While casting about the web last night for information on the correct usage of the ‘long s’ in English typography of the 18th century (it’s for the wedding, naturally), I came across the website of the chap who designed the font I’ve been using for the wedding (which he has graciously made available as freeware – and it’s a good font as well!).
Also on his website is a marvellous collection of 16th century jokes, which proves that most Christmas cracker jokes really are upwards of four hundred years old:
A Passenger at sea feeling his stomacke rise, sayd to the maister of the ship: I pray holde still the ship a while, til I vomite.
Then there are the jokes that play on long-established national stereotypes:
A Scot was a preaching how that all men are one an others neighbour and brother in Christ, euen the Turke, the Iew, the Moore, the Caniball, the farre Indian: and then concluded: Yea and the very Englishman is our neighbour too.
In the North of Ireland, where they eate but Oaten cakebread, a Kearnes mother hearing that her sonne was slaine in fight against Englishmen, came the morrow after into the field and finding her dead sonne there, after much mone and lamentation ouer him, she chanced to cast her eye aside, and there by espy’d a dead Englishman: Then vp she arose, and much accursing our nation for the death of her sonne, in the end she stripped him of his apparell, and chanced to find a stale lofe of bread in his breeches, which was of the prouision hee brought with him from the English pale: which after she had a good while well viewed & wondred at: in the end burst foorth into fresh teares, and said: No maruell if my deare sonne be slaine by one that voydes so hard and huge a sturd.
A officious Welshman seeing a cripple Marchants widdow snayling ouer London bridge, took pitie on her trembling gate, and friendly offred her his helping hand all along: And as they footed it together, the old woman ask’d him by the way what countryman he was: he answered: A Welshman: whereupon she straight desir’d him to shift on the other side of her: which he did, and so led her safe to her house at the bridge-foot At parting she hartilie thank’d him for such his good nature, and pray’d God to blesse him: an hee ask’d her what was the reason that vpon his saying that he was a Welshman, she straight desir’d him to shift on the other side of her: shee answered: Oh (sonne) my purse hung on that side.
(there’s a whole section on jokes about the French, the Spanish and the Biscayn)
Of course, fart jokes are well represented. Beavis and Butthead, eat your heart out.