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Engineers are the funniest people


People who know me say they never hear me laugh as hard as when I’m watching Road Runner cartoons. Why might that be?

I’m a nerd, and Wiley Coyote, you see, is an engineer. He’s always engineering up solutions to get the Road Runner. But because Wiley Coyote is a slightly inept engineer, he always overlooks one tiny factor, and everything blows up in his face. That’s a powerful metaphor. Nor is it just a metaphor, because every computer programmer will tell you that it only takes one “flipped bit” to get the exact opposite of the intended results.

Engineers are funny people. Partly, I think, it’s because they’re smart. Partly it’s because they’ve seen so many Wiley Coyote disasters, large and small, happen in real life.

I recently came across a Facebook meme that purported to be actual notes from maintenance log notations between UPS pilots and UPS maintenance crews. It took only a little Googling to learn that, actually, these jokes are apocryphal. Sometimes it’s attributed to Fedex pilots. Though, according to, there is some evidence that it originated from military pilots and engineers.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to: straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget

In the late 1980s, as the Unix operating system was increasingly coming into use in laboratories and research centers, Unix jokes began to appear. I believe it was 1985 when I acquired my first Unix computer, which was made by AT&T. At the time, these Unix jokes actually worked as described here, because I typed them in and tried them (though some worked only with Berkeley Unix as opposed to AT&T’s System V Unix). These days, if you try them in a Unix terminal window on, say, your Macintosh, the results may not be the same anymore.

$ ar x God
ar: God does not exist

$ cat “door: paws too slippery”
cat: cannot open door: paws too slippery

$ cat “can of food”
cat: cannot open can of food

$ lost
lost: not found

$ make war
Make: Don’t know how to make war. Stop.

% gotta light?
No match.

% [Where is Jimmy Hoffa?
Missing ].

% ^How did the sex change^ operation go?
Modifier failed.

% If I had a ( for every $ Congress spent, what would I have?
Too many (‘s.

% sleep with me
bad character

% man: why did you get a divorce?
man:: Too many arguments.

% %blow
%blow: No such job.

% \(-
(-: Command not found.

$ PATH=pretending! /usr/ucb/which sense
no sense in pretending!

$ mkdir matter; cat >matter
matter: cannot create

$ make love
Make: Don’t know how to make love. Stop.

Every specialized discipline with specialized knowledge lends itself to jokes. Here are some musician jokes, as a bonus.

Q: How do you make musicians complain?
A: Pay them.

Q: whats the differance between a pianist and god?
A: god doesn’t think he’s a pianist

Q: What’s the difference between a banjo and an onion?
A: Nobody cries when you chop up a banjo.

Q: What do you call a drummer in a three-piece suit?
A: “The Defendant”

Q: What do clarinetists use for birth control?
A: Their personalities.

Q: What did the drummer get on his I.Q. Test?
A: Saliva.

Q: What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend?
A: Homeless.

Q: Why was the musician arrested?
A: He was in treble

Q: What is the difference between a drummer and a vacuum cleaner?
A: You have to plug one of them in before it sucks.

Q: Why do some people have an instant aversion to banjo players?
A: It saves time in the long run.

Q: What’s the difference between a jet airplane and a trumpet?
A: About three decibels.

Q: What is the dynamic range of a bass trombone?
A: On or off.

Q: What’s the difference between an opera singer and a pit bull?
A: Lipstick.

Q: Why do people play trombone?
A: Because they can’t move their fingers and read music at the same time.

Q: What do you call a guitar player that only knows two chords?
A: A music critic.

Q: How can a drummer and a conductor avoid rhythm conflicts?
A: Work separate concert halls.

Glissando: A technique adopted by string players for difficult runs.

Vibrato: Used by singers to hide the fact that they are on the wrong pitch.

Q: How does a young man become a member of a high school chorus?
A: On the first day of school he turns into the wrong classroom.

Q: How do you get a guitarist to play softer?
A: Place a sheet of music in front of him.

Q: How do you keep your violin from being stolen?
A: Put it in a viola case.


  1. Jo wrote:

    Made my day – night too.

    Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 12:49 am | Permalink
  2. DCS wrote:

    Violist jokes are the most vicious in the orchestral world.

    Q: How do you know when a violist is playing out of tune?
    A: The bow is touching a string.

    Q: What do you get when you bury 1,000 violists at the bottom of the see?
    A: A good start.

    SETUP: The violist comes home to find his wife screaming hysterically.

    WIFE: The conductor came here and shot the dog. Then he set the house on fire. Then he savagely raped me.

    VIOLIST: The maestro came to MY house?


    Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

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