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They pay me to do this

The Joke of the Week, “The doctors and the lawyer,” is available at

Also up this morning, your word of the week, borborygmus. As always, you’re invited to top the example sentence and to look at the gallery of past words of the week.

I’m indebted to the reader who sent me a pretty fair joke, which will go into the hopper for production when the next batch is produced. Your suggestions of favorite jokes and nominations for word of the week are always welcome.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:49 AM | | Comments (10)


Well, I learnt two things there: the meaning of the word 'borborygmus', and, far more interestingly, there's a cultural stereotype of animosity between US doctors and lawyers.
I'm in the UK, and in neither profession, but this is the very first time I've encountered such an assumption, and I'm pretty sure it's not one that holds here - the joke would have to involve different categories of people to work (like, I don't know, maybe fans of long-time rival football teams or something). Is it really 'a truth universally acknowledged' in America? Is it a common trope in jokes? What is the real or supposed reason for the ill feeling?

Lawyers fly economy?

pk - you're right in labelling it a common trope. From my experience (very extensive), there's not much basis in reality.

Didn't this lawyer say he'd spent the day trying a malpractice case? I took that to be the reason for the doctors' dislike.

In BrE I think the only person trying the case is the judge. Do I understand from the joke that in the US any lawyer involved can be said to be trying the case? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

In the U.S. we usually say lawyers "take" cases.

I don't have access to the video at the moment and can't remember how the joke was worded. Perhaps I've inserted "trying" where the joke did not.

In my very American courtroom, attorneys try cases.

Traditionally in the U.S. the lawyer tries the case, and the judge may either try it or hear it; in the U.K., the lawyer pleads the case, the judge tries it. U.S. judges also hand down their judgments rather than (as in the U.K.) handing them out.

I first heard the word as 'borborygmi' on a George Carlin album*. The 'i' never looked right to me, even though it sounded right.

*For the younger crowd: Albums were thin disks of hard vinyl, usually but not always black, with music or other sounds encoded in an analog fashion on both sides of the disk through the use of a single spiral path known as a groove.

I have been a fan of boborygmi since my first introduction via Ogden Nash. Interesting to see that it exists in the singular as a word, since it seldom exists in the singular in actuality.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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