Sunday, August 29, 2010




1 : a select group
2: the number (as a majority) of officers or members of a body that when duly assembled is legally competent to transact business

I cannot lie and say that QUORUM immediately made me think of light bulb jokes; it did not. In fact, I read the definition this morning, worked a nine hour shift, and then came home and sat in front of my computer writing emails for forty minutes, the last ten during which I was devouring a delicious homemade quesadilla. Only after these steps did I make the correlation between this word and a genre of bad jokes. The whole premise behind the light bulb joke revolves around the question of QUORUM—how many Xs does it take to change a light bulb?

Light bulb jokes emerged in the early 60's, initially as an attack on Poles through derogatory stereotypes. The first light-bulb joke on formal record is:

How many Poles does it take to change a light bulb?
Three—one to hold the light bulb, and two to turn the ladder.

According to Judith B. Kerman's scholarly article on the topic, the jokes gradually became less derogatory and more self-reflexive; groups would make up light-hearted light bulb (no pun intended...) jokes about themselves, making fun of their imposed stereotypes and hence reassuming some control.

An Example (from Kerman's article):

How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb?
Five—one to change the bulb and four to share the experience.

If Californians are telling this joke to each other, over a joint—not derogatory.

Another Example (from me):

How many graduate writing students does it take to change a light bulb?
Is this a rhetorical question?

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