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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

How I Became The Most Famous Anonymous Person In Contemporary European Football: I Wrote The Feed The Monkey Joke

So, England’s playing Poland in some sort of soccer game or melee or match or tilt or pitched battle or contretemps or whatever they call it over there. At half time, if that’s what they call that, the coach reportedly told his players a joke, which appears to have offended the usual people who like to be offended. It’s reported in the Mirror, and The Guardian, and on ESPN, and in The Daily Mail, and The Telegraph, and in USA Today. It’s featured on many websites and bulletin boards as well. It’s everywhere.

I don’t know if Roy Hodgson, the the coach of the English national football team, actually used the joke I wrote on April 25th of 2012 verbatim. This blog seems like an obscure place to find something unless you’re already looking for it. But I do know that every one of those newspapers I mentioned copied it directly from my Sippican Cottage blogpost, and not one of them offered any attribution, or a link. Here’s the text from my blog entry titled Feed The Monkey:

I recall a very bad joke from way back when we were still hurling men up into space, but hadn’t quite reached the moon yet:

NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending
only monkeys in the earlier missions. They fire the man and the monkey
into space. The intercom crackled, “Monkey, fire the retros.” A little
later, “Monkey, check the solid fuel supply.” Later still, “Monkey,
check the life support systems for the man.” The astronaut took umbrage
and radioed NASA, ” When do I get to do something?” NASA replies, ” In
fifteen minutes, feed the monkey.”

Like most things I write on this blog, I wrote that right out of my head. I referred to nothing. The joke in its original form was told to me forty years ago or more. I remembered only the gist of it. In fact, as I remember it, it wasn’t as even as good a joke as I wrote it. But the wording of that joke is most assuredly mine own. And another “tell” in the use of that joke, unattributed, is that they didn’t call it NASA when they were shooting monkeys into space. Eisenhower organized NASA in 1958. I used the term NASA there because nobody remembers the space program’s name before then and it was just easier. Poetic license. The joke itself is one of those tiresome things that everyone knows, but has to sit through over and over no matter how many times they hear it, and it only elicits groans, not laughter. A duck walks into a pharmacy and says, give me some Chap-Stick and put it on my bill.

Oops, I forgot, if my stuff is going to be copypasta in Merrie Olde, it’s a mallard toddles off to the chemist…

So The Telegraph says this is the joke:

“Nasa decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only
monkeys in the earlier missions,” the joke goes.

“They fire the man and the monkey into space. The intercom crackles, ‘Monkey,
fire the retros’. A little later, ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply’.

“Later still, ‘Monkey, check the life support systems for the man’. The
astronaut takes umbrage and radios Nasa, ‘When do I get to do something?’

“Nasa replies, ‘In 15 minutes – feed the monkey’.”

The Mirror says:

“NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions,” the joke goes.
“They fire the man and the monkey into space.
“The intercom crackles, ‘Monkey, fire the retros.’
“A little later, ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply.’
“Later still, “Monkey, check the life support systems for the man.’
“The astronaut takes umbrage and radioes NASA, ‘When do I get to do something?’
“NASA replies, ‘In 15 minutes – feed the monkey.’”

“Nasa decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending
only monkeys in the earlier missions. They fire the man and the monkey
into space. The intercom crackles: ‘Monkey, fire the retros.’ A little
later: ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply.’ Later still: ‘Monkey,
check the life support systems for the man.’ The astronaut takes umbrage
and radios Nasa: ‘When do I get to do something?’ Nasa replies: ‘In 15
minutes – feed the monkey.'”

Please note that the only editing they do, is to make what I wrote grammatically incorrect. They change NASA to Nasa, which is not how acronymns work, and turn “took umbrage” into “takes umbrage.” I decline very few verbs and no free drinks these days, but even I know it was correct in the first place. There’s about fifteen other news outlets I found, before I got bored, that use the whole thing copied and pasted, but attribute it to The Mirror, or The Telegraph, or The Guardian, because there’s honor among thieves, but not outside their coven, it appears. Others paraphrase the joke and use only the punchline verbatim.

If you enter the whole text into Google, it only returns two references, both to me, and a website in Great Britain called Orphans of Liberty, who printed the joke verbatim back when I wrote it, but gave me a link and attribution, so good on them, and hail fellow well met and all that.

Hey, maybe Roy Hodgson reads Orphans of Liberty, and he did tell my version of the joke verbatim to his team. I’d be tickled if that were the case. If so, Roy, you’re welcome to it. Sorry it wrecked your life, and you probably didn’t even get a laugh out of it for all your trouble. I warned everybody before I told it that it was a bad joke. But does anyone listen?

To the rest of you ink-stained plagiarists: Expect to hear from my lawyer, um, solicitor,  er, barrister or bannister or beelzebub or bumbershoot or whatever you call a law-talking guy over there on that pile of rocks and coal you inhabit. To paraphrase Stanley Motss, ” I want the credit.”

13 Responses

  1. Of all the sins these newsmonkeys have certainly committed, this, to me, is the worst.

    Maybe you don't know that I go all around the country, telling quotes, and one of yours is in it. I credit you, and by real name. I'm that way about bloggers; call it my "pub." It begins, "Fight for it."

    Excuse me. I must go back in the newsroom and feed the monkeys.

  2. Sipp, you have no idea how big this daft issue is here, its huge. When watching the footy in the pub tomorrow I'll get the lads to raise a glass to you….all I can do in the way of royalties I'm afraid.

  3. When I do public speaking, it is frequent that the technician likes to hear me speak into the microphone to adjust the frequencies. I get tired of saying "one two testing" and that isn't as conversational as I'll be when I'm talking anyway, so I've tried remembering jokes.
    I once heard a silly spoof lyric to a verse of a 1950's pop song and while most of it stuck in my head I couldn't fully remember it. So I entered what text I had remembered into the google and found a forum with well over a hundred spoof verses for the same song. Most of them were awful, but I found about a dozen to be quite funny, and I created a word document where I "curated" the good dozen verses into a dramatic order that made sense.
    When I expect to be asked to speak, I carry a folded sheet of this in my jacket pocket, and perform it as a Shatner style dramatic reading if there must be a sound check.
    Three or four times someone has overheard and thought it was the most wonderful thing ever, so I passed the sheet onto them.
    It amuses me that my curated version is now the canonical one that appears on Reddit and slashdot etc. Either one of those sheets of paper got transcribed and put online, or someone else had exactly the same judgement of which 12 of the 100+ spoof verses were the quality ones and what order would best serve their presentation.

  4. in all candor i must admit on several occasions i too have stolen from you. i've used your editor/author comment structure without giving any credit.
    for my sins may i be forgiven.

  5. I hate to be overly precise ( There's a lie) but the YUK press is reporting on what they heard him say, not on what you wrote.
    That the moron mangled his native tongue should not be a surprise.

  6. "They change NASA to Nasa, which is not how acronymns work"

    It's standard usage in British English when dealing with abbreviations to use capitalisation to reflect pronunciation – so initialisms (NSA, KGB) are capitalised, while acronyms that are pronounced as words are printed as proper nouns (Nato, Unicef).

  7. The story first appeared in The Sun, which is paywalled so you wouldn't see it on Google. They published a different version of the joke. I imagine that The Mirror, not wanting to copy their rival, googled and found an alternative version – yours. I say The Mirror because their version is closest to yours – they have only made it present tense (which would be normal for a British person telling a joke) but mistakenly changed "radioed" to "radioes". The others have copied The Mirror, but corrected the spelling mistake and changed "NASA" to "Nasa", which will be house style, as John B says.

    The Sun's version: NASA decides to send a shuttle into space with two monkeys and an astronaut on board.

    After months of training, they put all three in the shuttle and prepare for launch. Mission control announces: "This is mission control to Monkey One. Do your stuff."

    The first monkey begins frantically typing and the shuttle takes off.

    Two hours later, mission control centre announces: "This is mission control to Monkey Two. Do your stuff."

    The second monkey starts typing like mad and the shuttle separates from its empty fuel tanks.

    After another two hours mission control announces: "This is mission control to astronaut…"

    The astronaut interrupts, shouting: "I know, I know – feed the monkeys and don't touch anything!"

  8. Hi Casey- Blogging is vicious because the stakes are so small.

    Hi Leslie- I'm not sure I'd accept credit. What's the interest rate on it?

    Hi Thud- I got people visiting that blogpost from all sorts of footie message boards. What a big nothing that story is.

    Hi Skeptic- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    It's amusing to have something you did enter the lingua franca on some level. A nice person from Ireland once wrote me and told me that I was a Googlewhack. They'd been assigned finding a Googlewhack at University, and they found me. I noticed that it pays worse than the Nobel Prize, however.

    Hi Leon- Friends have different rules.

    Hi Bilejones- Thanks for reading and commenting. I have no idea exactly what they man said, and I gather neither does the press, because it was recorded. But they are most definitely reporting what I wrote, without attribution. It's not cricket to lift things, cut and paste, and reuse them without attribution.

    Hi John B- Lower case acronyms? I did Nazi that coming…

    I'm here 'til Thursday next; try the veal.

    Hi Judge- Thanks for reading and commenting. I saw the alternate version of the joke here and there. Mine's better. The plagiarists have better taste, anyway.

  9. And this is how google works! Nice to see a blog I visit getting noticed, if not attributed ( the MSM seem to be very bad at that).
    I would note that I heard a joke along similar lines in a Warsaw Pact country in the 80's, though it had a distinct anti-Russian sentiment depicting the monkey as more capable than the cosmonaut.

  10. …takes umbrage… sounds quite British to me, especially if said in a cockney accent. I can imagine a Monty Python skit with the comedians saying takes umbrage, except for John Cleese who would correct them: No, no, no…it's "took umbrage"!

  11. …takes umbrage… reminds me of a road here in Dallas, Webb Chapel. I can't remember the last time I heard it pronounced correctly. When spoken it becomes Webb's Chapel.

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