A Funny Thing Happened at the Periodontist

September 21, 2021 at 3:44 am Leave a comment

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.”

“What?” asked Dr. Thanik.

“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.

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Mathy One-Liners There Are Two Types of People…

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About MJ4MF

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.

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