Jokes that, nowadays, need explaining

As it happens, I just saw a regency (1795 to 1837) play bill, discussed on an English TV program. It wasn’t a repeating bill, but it was continuous, with the major dramatic play on at “peak viewing time”, plus a “B movie” equivalent, filled out with some shorts and some musical numbers, giving something like a 5 hour program. Wander in, settle down for a night in front of the … stage … go on home when you get sleepy.

They probably ran ad’s between some of the items …

I think I remember that “Gilligan’s Island” musical version of “Hamlet” sung to a tune lifted from Bizet’s “Carmen”. I wonder how many people in the United States had their first exposure to both opera and Shakespeare by watching “Gilligan’s Island”. My first opera exposure came from a much more highbrow source, Warner Brothers cartoons; “Kill da wabbit!”.

Where I went to college, they had a Shakespeare’s birthday party every year. And, every year, someone did that “play”. It was more than one song from Carmen, it was the whole damned opera! “Neither a borrower nor a lender be…” was to the tune of “Torreadore”; oof. It’s been too long.I’m trying to remember which songs went with which tunes. I haven’t sung anything from Carmen in 35 years. Hell, I haven’t sung any opera in 35 years (unless you include singing along with Jesus Christ Superstar or Tommy) “Hamlet, Hamlet, be a lamblet”… “I ask to be or not to be - that is the question that I ask of thee”

OK, looking it up, the “to be or not to be” song was Habanara from Carmen; the “lamblet” song was from “The Tales of Hoffmann”. Well, I guess that needed to be explained to me! I thought they were all from Carmen.

Wasn’t that those 900 numbers, where you called and got connected immediately to a group of like-minded singles right in your own area?

And, speaking of phone EXchanges, when the Brian Setzer Orchestra did their own version of the classic PEnnsylvania 6-5000, the song ends with an old telephone operator voice going “Sorry - that number has been permanently disconnected.”

Except that’s not correct. Hotel Pennsylvania still has that number.

Back when I was in college, in the band, we were traveling to play at a basketball tournament, and stayed in the Hotel Pennsylvania. We thought it was cool, because everyone in the band already knew the number! Except it turned out that we didn’t: It’s PE6-5000, not PA6-5000 like we assumed.

No one could spell “Pennsylvania”?!?

Those young whippersnappers didn’t remember when it was it used to be Penna.

In case this isn’t a whoosh (and Chronos’ post isn’t either), this may also be a joke that needs explaining. The two-letter abbreviations for states were introduced in 1963. Before that many states had abbreviations longer than two letter; Pennsylvania was often Penn. or even Penna.

In other words, the band members were going by today’s postal abbreviation rather than the spelling of the actual word itself? Okay… :pleading_face:

That’s the implication of the post.

Actually, there’s no reason the postal abbreviation couldn’t be PE instead of PA, since Pennsylvania is the only state that begins with a “p”. The real problem is all the states that begin with “m”.

The song came out in 1940.
Today’s postal abbreviations came in 1963.

But the PE in the phone number has nothing to do with the two-letter abbreviations of the state. Telephone numbers were always the first two letters of the words that represented them. This predated the two-letter state abbreviation.

New York used to have a “Murray Hill” exchange and people had to be reminded that the letters were “MU,” not “MH.”

Yes, I am aware of that. That’s why I wasn’t sure if Chronos was joking or not. It’s not a likely mistake to make.

Even though the postal codes were set in stone in 1963 it still took time for the concept to take hold. The misabbreviation of states was a headache for a while, and still is occasionally because of the M states mentioned above. Those of school age in the 60s would have learned that the proper way to address a letter used the official 2 letter code but the rest of the country had to pick it up over time. If you get the ZIP Code you’ll be okay, but the problems come from people who don’t live in the M states not knowing those, like MA is not Maine, it’s Massachusetts, MO is Missouri, not Montana, and MS is Mississippi, not MI.

In “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas (1964), they mention “Philadelphia, PA.” I guess I can see there might be some confusion between the two abbreviations on that basis, especially among people who had heard the song but weren’t familiar with the old phone prefixes.

“Pa.” was one of the traditional abbreviations for Pennsylvania, which I remember from the 1950s/1960s. That’s almost certainly why the postal service chose it over the more logical PE.

Yeah. People understood “Penn” or “Penna” or “PA” - “PE” would have gotten blank looks.

PE is the postal code for Peru.

Not that that means much, since ID is both Idaho and Indonesia and IL is both Illinois and Israel and YT is Yukon Territory and Mayotte…

Just one more reason why I get those two places confused.