How the Germans discovered Sex

by Greg Lehey

This message went round the Tandem internal mail system a while back. The original message (down to the attached reply) is by Dave Kirby , the reply is by me. Excuse if you will the shouting in the headers.

Greg Lehey <>

   SENT: 89-06-01  23:58
SUBJECT: Grumpy Grammarian finds loophole

I believe in the English language, and believe that rules for spelling, punctuation, and grammar are necessary, just as any game must have rules so that all the players know where they are in relation to the game and to each other.

But I've discovered that not only is it sometimes acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition, it is sometimes mandatory. For example, “The breeze blew up her dress” is nowhere near the same thing as “The breeze blew her dress up.”

In Reply to: 89-06-01  23:58  FROM KIRBY_DAVE @PRUNE
         Grumpy Grammarian finds loophole

Dave, this particular rule must be seen in historical perspective:

Once upon a time, there were a couple of German tribes, one from the North, one from the South. The ones from the South went downriver to where the ones from the North were, and found life wasn't much better there either, so they set off together looking for a New World. In fact, they ended up on an island off the German coast, which they called Sex in honour of the tribe from the south. It is still a matter of some discussion as to whether they realised they had not found the New World or not. In any case, they soon found that the island was so big that they had to divide it into geographical areas, such as Es-Sex, Sus-Sex and Wes-Sex (never did hear what happened to Nor-Sex). They brought their language with them, including interesting verb conjugation syntax such as separable verbs. A separable verb is a verb starting with a preposition (where else would you put a preposition? Wait and see). An example might be the verb “upblawan”, to blow up. Immediately we see a problem, typified by the Irishman who went to Dublin to blow up a bus and burnt his lips. The clever Sex-ones did not ignore the syntax of their language, and conjugated these two meanings differently. The following example should make this clear:

  1. An Scots-Mann g to Dublin and bleow up anan for-allan. He barn his lippes.
  2. An Scots-Mann g to Dublin and bleow anan for-allan up. Seofon and twentig was se toll s deadra.
To be sure that this is understood, we should translate it into a semblance of English:
  1. An Irishman went to Dublin and blew up a for-all. He burned his lips.
  2. An Irishman went to Dublin, and blew a for-all up. Seven and twenty was the toll of the dead thereof.

Aside: The astute reader will note some interesting details. In particular, the Engels and the Sex-ones were very hazy when it came to geography. Thus they considered the Irish to be Scots (though some say that this is due to problems of comprehension, such as still exist today). In addition, as we have also seen, they appeared to have taken Sex to be the New World. This misconception may have some bearing on the manner in which Sex is still treated in the New World. Yet another example is the handbook of the Englo-Sex-one language, Swede's Englo-Sex-one primer, written for the Nor-Manns some centuries later. As we will see, it failed to achieve its original purpose.

In addition, a detail is apparent which causes some embarassment to modern Englishmen: as is well-known, the foreigners from the other side of the channel cannot pronounce the sound “th”. It would appear that this once also applied to the Engels and the Sex-ones, since their word for “the” was “se”. The example we see here must represent a snapshot in the transition to the use of this sound. The reason for the change is still obscure, though the leading theory attributes the changes to the unique weather which prevailed (and still, true to its tenacity, prevails) in Sex.

Finally, the Engel-ish version no longer has the inflections at the end of nouns and verbs. We will see the reasons for this later.

With these simple syntactical rules, all was well. In the meantime, however, the Norwegians were moving. Having determined that there were more pleasant climates than their own (in fact, that all climates were more pleasant than their own), they moved to the French coast, a habit they continue to do to this day. And, then as now, they were not received with open arms by the French. After a while, they decided that what they really needed was a bit of Sex. Off they set in their boats and headed, not, as you might expect, to Nor-Sex (by this time they had changed their names to Nor-Mann, and you would expect Nor-Sex to suit a Nor-Mann, wouldn't you?), but to Sus-Sex, presumably because they didn't understand the language. By this time, you see, they had also adopted French as their language in order to confuse the native French.

It turns out that you can still win a battle without speaking the language, if needs be by poking the right people in the eye, and Sus-Sex was taken over by the Nor-Manns. In due course, they became masters of all Sex, leaving the other people there, the Engels, to call the place Engel-Land. Apart from this minor setback, however, the Nor-Manns remained victorious. They set to remodelling the Englo-Sex-one language so they could understand it. The French, you see, have a habit of emphasising the last syllable of each word, whereas most other people of the time emphasised the penultimate syllable. The result was that anything which came after the stressed syllable got dropped from the spoken language, leaving just enough at the end of each word to make spelling of the language almost impossible (especially considering their strange rules of sexual union; but that is another story). For such people it made little sense to put important parts of words or sentences at the end. (Other sources, notably [Goscinny, Uderzo, 1967], claim that a habitual over-consumption of wine and spirits, originally driven by the high prices for alcohol in Nor-Way, led to the Nor-Manns being habitually drunk and thus unable to summon the attention span necessary to wait until the end of the sentence). As a result, they constructed artifical and ill-suited rules which made the language easier to understand in the 95% of the time when they were drunk, but occasionally caused significant pain to Celts unable to understand the background presented above.

Today, we are on the brink of the reunification of Europe for the first time since the days of Carol the Gross (or Charles the Magnifier, as the Nor-Manns would say, not to be confused with Charles of France, who was big to start with). In 1992 all Europe will be magnified, no unified, from the Meuse to the Nemunas and from the Adige to the Blt (no, wait a while, that was the last, unsuccessful attempt). Now is the time, with antiquated traditions away to do. Speak we the Englo-Sex-one language thus, as would our fore fathers a-done have! Belive we the speech of our ancestors again, show we pride in the a-wrestlings of the past!

Speak-an-un-forfalsed-tongue-once-more-ing you what

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