Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Monday, July 05, 2004
And a Humorist who Cannot Tell a Joke

[Or, Make Like a Tree and Get Out of Here]

I really, really hope this is a misquote:
"I came in there and he had pictures on the wall of presidents," Welsch said. "I asked why he had those up. He said, 'Washington never told a lie, Johnson never told the truth and Nixon didn't know the difference.' I decided that would be the best foundation for the Liars' Hall of Fame."
For cryin' out loud, man: That joke goes like this, and note the parallelism:

Washington could not tell a lie;
Johnson could not tell the truth;
and Nixon could not tell the difference.

I can forgive the transition from "could not" to "never", because I'm not sure of the origin of the singsongy voice in my head that's the child Washington, asked about the cherry tree: "I CANnot TELL a LIE." Maybe it's from a cartoon or something. Maybe everybody else's head doesn't have that.

But if you lose the verb "tell", you lose the switch into another sense of "tell" in "tell the difference". Rank incompetence, I say. And this is Roger Welsch, a professional humorist according to the story, who used to be on CBS's Sunday Morning. Like I say, I hope the AP writer blew it, not Welsch.

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