An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman

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"An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman" is the opening line of a category of joke popular in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The nationalities involved may vary, though they are usually restricted to those within Ireland and the UK, and the number of people involved is usually three or sometimes four. In Ireland, the characters are sometimes called "Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman, and Paddy Scotsman". Depending on who is telling the joke, one nationality fares well and the other nationalities fare poorly according to national stereotypes. For example in England the punchline is usually based around the Irishman being stupid, the Scotsman being mean or frugal, and the Englishman being posh or a snob but ultimately not the butt of the joke, whereas in Scotland and Ireland, the Englishman will typically be the butt of the joke. Sometimes, when the joke requires four people, a Welshman is brought into the joke.


The joke typically starts with the favoured nationality. For example in England, the joke begins "An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman..." whereas in Ireland it begins "Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman, and Paddy Scotsman". The joke typically places the three characters in a scenario. How each person in the joke reacts to the scenario is then explained, the final reaction being the punch line, playing up to the stereotype of that nationality.


  • A Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman find a wizard on the top of a tall cliff. The wizard orders them to jump off the cliff, but he also promises that if they say anything while falling, they will get it at the bottom of the cliff. So first, the Scotsman jumps off the cliff and shouts, "Pillows!" and so he lands on some pillows. Then the Irishman jumps off the cliff, and he shouts, "Hay!" and so he lands on some hay. Finally the Englishman runs to jump off the cliff, but he trips on a rock just before the jump and says, "Aw, crap!"
  • An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman were discussing the infidelity of their wives. "I think my wife is having an affair with an electrician", said the Englishman, "because I found an electrician's toolbox under her bed last night." "I think my wife is having an affair with a plumber", said the Scotsman, "because last night I found a plunger under her bed". "I think my wife is having an affair with a horse", said the Irishman, "because last night I found a jockey under her bed."
  • An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman are sitting in a bar. Suddenly, a fly dives into each of their beers. The Englishman says, "Barman, a fly just dived into my beer. Bring me another one." The Englishman got another beer. The Irishman says, "Ah, to hell with it," and empties his pint, fly and all. The Scotsman pulls the fly out of his beer, shakes it up and down, and screams, "Spit it out, damn you! Spit it out!" (This time playing on the stereotypical Scottish thriftiness.)
  • An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The bartender turns to them, takes one look, and says, "What is this - some kind of joke?"
  • An Englishman, an Irishman and a Rabbi walk into a bar. The Rabbi stops and says, "Wait a minute! I'm in the wrong joke here!"

National variations[edit]

The "three nationalities" joke format is also very common in other countries. In these cases, the two foreigners are almost always portrayed as cocky, stupid, or naïve, while the favoured national is smart, practical and, ultimately, victorious.[citation needed]

  • Such jokes in Canada usually substitute the supposedly stupid Irishman with Newfie (a sometimes pejorative term for someone who is from Newfoundland).[citation needed]
  • in Turkey as "An Englishman, a Frenchman, and Temel (a fictional character from Black Sea Region of Turkey)...",[citation needed]
  • in China as "A Chinese, an American and a Japanese",[citation needed]
  • in Poland as "A Pole, a German and a Russian...",[1]
  • in the Czech Republic as "A Czech, an American and a Russian...",[1]
  • in Russia, see Russian jokes: Russians
  • in Scandinavia as "A Swede, a Dane and a Norwegian...",[2]
  • in Finland as "A Finn, a Swede and a Norwegian (or a Dane)..."
  • in Spain there are up to three variants:
  • in one, Frenchman (as snob), Englishman (as patriotic) and Spaniard is used (sometimes other nationals are used: Italian for womanizers, German for punctual, etc.), and even sometimes their jobs (militar Guardia Civil contrasting to carabinieri, French gendarmes and bobbies)
  • other use the Spanish regions, also following stereotypes: funny Andalousian, mean Catalans, countryside fellows Basques, Galicians or from Aragon, cocky from Madrid, etc. In contrast, neighbouring Portugueses are seldom mentioned.
  • one last variant uses the Spaniard as the butt of the pun.
  • in Sweden, the Bellman joke has this format: "Russian, a German and Bellman...", where Bellman was originally a real person, Carl Michael Bellman.
  • in Italy as "A French, an Englishman (or a German) and an Italian..." where normally the other foreigners are portrayed as slow or stupid and the Italian is smarter or wins a competition by cheating
  • in Portugal as "a Portuguese, a Frenchman and an Englishman..."
Common example: «A Portuguese, a Frenchman and an Englishman bet 500 euros they can win the money jumping off a building. The Englishman says "by England!" (here and in the following by means 'for', as both are used as "por" in Portuguese in this context), jumps and dies; the Frenchman says "by France!", jumps and dies; the Portuguese says "by the stairs!", goes and wins the money.»
  • in Germany with varying other nationalities, but most commonly "a German, an Austrian and a Swiss"
  • in India as "a Sardar, a Bihari and a Bengali..."
  • in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, any variation on the many nationalities there can substitute the original (i.e. "a Croat, a Serb and a Bosniak..." or "a Montenegrin, a Macedonian, and a Slovenian..." and so on)
  • in Brazil there are variations. It is common to use an argentinian or a portuguese as the stupid one, if there is only one flawed man.
The nationalities of neutral characters are american, english or french. There is also a variation that gets only two man, usually a brazilian and an argentinian. There is another variation that takes locations, usually Brazil, England and France.
  • 3 men example:
A brazilian, an american and an argentinian found a lamp with a genie. The genie gave three wishes, one for each once they found the lamp together. First goes the american, he asks for a wall surrounding his country to protect it. A wall as tall as the tallest buildings. The genie grants his wish. The argentinian likes the idea and asks a wall of such kind surrounding his country too. The genie gives him the wall. The brazilian asks: "How tall is that argentinian wall?", the genie answers: "As tall as the tallest of their buildings."
The brazilian promptly says: "Fill it with water."
  • Location variation example:
An old traveller is talking to the girl sitting next to him on a plane. He tries to impress her saying he knows where he is by just sticking his hand out of the plane. She gets curious and he proceeds with the gag:
"We are at France!", says him.
"How do you know?", asks the girl.
"I just touched the Eiffel Tower."
She smiles and he continues.
"We are at England!"
"How do you know?"
"I just touched the Big Ben!"
She enjoys the jokes, so he continues. He sticks his hand out of the window and his face turned serious.
"What's wrong?", asks the girl.
"We are at Brazil"
"Did you touched the Christ Redeemer?"
"No. Somebody just stole my watch."

The joke need not necessarily involve nationalities:

  • The classical mathematician jokes begin: "A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer..."

See also[edit]



  • Delia Chiaro (1992), The Language of Jokes, London, Routledge (see pp. 48–50 on the three nationalities joke).