If you’ve ever ventured into a coffee shop or church lobby in Winkler, Altona, or Grunthal, you’ve probably heard the same five or six jokes told over and over again. For some reason, us Mennonites can’t get enough of these jokes. It’s like the old man who comes by at work and says, “working hard or hardly working?” every other day. So, as Mennonites we’re very familiar with these jokes–too familiar, actually–but non-Mennonites might not “get the joke” so we here at the Daily Bonnet have decided to lend a helping hand and explain these classic jokes so that outsiders can join in on the laughter.
Joke 1) Q: Did you hear about the Mennonite woman who took a bath?
A: She filled the tub, then added the water!
Explanation: I suppose the explanation here is obvious. The aforementioned Mennonite woman is particularly rotund and filled the bathtub with her body before ever having to add any water. This phenomenon is usually caused by consumption of schmaunt fat and platz and, despite the joke’s suggestion, it is not limited to women. Nor is it anything to be ashamed of. As Mennonites, it’s something we celebrate!
Joke 2) Q: How was copper wire invented?
A: Someone rolled a penny down the street in the Altona.
Explanation: The idea here is that a couple Mennonites fought over a penny and stretched it out into copper wire. The reason for this is because Mennonites are–how should I say it–rather frugal. Our “resourcefulness” is the result of a combination of factors: Centuries of persecution in the old country, an excessive Protestant work ethic, and a penchant for saving, rather than “showing off” our money. Since we no longer use pennies in Canada, we now stretch dimes and quarters into steel wire.
Joke 3) Q: How do you cause a Mennonite to have an existential crisis?
A: Offer him/her free dance lessons.
Explanation: There are a couple things going on here. First of all, Mennonites don’t dance. If the elders aren’t watching, we might try, but we suck at it, except for my friend Mark Reimer. Anyway, as the previous joke suggested, we’re also rather cheap, so offering free dance lessons provides quite the dilemma. Do you take the lessons because they’re free, or turn them down because dancing is forbidden? This causes Mennonites to experience deep angst and question their very existence. It’s driven many a Mennonite to read Kierkegaard.
Joke 4) Q: Did you hear about the wall they built around Winkler?
A: Yeah, they want to prevent the spread of Abes.
Explanation: Mennonites, in particular those of the Russian variety, love to name their children Abe. Abes are running absolutely rampant in Winkler and many other Mennonite towns. I’m not sure why that name is chosen. Corny and Henry are also very popular. I think it helps that Abe is biblical and easy to spell.
Joke 5) Q: What’s the difference between a Mennonite and a Hutterite?
A: A Mennonite is too cheap to buy the uniform.
Explanation: Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish are all “Anabaptists”. We’re theological cousins you could say. While many Mennonites have modernized and no longer wear distinctive dress, most Hutterites still do. Of course, the reason we don’t wear the “uniform” is, according to the joke, because we’re too cheap. In reality buying Old Navy hoodies and American Eagle jeans is a lot more expensive than dresses made of discarded living room curtains.
Joke 6) Any joke in Plautdietsch.
Explanation: Don’t ask. They’re untranslatable.