A very old joke

A Cyanide & Happiness cartoon collected in the 2010 book Ice Cream & Sadness:

An old joke, turning on an ambiguity in some double-object verbs: V NP1 NP2 interpretable either as benefactive (‘V NP2 for NP1’ — e.g. ‘make a woman for me’) or with some other argument structure (in this case, ‘make NP1 into NP2’, here ‘make me into a woman’). Another classic version: call me a taxi ‘call a taxi for me’ (benefactive) or ‘say that I’m a taxi’ (other: ‘say that NP1 is a NP2′)’.

[Added 4/10/13: There’s a gay version of the Cyanide joke, with the readings reversed. Someone tells a gay man that they can make him a man, meaning make him into a *real* (i.e. straight) man, but he takes them to be saying that they can make a man for him. There are several variants.]


3 Responses to “A very old joke”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    “Make me one with everything.”

  2. Lise Menn Says:

    Darn, John, you beat me to the punch line.

  3. Geoffrey Nathan Says:

    Yet another variant:

    A: My mother made me a homosexual.
    B: If I get her the yarn, can she make me one too?

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