Humor of Insults Not Understood

Humor of Insults Not Understood is from a book by humorist Bill Bryson titled ‘Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe’, page 241-242.

This excerpt is about the humor of insults uttered in any language hearers cannot understand -- usually.


Istanbul clearly was not destined to be a success for us.

It was, like the train that took us there, hot, fetid, crowded, and threadbare. The streets were full of urchins who snatched anything you didn’t cling to with both hands,

and the food was simply dreadful—foot-odor cheeses and mysterious lumps of goo.

One night Katz nearly got us killed when he inquired of a waiter:

“Tell me, do you have the cows shit straight onto the plate or do you scoop it on afterwards?”

One of the sustaining pleasures for Katz in the later stages of the trip was talking candidly in this way to people who could not understand him,

making smiling inquiries of a policeman concerning the celebrated tininess of his penis

or telling a surly waiter: “Can we have the check Boris? We’ve got to run because your wife’s promised to have sex with us.”

But in this instance it turned out that the waiter had worked in a little place in London for thirteen years and he understood Katz’s question only too well.

He directed us to the door with the aid of a meat cleaver, making wholly justified remarks about the nobility of Turkish cuisine and the insolence of young tourists.



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