Most jokes follow rigid principles, if you care to analyze them. A favorite of mine, as joke principles go, is the "divide-by-zero"-joke, or "multiply-by-zero"-joke, as the type may just as well be called - the mathematical analogy is equally out of place in both cases. However, as the common principle in these jokes is a play with nonexistence, the term "zero" in itself is not entirely out of place.

Example 1:

Customer to waiter: "A cup of coffee, without cream, please!"

The waiter runs off to the kitchen and returns: "The cook is unfortunately out of cream. Would a cup of coffee without milk be OK?"

Example 2:

Bystander to angler: "How many fish have you caught today?"

Angler: "Well, if I get the one I'm waiting for, and two more, then it will be a total of three."

The following was a favorite in the old Soviet Union, with its chronic shortages and queues:

Example 3:

Customer: "I'd like to buy a jacket, please."

Shop attendant: "Sorry Comrade, this is the wrong shop. This is not the shop that doesn't have any jackets - this is the shop that doesn't have any trousers. The shop that doesn't have any jackets is across the street."

Don't be deceived by the apparent innocuousness of the examples above - there is a delightful aura of abstract evil radiating from "divide-by-zero"-jokes, an aura that sex-jokes, confused-reference-jokes, multiple-reference-jokes, racist jokes, fart-jokes etc., decidedly lack.

The story of Stampy, the horse who could do math.

I had been looking for a pony for my poor daughter. She had been wanting one so much, and finally we'd just reached that place in our lives when I could actually afford everything a pony would need to survive. During my search, I had come across an advertisement for a horse that could do math. I couldn't pass up this opportunity.

I found myself on a poor, rustic farmland, approaching a dilapidated house cautiously, as if my approach might somehow cause it to collapse. An old man sat lonely on the porch, eyeing me as I approached. Seconds of silence passed, so I thought I should probably explain why I was there.

"I heard that you have a horse that can do math. I'd love to meet it, please."

The man eyed me suspiciously as he puffed a long puff from his pipe. He began to chuckle as he stood up on a pair of legs would make a skeleton blush.

"Ye got yer fifty buckaroos, sonny boy?" I was hardly young enough to be called "sonny boy", but I suppose that relatively speaking I probably was.

I handed over the cash and the man slowly escorted me to the stables. They too seemed to be falling apart. The years hadn't been kind to this man or his farm, and I was beginning to think that I had just stepped into some crazy axe-murderer's dream. No one to hear me scream for miles. Honestly, who'd ever heard of a horse who could do math?

"Hey there, Stampy! Ye've got a visitor!" He gently stroked the beautiful creature. How such a horse existed in these dismal surroundings was beyond my comprehension, and yet here it was. I knew right then that I wanted this horse for my daughter.

"Hi there, Stampy!" I said. Jokingly, I added, "So, fella, what's two plus two?" The horse reared up on its hind legs and suddenly stomped the ground, four times quickly in succession.

"Oh please, sonny. Why don't ye try to challenge the poor girl?" So it was true. This horse really could do math.

"Well, what's the solution of the equation 2x+3=7 ?" Stampy neighed as he stamped out another two blasts on the ground.

"Come on, boy! This ain't no kid, here! He can do that nitty-gritty fru-fru math kids these days are learnin'. What was it called?"

"Calculus?" I asked.

"Yeah! That's it! Calcurust. Never understood it much meself, but this horse has got it learned like a wife who's been out of line."

I began to wonder just where the man's wife was. More importantly, though, I thought of a really challenging question to stump the intelligent beast.

"So, Stampy," I began, "What's ten divided by zero?"

Suddenly the old man began screaming at me and clawing at my chest. "Run! Run!" he screamed at me. Hell started breaking loose as Stampy seemed to go into an uncontrollable rage. I darted out of the stable as Stampy's rage began to knock it over. The man ran beside me, seemingly faster than his poor legs could carry him. "Ye are such a stupid boy. Not the first to make that mistake, surely not the first. Maybe I should start warning ye strange folk who come in here with yer fancy cars and yer fancy education."

I suddenly passed a skeleton on my left, and then a decaying corpse on my right as I ran full-speed through the field. Behind me came the weight of the great horse, crushing down on my torso, driving me into the ground, obliterating my spinal column.

I looked up at the old man with my last ounce of strength. The last words I heard as I looked at him were, "Fatal Error, divide by zero," and then he shook his head as he led Stampy away from my dying body.

Do not teach a horse to do math. Seriously, don't.

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