We have all used or fallen victim to knock knock jokes.
But did you know that William Shakespeare was one of the earlier users of knock knock?
If you had been paying attention at school, you would have
In Macbeth, Shakespeare wrote: “knock, knock, who’s there?”
If you don’t
believe me, it’s in act 2, scene 3.
In recent years the tasteless puns seemed to have taken the English language by storm.
Jack assured Jill he would remember her tomorrow. Then Jill said “knock knock”. Jack asked “who’s there?” Jill said: “See, you’ve forgotten me already”.
Here’s another: “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Dwayne. Dwayne who? Dwayne the bathtub, I’m dwowning.”
So, if knock, knock didn’t come from Shakespeare, where did it come from?
My big dictionary contains five pages of the word knock, with
meanings such as knock on, knock to pieces, knock heads, knock under the table, knock about, knock about with, knock back, knock down, knock off, knock it off, knock on, knock over, knock up, knock on wood and heaps more.
There was even knock knok, spelt differently, meaning a bundle of heckled flax.
The dictionary had a mention of a knocking shop, but you don’t
want to know about that.
There was a mention of knockabout, similar to a rouseabout in Australia (not the American roustabout), who was willing to try his hand at any type of work.
But the dictionary had little to say about knock knock. I had trouble finding
it apart from a mention of “knock knock, in various senses”. One meaning of knock-knocks was “acoustic mines”.
Then I found in the dictionary what I was looking
for. From 1974, it went like this: “Knock knock. Who’s there? Richard Milhous. Richard Milhous who? Oh, how quickly people forget.”
He was the American leader who
was impeached. Didn’t you ever see All The President’s Men?
I believe the origins of the term might have been lost over the years.
Let’s go back a few hundred years when the knight knocked on the front door after slaying the dragon. The person on the other side almost certainly would have said: “who’s there?”
On August 19, 1936, the American entertainment magazine Variety, according to Michael Macrone, reported that the knock knock” craze was sweeping America.
Then, also according to Macrone, a radio performer called Wee Georgie Wood started a craze in the United Kingdom on November 14 in the same year with tasteless jokes. About this time the “knock knock craze took off throughout the world.
The idea was to tell the worst joke you could think of. The worse it was, the better the joke.
Shakespeare, in Macbeth, mentioned some of the events of the time.
The gatekeeper presented as a gatekeeper of hell, mentioning such people as farmers and tailors.
And you thought Bill only wrote serious stuff.
Now, whenever someone says “who’s there” expect to see a tasteless pun.
Such as: “Toby, who? Toby or not Toby, that is the question.”