Have you heard Abbott & Costello's 'Ten Year Old Child Bride' joke from 1941?

Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds

Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. This week we meander back to the more innocent times of 1941. Universal Pictures released a war film titled "Buck Privates" starring Abbott and Costello. It's mostly silly gags throughout but there's a slightly notorious joke hidden in there about a 40 year old man marrying a ten year old girl. The duo would continue the joke for some years, short-titled "You're 40, She's 10":

To Costello's credit, though Abbott urges him to pursue his infatuation with the 10 year old, the math on their age isn't right. It sets up the comedy, based on fractions and percentages: When will she be old enough? The duo are best known for other logic problems (like Who's on First?). Here's the entire routine:

Abbott: You're 40 years-old and you're in love with this little girl that's 10 years-old. You're four times as old as that girl and you couldn't marry her, could you?

Costello: Not unless I come from the mountains.

Abbott: All right. You're 40 years-old. You're four times as old as this girl, and you can't marry her, so you wait five years. By that time the little girl's 15 and you're 45. You're only three times as old as that little girl. So you wait 15 years and when the girl is 30, you're at 60. You're only twice as old as that little girl.

Costello: She's catching up.

Abbott: Yes, yes. Now here's the question. How long do you have to wait until you and that little girl are the same age?

Costello: Now what kinda question is that? That's ridiculous!

Abbott: Ridiculous or not, answer the question.

Costello: If I wait for that girl she'll pass me up. She'll wind up older than I am.

Abbott: What are you talking about?

Costello: She'll have to wait for me!

Abbott: Why should she wait for you?

Costello: I was nice enough to wait for her!

It's not a terrible abstract math joke but certainly might concern modern audiences. The title for the film "Buck Privates" doesn't help!

Appropriately, this week, we also conclude with our series of mail-order psychiatry records from the 1960s, and continue our audiodrama/radio program "Charlie Pickle" with an introduction to the manager of The Clarence Coffee Cup, "Angela Simmons".

Connect with SWWE via 1940s Rationale and Collective Reasoning on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google .

Incidentally, with the Abbott and Costello joke being written 80 years ago in 1941, this year we can celebrate the birthday of the girl, who probably just turned 90! Lou Costello died at age 52, indeed making him much younger. Thanks and have a good week, Ethan