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If I have to think of a joke on the spot, the first one I can remember is:
What’s the difference between a duck?
Answer: One of its legs is both the same.

Never mind that most people I have tried to tell this joke to over the years have pointed out very patiently that the word “difference” implies that two things will be contrasted, and that contrasting something with itself is logically impossible. This is probably the first joke I learned as a kid, which may be why it sticks with me.

tennysonIf I have to think of a poem, the first one that comes to mind is Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” which commemorates another kind of poor logic, the flawed cavalry charge at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. It’s not the first poem I ever learned, but it’s one of the first ever to be recorded, as you can hear for yourself here. Made on wax cylinders in 1890, it retains all the charm a beardy old Poet Laureate can muster (quite a lot, by the way; no Tennyson-bashing going on here, not during National Poetry Month). Listen now, or wait a year and a half and celebrate the 160th anniversary of the fatal charge.

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