Jokes Course Humour | Vocabulary | Listenings


These English Activities are built around English jokes. The jokes may be old or new; they may be very funny or just amusing. The language of the joke is explored, and you will begin to understand a very important aspect of the English language - humour. Many students of English, be they students of English as a second language or of English as a foreign language, find it very difficult to "get" English jokes. British humour has a strong satirical element aimed at showing the absurdity of everyday life. A lot of English humour depends on cultural knowledge and the themes commonly include the British class system, wit, innuendo, to boost subjects and puns, self-deprecation, sarcasm, and insults. As well as this, English humour is often delivered in a deadpan way or is considered by many to be insensitive. A particular aspect of British English humour is the humour of the macabre, were topics that are usually treated seriously are treated in a very humorous or satirical way.


Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.


Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.  

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There are four homophones in the lesson which have very different spellings but exactly the same sound when spoken. The exercises will help you with your pronunciation skills. English humour can be difficult for non-native English speakers. This is why simple English jokes are a very good way of teaching vocabulary, and why I’ve chosen a very simple joke for this lesson. The jokes goes: A lion walks into a restaurant, sits down and calls the waiter over. The waiter says, Can I take your order, Sir? To which the lion says, I’d like an antelope… steak. The waiter says, Of course, Sir. One antelope steak. But why the pause? The lion says, Because I’m a lion. Watch the video and then do the exercises in the Activator.   

Jokes Course


From The OED on CD-ROM

pause, n. (pɔːz) 

Also 5–7 pawse, 6 paws. 

1. a.1.a An act of stopping or ceasing for a short time in a course of action, esp. in speaking; a short interval of inaction or silence; an intermission; sometimes spec. an intermission arising from doubt or uncertainty, a hesitation. 

b.1.b (Without article.) Intermission, delay, waiting, hesitation, suspense. 

c.1.c Phr. to give pause to, to put to a pause: to cause to stop or hesitate; to check the progress or course of; to ‘pull up’. in or at pause (†under a pause): pausing, not proceeding, temporarily inactive or motionless; hesitating, in suspense. 

d.1.d (See quot. 1966.) Also fig. 

2. a.2.a spec. One of the intermissions, stops, or breaks made, according to the sense, in speaking or reading; in Prosody, such a break occurring according to rule at a particular point in a verse, a cæsura; also, a break of definite length in a verse, occupying the time of a syllable or number of syllables. Also transf. in a piece of music. 

b.2.b spec. in Linguistics. The break marking juncture, sometimes regarded as having phonemic status. 

3.3 Mus. †a.3.a A character denoting an interval of silence; a rest. Obs. 

b.3.b The character ‹pauseo› or ‹pauseu› placed over or under a note or rest to indicate that its duration is to be lengthened indefinitely. (Also placed over a double bar at the conclusion of a piece, and rarely over a single bar in the course of it to indicate a short but indefinite interval of silence.) 

4.4 Heb. Gram. In the expressions in pause (orig. in sense 2), into pause: the form that a word or vowel takes before one of the chief stops: cf. pausal. 

5.5 Comb. pause-filler, pause-linking, pause-marker, pause-making, pause-pattern, pause rhythm, pause-substitute; pause-marking vbl. n.; pause-giving ppl. adj.; pause-pitch, the pitch pattern which characteristically precedes a pause in utterance. 

paw, n.1 (pɔː) 

Forms: 4–5 powe, 4–6 pawe, 5–6 Sc. pow, (poll), 6– paw. 

1. a.1.a The foot of a beast having claws or nails. (Distinguished from hoof.) 

b.1.b The foot of any animal; esp. the claw of a bird. rare. Cf. F. patte (not however said of birds of prey). 

c.1.c ? Short for cat's-paw. 

2. a.2.a Contemptuously or jocularly applied to the hand, esp. when clumsy, or awkwardly used. colloq. 

b.2.b transf. ‘Hand’ in the sense of handiwork; handwriting, ‘fist’; signature. 

3.3 [f. paw v.] The action, or an act, of pawing. 

4.4 attrib. and Comb., as paw-mark, paw print (also fig.), paw-stroke, paw-tread; paw-like adj. Also pawful. 


Understanding another culture's humour can be one of the most challenging things for a student of any language to master. The lessons in this course are all typical English jokes which depend for their humour on word play, puns, and pronunciation. If you understand the humour in these jokes, you will be well on your way to understanding English humour in general.

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This Alaska joke gets its humour from the pronunciation features of British English. If you understand the rhythm of English and how weak and strong syllables behave when we speak, you will be able to understand the humour of this joke. The Britlish Library lesson explains how and why the joke is funny and gives you plenty of exercises to help you learn, remember, and use these pronunciation features.

Categories: Humour | Vocabulary | Listenings | Pronunciation

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A lot of jokes in English depend for their humour on the way completely different words can sound identical due to the speech features we find in spoken British English. This is one of those jokes. Listen to the joke and then do the exercises so that you can learn about why it is so funny. English humour can be difficult for non-native English speakers. This is why simple English jokes are a very good way of teaching vocabulary, and why I’ve chosen a very simple joke for this lesson. I’m not going to write the joke here as it depends for its humour entirely on a homophone.       

Categories: Humour | Vocabulary | Pronunciation | Listenings

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Decomposing - English Joke

The British English vocabulary included in the exercises in the Britlish library includes deactivate, debrief, debug, decommission, decompile, decompose, decompress, deforestation, demoralize, demystify, denature, and desaturate. English humour can be difficult for non-native English speakers. This is why simple English jokes are a very good way of teaching vocabulary, and why I’ve chosen a very simple joke for this lesson. The joke goes: Good heavens! When you stand here next to Beethoven’s grave, you can almost hear his music, only it seems to be playing backwards. What on earth could be causing that? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? What is? He’s decomposing. This humour may leave many students scratching their heads. First, watch the video and see if you understand where the humour comes from in this British English joke. Then, do the exercises in the Britlish Library and learn why this joke is funny. The exercises will also help you with the vocabulary of words which begin with the Latin prefix de- meaning undoing or reversing the action of a verb.       

Categories: Humour | Vocabulary | Listenings

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