Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: A business in Philadelphia posted a notice that it would rather do business with 1,000 terrorists than with one Jew.
As a joke, the "one Jew" tale is less obvious than the two howlers just mentioned because its punchline is often omitted. Lacking its tagline, this bit of humor could be misinterpreted as a blatant display of anti-Semitism on the part of some unnamed shopkeeper. The intent should be obvious in the full version, however:
The following sign is posted in the front window of a local neighborhood business.The meaning of "We would rather do business with 1,000 terrorists" falls into place once the type of concern displaying the sign is known — the apocryphal funeral parlor owner is announcing he'd like to see a thousand terrorists dead, in that the "business" he's proposing would be burying them.
WE WOULD RATHER DO BUSINESS WITH 1000 TERRORISTS THAN WITH ONE JEW.
GOLDBERG'S FUNERAL HOME
The name of the mortuary (Goldberg's or Goldstein's are most commonly given) provides additional motivation for the expression of this particular sentiment — someone of that surname is presumed to be Jewish and thus especially anti-terrorist (since all terrorists are assumed to be Arabs these days) and pro-Jew. The message is therefore the reverse of what it first appears to be — it's pro-Jewish.
As for the
An elderly Jew is on his deathbed and, much to his relatives' surprise, calls for a priest. When the priest arrives, the man declares, "I want to convert."The "one Jew" drollery is being taken at face value by so many because it keys upon an emotionally laden buzzword of the moment ("terrorist") and raises the spectre of a shockingly open expression of prejudice. Both of these elements appear to temporarily mislead some about the reality of the piece: that it is a quip meant to provoke a rueful smile once its meaning sinks in, not an account of something that has actually happened.
Confused, the priest asks, "Sir, why on earth would you want to become a Catholic when you've lived all your life a Jew?"
"Better one of them should die than one of us!" the man snaps.
Previous incarnations of this tale set the action in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany during WWII. In those tellings, prisoners are offered improved conditions if they volunteer to work for the Germans. One man steps forward and announces he'd rather work for a hundred Germans than one allied soldier. Naturally, he turns out to be an undertaker.
Barbara "rasp buried" Mikkelson
Last updated: 7 April 2008
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