Feb 27, 2017, 01:02 AM

Well, after 20 years the civil engineers finally finished building the new highway. I guess where there’s civil there’s survey.

What’s so funny about this? The original punchline of this joke was “where there’s civil, there’s a way.” This is not a bad little pun. However, as I was typing and saying the words to myself, I realized there was (at least in my opinion) an even better pun to be had by substituting “there’s survey” for “there’s a way.” None of this will make any sense to you if you are not familiar with the old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This means that if you really want something badly enough you can find a way to get it. “Will” in this case means “willingness” or “wanting.” True, a will is also a document stating what you want to leave to your family after you die and I could have made a pun with that, but I chose not to (at least not here; maybe in the near future). But after all, the main reference here is civil engineering which is the kind of mathematical design needed to build bridges, roads, buildings, etc. “Civil” refers to society as in civilization, but it also means polite. However the pun is based on pronunciation rather than meaning. If you say “there’s civil” and stress the second syllable of civil, namely “vil”. It could sound like “there’s a vil” because we don’t distinguish between the final S of there’s and the C of civil. The sounds just merge. Furthermore the unstressed A sounds like the unstressed I, both sounds being reduced to a schwa. The V and W are not phonemes and thus don’t change the meaning of the word. Finally “there’s survey” can be reduced exactly the same by merging the S sound and ur sounding like a schwa and vey sounding like “way”. All this only works if you say it quickly and stress that second syllable. While this explanation is not funny at all, THAT’s what’s so funny about the pun itself.

This joke was inspired by srajora@twitter.com