WHEN DO CANNIBALS LEAVE THE TABLE? WHEN EVERYONE'S EATEN.
What’s so funny about this? This joke is a great lesson in the Passive Voice. That’s the form of the verb when the subject is acted upon rather that being the actor. For example, “The steak was eaten by me” as opposed to “I ate the steak.” But nothing is as simple as it seems and the same is true with this joke. In addition to the passive voice, we could be looking at the past perfect tense of the verb “eat,” which is “eaten.” In both cases there are missing words. If it’s passive then it should be “everyone HAS BEEN eaten.” If it’s present perfect, then it should be “everyone HAS eaten.” It’s the word BEEN, b-e-e-n, that changes the whole meaning around and is the axis of this joke. Cannibals, of course are humans who eat other humans. They are also a favorite topic for jokes. The question is straight forward enough, at what point in time will cannibals leave the table (assuming they’ve just had a meal)?. Also we need to know to whom “everyone” refers. If it’s cannibals, then the verb needs to be present perfect. BUT if it’s the dinner guests, then it is they who have BEEN eaten by their cannibal hosts, and it goes into passive mode. And THAT’s what’s so funny, except for the dinner guests. They’re not laughing.
This joke was sent to me by my carnivorous friend, Bob Wiener
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