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The Long History of a Lame Joke

Nancy Astor was the first woman member of the British Parliament, in 1919. She served until 1945. Winston Churchill served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945. You've probably heard of this famous exchange between the two political rivals.

Lady Astor: ‘If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.’

Churchill: ‘Nancy, if I were your husband I would drink it.’

That was a shorthand way to illustrate their relationship, but it never happened, at least between those two. The first time it was attributed to Astor and Churchill was in 1952, several years after they were both out of office. So where did the joke come from?

All this has been established by an excellent page which has tracked this exchange back to 1899 and the US press. I’m intrigued above all, by the way that the joke evolved afterwards in Britain. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years following urban legends, but this is the first time I’ve tracked a simple apocryphal exchange. The first thing to say is that the story crosses the Atlantic in the by early 1900; and the first references notes its American origin.

The joke has been all over the place, and has evolved slightly in its telling. Read the long history of a simple joke that never went away at Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog. -via Strange Company


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