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13 September 2009
Dear Mr. Rubin,
Thank you for your website with some very funny jokes. As a preschool teacher I especially like the 3-year-old's response about the sun: It is a big ball of fire!
The joke (see below) about the astronomer in Africa has a funny root but some details are offensive and inaccurate. The continent of Africa is not dark although it may have seemed so to the non-native explorers. The wording could be changed to "an unexplored continent, or area". The language of the primitive people is not a "primitive tongue" just because the astronomer had not mastered it. The wording could be changed to "what the astronomer thought was a primitive tongue", "language" or "obscure tongue".
Thank you for considering my concern.
An astronomer is on an expedition to Darkest Africa to observe a total eclipse of the sun, which will only be observable there, when he's captured by cannibals. The eclipse is due the next day around noon. To gain his freedom he plans to pose as a god and threaten to extinguish the sun if he's not released, but the timing has to be just right. So, in the few words of the cannibals' primitive tongue that he knows, he asks his guard what time they plan to kill him.
The guard answers, "Tradition has it that captives are to be killed when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky on the day after their capture so that they may be cooked and ready to be served for the evening meal".
"Great", the astronomer replies.
The guard continues, "But because everyone's so excited about it, in your case we're going to wait until after the eclipse."
Dear Peggy Ashbrook,
Your concerns are justified.
I changed "Darkest Africa" simply to "Africa" and "cannibals' primitive tongue" to "cannibals' tongue".
Thanks for your careful reading.Julian Rubin,
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