My dog has no nose

A; My dog has nose.
B: How does it smell?
A: Terrible!

At the risk of over-explaining a venerable joke (your mileage may vary as to how funny it actually is(n’t)), this joke relies on the fact that smell means both emit an odour and perceive an odour. B means How does it perceive an odour?. A’s response means It emits a terrible odour. But you knew that.

The same thing happens with taste, which means both emit a flavour (for the want of a better, short description) and perceive a flavour. Because dogs are more famous for their sense of smell than their sense of taste, and because we are more likely to smell dogs than to taste them (even in Korea), the following joke would not work (unless as a bizarre parody):

A: My dog has no tongue.
B: How does it taste?
A: Terrible!

(Actually, there are taste buds elsewhere in the mouth, so it has a reduced sense of taste.)

When it comes to sound and sight, things diverge:

A: My dog had no ears.
B: How does it hear?
A: By bone conduction.


B: How does it sound?
A: Like any other dog – it barks.

A: My dog has no eyes.
B: How does it see?
A: It doesn’t. It has no eyes. Aren’t you listening?


B: How does it look?
A: Really sad.

The similarity/difference between see and look is exploited in the musical Fiddler on the roof (whether the line should be credited to the original short-story writer Shalom Aleichem or the writer of the book for the musical Joseph Stein). Yente the match-maker (it took me a long time to figure that one) suggests a match between one man’s son and another man’s daughter. The first man objects that the daughter is almost blind. Yente replies “Is your son so much to look at? The way she sees and the way he looks – it’s a perfect match!”

One lesson I have used a number of times is to prompt students to talk about a memorable sight, sound, smell, taste or feeling (physical or emotional). One student asked another “Do you have a memorable smell?”.

PS The reason I was thinking about this is that between watching episodes of the latest series of Doctor Who, I occasionally read about previous episodes/series/seasons. I watched almost all of series 1 at the time, but hadn’t remembered that the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) alludes to this joke just before his regeneration:

The Doctor: Rose Tyler. I was going to take you to so many places. Barcelona. Not the city Barcelona, the planet Barcelona. You’d love it. Fantastic place! They’ve got dogs with no noses! [Laughs] Imagine how many times a day you end up telling that joke and it’s still funny!


2 thoughts on “My dog has no nose

  1. Oddly, the day before you published this, I had been rereading a Facebook post of my own from several years ago, it was a photo of our rooftop weather station’s screen announcing that it was currently “raining cats and dogs”. Naturally, the comments quickly devolved from, “Be careful not to step in a poodle”, into the “My dog has no nose” variety, and went on to include most versions. Coming across this obscure running joke twice in just a couple of days is…odd?


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