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 miserly, 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.[1] 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. The joke uses the rule of three, the first two characters being used to set up an expectation which is then subverted in some way by the third.[2]

An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman were in a pub, talking about their sons. "My son was born on St George’s Day," commented the English man. "So we obviously decided to call him George." "That’s a real coincidence,” remarked the Scot. "My son was born on St Andrew’s Day, so obviously we decided to call him Andrew."
"That’s incredible, what a coincidence," said the Irishman. "Exactly the same thing happened with my son Pancake.”[2]

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, or in any case ultimately victorious.

  • Such jokes in Canada usually substitute the 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...",[3]
  • 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...",[4]
  • in Sweden, the Bellman joke has this format: "a Russian, a German and Bellman...", where Bellman was originally a real person, Carl Michael Bellman.
  • in Finland as "A Finn, a Swede and a Norwegian (or a Dane)..."
  • in Spain there are several 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 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 man, a Frenchman and an Englishman..."
  • in Germany with varying other nationalities, but most commonly "a German, an Austrian and a Swiss"
  • in Greece all playing. From the typical with the nationalities (commonly "a Greek, a second one, a third one... different nationalities), the localities variant (a Cretan, a Cypriot, and a Pontian...), with an professionals argument (a sculpturer, a plastic surgery, and a politician... different jobs in all the three) until the variant-mix, for example "a plumber from NYC, a doctor from Beijing, and a shepherd from Anogeia...", and so on.
  • 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, with the nationalities of neutral characters being American, English or French. There is also a variation that gets only two men, usually a Brazilian and an Argentinian.
  • in Iran as "A Persian, a Turk and an Arab...".

The joke need not necessarily involve nationalities. The classical mathematician jokes begin: "A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer..."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Delia Chiaro (1992), The Language of Jokes, London, Routledge (see pp. 48–50 on the three nationalities joke)
  2. ^ a b Partington, Alan (2006). The Linguistics of Laughter: A Corpus-Assisted Study of Laughter-Talk. Routledge. p. 42. ISBN 1134178123. 
  3. ^ Dorota Brzozowska. "Three characters in Polish jokes" (PDF). doi:10.7592/EP.1.brzozowska. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  4. ^ Reciprocal national stereotypes in Scandinavia, by Thomas Hylland Eriksen