After some reluctance, owing in large part to the fact that my storehouse of knock-knock jokes is almost bare, I conceded.  The results were, if not exactly predictable, certainly not that surprising –

“Knock knock,”I said.

“Who’s there?”she asked.

“Boo,”I said.

“Who’s boo?”she asked.

I sighed and explained to her that the correct phrasing of her response should be “Boo hoo?”, thus setting up the classic follow-up: “You don’t have to cry about it.”

A realization seemed to dawn.  “So you have to think of something that ends in hoo?”

“Well no – ”

“Like tofu,”she said, pronouncing the “fu” in tofu as she often does, with an “f” so soft it could be misinterpreted for a “hu”.  “Or kung-hu?”

“No – ”

“Knock knock,”she said.

“Who’s there?”


“Toe who?”

She frowned.   “It doesn’t really make sense.  A better way would be – knock knock?”

“Who’s there?”I asked.

“Something soft,”she replied.  “And then you guess tofu.  You see?”

Yeah.  No.  I tried again: “Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“Lettuce who?”

“Lettuce in!  It’s cold out here?”

She frowned.  “Why lettuce?”

“Because lettuce in it’s cold out here.”

She started back at me, genuinely mystified.  “That’s not a joke.” Uncomprehending: “That’s funny?  That’s not funny.  I think my kung-fu joke you didn’t like is better.”  And then, after some consideration, a sigh of resignation. “The knock-knock joke – it’s very hard to nail it.”

I don’t even want to get her started on puns.

23 thoughts on “November 20, 2017: Knock Knock!

  1. 😆 Most knock-knock jokes are puns, aren’t they?

    Perhaps ask Akemi if there are any kind of word play jokes in Japanese… perhaps then she would have an easier time understanding our rather childish sense of humor.


    1. Japanese culture runs on puns and wordplay. Anime series Bobobobo Bobobo is best known for absurd humor closely tied to puns and sight gags, and the fact that someone translated it is a small miracle. And that’s just one example.

  2. Haha! Poor Akemi. To be fair, both those jokes and puns are really dependent on the nuances of the English language with its various homonyms and homophones. There are so many differences in words that are based on context, not necessarily spelling or sound. It’s amazing she does as well as she does!

  3. Maybe explain puns first, because that’s the crux of every knock-knock joke. If she doesn’t get puns, she can’t “graduate” to understanding knock-knock jokes.

  4. Not mine.

    Knock Knock…
    Who’s there ?
    Owls who ?

    Or when my son was young “Ezzwackwee”

  5. My husband and I tutored the neighborhood kids in English for pocket change. Mostly we went over the school lessons, worked on comprehension, pronunciation, and worked on conversational English too. I remember the first time my student Megumi made her first joke in English. She called my tall, thin husband Mr. Green Bean! Hey, I was dang proud of her.

  6. If she only has trouble with knock-knock jokes/puns, then I’d say she’s doing great!

  7. Definitely get her started on puns. We have a chat channel at work called “dadjokes” that is filled with puns. I wonder if she’d get the “Who’s on first?” skit?

    Knock knock!
    Who’s there?
    Banana who?

    Knock knock!
    Who’s there?
    Banana who?

    Knock knock!
    Who’s there?
    Banana who?

    Knock knock!
    Who’s there?
    Orange who?
    Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

  8. You should definitely try puns. Who knows, maybe she’ll take to them easily? And even if she doesn’t, hilarity will ensue. And you can add them to your list of Akemi-isms.

  9. Ya yes Knock-knock jokes. A true clashing if cultures. It was like when my Thai language teacher told me that she saw the movie”Fargo” with her other friend and language teacher. They were nearly fluent in their linguistic skills, but they didn’t understand the movie. They didn’t understand the jokes. They thought in the movie the actors spoked funny. I told her that was were the humor lied, don’t cha noe. (I blame the cold weather; who wants to mover their mouth.)
    @ Line Noise : Abbot and Costello may be good for learning humor but English?

  10. Hey Joe!

    Now that the Dark Matter letter contest is done, do we do anything else or just wait until we get something in our mailboxes?

  11. Knock knock.
    Who’s there?
    Lettuce who?
    Lettuce know if you finished reading all the “What Dark Matter Means To Me” fan letters! Looking forward to hearing Masked is greenlit!

  12. Well, learning wordplay in a foreign language is hard, I know from experience (English is not my native language, BTW, did my letter arrive? I signed it “Seriously Mike”, in addition to my real name and address).

  13. Have you tried any of the more politically incorrect jokes?

    How do you get a blonde out of a tree?
    Answer: Wave

    How did Helen Keller burn her fingers?
    Answer: She tried to read the waffle iron

    Let’s not even start with the man with no arms or legs….

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