A pronounced difference

A friend posed a riddle to me recently: “What’s the difference between a chemist and a plumber?”

The answer I came up with was “A chemist ionizes, and a plumber unionizes.” Although, I added, the chemist also unionizes.

Turns out this was fairly close to the ‘right’ answer, which is, in its written form: “Ask them each to pronounce the word ‘unionize’.”

Yet if you explain the answer out loud, you need to say something like “The way they pronounce the word “un–Ionize.” If you say “The way they pronounce the word ‘unionize'”, a lot of people will just be confused and not get the joke at all.

After thinking about it for a bit more, I then sent my friend the following email: “On the other hand, whether it’s the chemist or the plumber who unionizes, the world still ends up with fewer free radicals.”

My new answer was kind of opposite to the first answer. Whereas the standard answer depends on sound, this one depends on deliberately ignoring sound — as though words have no pronunciation at all.

So here we have an example of humor that can exist only in written form. I wonder how common that is.

2 Responses to “A pronounced difference”

  1. sally says:

    How do you tell if a chemist has been in your kitchen?

    The donut holes are un-ionized.

  2. admin says:

    Why is it the opposite if a plumber has been in your kitchen?

    Because the plumber unionizes the donut holes, and then the charge increases.

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