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Doctor! Doctor!

Gennaio 2015
Le battute con il dottore sono un classico dell’umorismo inglese. Non fanno ridere (al massimo strappano un sorriso), ma sono basate su giochi di parole piuttosto arguti.

di Marsha Henderson © British Council

File audio:

Speakers: Rachel Roberts and Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

Patient: Doctor! Doctor! I feel like a pair of curtains.
Doctor: Pull yourself together!
Why do the British think this is funny? They don’t. They enjoy the fact that it’s such a bad joke. It’s a clever piece of wordplay, though. There are two important parts to it. Firstly, “I feel like ... .” When we don’t feel well, we sometimes use an idiomatic way of saying it: for example, “I feel like death warmed up” means “I feel terrible.”
Then, the doctor uses a well-­known idiom. It works because, if you look at the normal meaning of each separate word in the phrase, it doesn’t make sense. We say, “Pull yourself together!” when we want someone to be calm. Speaking literally, “Pulling yourself together” is just silly. However, we could pull a pair of curtains together.
Here’s another one which works the same way:
“Doctor! Doctor! I feel like a pack of cards.”
“I’ll deal with you later.”
What do we do with cards? We deal them before we play with them. Parents and teachers sometimes say, “I’ll deal with you later” when they are planning to punish a child; and a third meaning of dealing with something is solving a problem.


Sometimes, however, the jokes use real-­life problems. Here’s one that talks about not being able to sleep.
“Doctor! Doctor! I’ve got insomnia.”
“Sleep on the edge of the bed, you’ll soon drop off.”
Do you understand? You drop off to sleep, but here it also means to fall off the bed.


Can you invent one yourself? Think of an idiom, like “go downhill,” for instance. What do the words actually mean? Move down a hill. Now think of something connected to that. A sledge, perhaps?
“Doctor! Doctor! I feel like a ..........!”
“Yes, I can see you’re ....................”
Now try creating your own.

The picture above left (click her to enlarge): it's a medical pun! “A bug that’s going round” is literally an insect that is gyrating, but it’s also an expression that refers to an illness (a “bug”) that is affecting a lot of people (“that’s going round”).

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