## Archive for September, 2021

### There Are Two Types of People…

It’s estimated that there are 7.9 billion people in the world, and counting. But in many ways, it’s fairly easy to divide us all into two types.

There are two types of people:

• Those who think the world can be divided into two types of people.
• Those who don’t.

The earliest known usage of the two-types format was by Mark Twain:

There are basically two types of people: people who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.

The potential origin of the two-types meme, as we know it today, may have been this ubiquitous math and computer science joke:

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

A modification of that joke has appeared more recently for the uber-geeks:

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand ternary, those who don’t, and those who mistake it for binary.

Physicist C. N. Yang, who won the Nobel Prize in 1957, is credited with this version:

There are two types of math books: those you cannot read beyond the first sentence, and those you cannot read beyond the first page.

Two of my favorites were included in More Jokes 4 Mathy Folks:

There are three types of people: positive, negative, and relative.

There are two types of people: those who are wise, and those who are otherwise.

The number of modifications to the format are nearly infinite. To create your own, choose the number of things you wish to compare; choose the type of things you wish to compare; describe that number of things, making sure that two of them are diametrically opposed, as to cause an incongruous and humorous result; if possible, be self-deprecating in one of the descriptions; and finally, determine if you want it in paragraph form or as a bulleted list. For instance,

There are two types of math jokes:

• Those that are funny.
• Those that have appeared on this blog.

See? It’s not hard. Now you try. The following mathy examples can serve as inspiration.

There are three things I hate:

• People who can’t do simple math.
• Irony.

There are three things I hate:

• Bulleted lists.
• Lazy people.

There are two kinds of statistics:

• Those you look up.
• Those you make up.

There are three kinds of lies:

• Lies.
• Damned lies.
• Statistics.

There are two kinds of people. Avoid both of them.

There are two kinds of people:

• Those you want to drink with.
• Those who make you want to drink.

On the web, you’ll find all manner of visual adaptations of the meme.

There are two types of people:

There are two types of people:

And finally, there are two types of bloggers:

• Those who would write a blog post about the world containing two types of people.
• Those who would Google it first to see that there about 24,000,000 results for “there are two types of people.”

### A Funny Thing Happened at the Periodontist

People in Portland are nice. Like, really nice. Nice to a fault, some would say. It’s the reason the term “Portland nice” exists, and it’s the impetus for the following scene from Portlandia in which two drivers at an intersection insist — politely, but with increasing determination — that the other one go first.

Ashley, one of the assistants at my periodontist’s office, is Portland nice. So at an appointment a while back, when I settled into the chair, it wasn’t surprising that her opening question was, “Got any plans for the weekend?”

As it turns out, I did. The Museum of Mathematics had invited me to host a webinar as part of their Family Fridays series, and I offered to deliver Punz and Puzzles, an hour or so of, well, math puns and math puzzles. I told Ashley about this, and there was a long pause before she responded. Finally, she said, “Do you know a lot of math jokes?” Before I could assure her that, indeed, I knew at least two volumes’ worth, Dr. Thanik entered the room, and our conversation was temporarily paused.

Dr. Thanik then did what periodontists do: he told me about the procedure that he was going to perform, and he injected several gallons of novocain into my gums. While it took effect, Ashley said, “Tell me a joke.”

“Not you,” she said, waving a hand at me. “Mr. Vennebush. Before you came in, he was telling me that he’s doing a webinar tonight that involves math jokes.”

“Do you know a lot of math jokes?” Dr. Thanik asked.

I explained that I had literally written the book on them.

“Well, then… let’s hear one!” he demanded.

Neither of them seemed to care that my mouth was numb and any joke would be delivered through an excessive amount of drool. Fortunately, I have very little self-respect or regard for etiquette, so I didn’t care, either. I launched in.

“Well, you probably know the world’s most ubiquitous math joke,” I began. “Why is 6 afraid of 7?”

They responded in unison. “Because 7 8 9!”

“Yes!” I said. “But there’s a follow-up. Why is epsilon afraid of zeta?”

Raised eyebrows. Blank looks. Silence.

“Because zeta eta theta!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, I should’ve gotten that!” Dr. Thanik said, with the knowing look of someone bearing a Greek surname.

He then performed the procedure. As he finished the last suture, he said, “Okay, I don’t quite have the wording right, but what about this? Why couldn’t the tangent get a loan? Because his parents wouldn’t cosine.”

“Did you just make that up?” I asked.

“You seem surprised,” he said.

“I just didn’t expect my periodontist to make references to trigonometry,” I replied.

“Well,” he said, “I know a lot of things. After all, I spent 20 years in school.”

I continued, “Well, I guess I’m also a little surprised that you were trying to formulate a math joke while performing gum surgery.”

“Fair,” he said.

And then it occurred to me. “Oh, of course!” I said. “I’ve got the perfect joke for you. Did you hear about the middle school math teacher who became a dentist?” I asked.

“No,” they said.

“Her specialty is square root canals!”

They both laughed politely. Like I said, Portland nice.

### Mathy One-Liners

To keep my edge, I read joke books and watch comedians. I modify the jokes I read and hear to fit my particular needs and, sometimes, I just steal a joke outright. I’d feel bad about doing this if I profited from it, but there is little to be gained by dropping a one-liner at a neighborhood happy hour.

I just finished 1001 One‑Liners and Short Jokes by Graham Cann. It compensates with quantity what it lacks in quality. Although most of the jokes are not good — and many rely on British English, and others reference British culture, so they’re lost on me — there are more than a few chestnuts in the mix. I used this modification of one of his jokes while having dinner with my in-laws recently:

I don’t like coffee. It’s just not my cup of tea.

It garnered guffaws from my mother-in-law and groans from my sons, so it had the intended effect.

Another joke from the book is mathematical:

When I was two, I was really anxious because my age had doubled in just one year. I thought, “If this keeps up, by the time I’m six, I’ll be 90!”

It’s a terrible joke, not least because I’m unaware of any toddler concerned about their age. But more importantly, it’s wrong. If your age doubled from one to two in a year, then it would double to four by age three, to eight by age four, to 16 by age five, and to 32 by age six. Graham Cann clearly hasn’t studied exponential growth.

The following are other mathy jokes from the book, most of which I’ve modified at least slightly.

• I took an algebra test at school yesterday. My kleptomania is getting out of hand.
• For the three o’clock race, I backed a horse at ten to one. It came in at a quarter past four.
• One of every four frogs is a leap frog.
• My gun is made from a dozen pigs. It’s a 12-boar.
• Thirty percent of car accidents in Sweden involve a moose. I say it’s time that we stop letting moose drive. (For the record, that statistic is likely fabricated. It’s estimated that there are 4,500 car accidents involving moose every year, but there are far more than 15,000 car accidents annually.)
• Did you hear about the constipated accountant? He tried to work it out with a pencil — but he couldn’t budget.
• To the man who invented zero: Thanks for nothing.
• Statistically, six of seven dwarfs are not Happy.
• I, for one, like Roman numerals.
• If every human in the world laid down end‑to‑end along the equator, most of them would drown.
• Ninety-nine percent of politicians give the rest of them a bad name.
• Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
• I tried to change my password to “14 days,” but my computer said it was too week.

There were 288 others that I chose not to share, because they were two gross.

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

## MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.