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 home or favoured nationality and ends with the nationality and associated stereotype against which the joke is made. 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 in order by person, the final reaction being the punch line, playing up to the stereotype of that nationality.
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- 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." and is given another beer. The Irishman says, "Ah, to hell with it" and drinks his pint, fly and all. The Scotsman pulls the fly out of his beer, shakes the fly 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!"
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.
- in Poland as "A Pole, a German and a Russian...",
- in the Czech Republic as "A Czech, an American and a Russian...",
- in Russia, see Russian jokes: Russians
- in Scandinavia as "A Swede, a Dane and a Norwegian...",
- in Sweden, the Bellman joke has this format: "Russian, a German and Bellman...", where Bellman was originally a real person, Carl Michael Bellman.
The joke need not necessarily involve nationalities:
- The classical mathematician jokes begin: "A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer..."
- Delia Chiaro (1992), The Language of Jokes, London, Routledge (see pp. 48–50 on the three nationalities joke).