Humor and Translation — Illogical Language

By Mark Herman

English speakers can park on a driveway and drive on a parkway. Many such linguistic illogicalities in English are included in Richard Lederer’s article “If-Then Illogic,” from which the following material is taken or adapted. It’s reprinted here with his permission.1

  • If a megaphone amplifies voices, what does a microphone do?
  • If a firefighter fights fire, what does a freedom fighter fight?
  • If olive oil comes from olives and corn oil from corn, where does baby oil come from?
  • If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
  • If a weightlifter lifts weights, what does a shoplifter lift?
  • If “fatty” means “full of fat,” what does “skinny” mean?
  • If “extra-fine” means “finer” and “extra large” “larger,” what does “extraordinary” mean?
  • If something valuable has value, what does something invaluable have?
  • If ducks and deer are shot during duck and deer season, who gets shot during tourist season?
  • If you get seasick on the sea and airsick in the air, where do you get homesick?
  • If adults commit adultery, do infants commit infantry?
  • If there are fingertips but no toe tips, why can you tiptoe but not tipfinger?
  • If a cow does not produce milk, is it a milk dud or an udder failure?
  • If something is easy as pie, why is it also a piece of cake?
  • If you don’t pay your exorcist, do you get repossessed?
  • If you jump off a bridge in Paris, are you in Seine?
  • If a dentist marries a manicurist, do they fight tooth and nail?
  • If “con” is the opposite of “pro,” is “congress” the opposite of “progress”?
  • If “I am” is the shortest English sentence, why is “I do” one of the longest?
  • If clergymen can be defrocked and lawyers disbarred, can alcoholics be delivered, hairdressers distressed, manicurists defiled, electricians delighted, cowboys deranged, models disposed, and songwriters decomposed?
  • If smoking marijuana causes short-term memory loss, what does smoking marijuana cause?
  • Where do you get off on a non-stop flight?
  • How can a deaf person attend a court hearing?
  • Can the wages of a sued parsley farmer be garnished?
  • Why is there a “d” in “fridge” but none in “refrigerator”?
  • Do you know where the Big Apple is? Do you know where the Minneapolis?
  • Why are “tomb” and “womb” illogically pronounced “toom” and “woom,” while “bomb” is illogically not pronounced “boom”?
  • After brushing our teeth we sat down in the beeth to eat.
  • The geese were cooked but the meese didn’t fit in the oven.
  • I rang the bell and flang the ball.
  • I wrote a letter and bote my tongue.
  • The teacher taught and the preacher praught.
  • You can land in hot water by skating on thin ice.
  • In order to be debunked, detested, and demoralized, you must have previously been bunked, tested, and moralized.

I wound up my watch to start it but will now wind up this column to end it.


  1. Lederer, Richard. “If-Then Illogic,” Funny Times (February 2021), 11.


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