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I don't get this joke. Is it some kind of play on "water, too?"

Two scientists walk into a bar. The first says, "I'll have some H2O." The second says, "I'll have a glass of water too. Why did you say H2O? It's the end of the day and there's no need to talk about work."  The first scientist stares at his drink, angry that his assassination plan has failed.


Two scientists walk into a bar. The first says, "I'll have some H2O." The second says, "I'll have a glass of water too. Why did you say H2O? It's the end of the day and there's no need to talk about work." The first scientist stares at his drink, angry that his assassination plan has failed.

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H2O2, the expected (audible) order from the second scientist, wouldn't have been so innocuous. It seems a strange sort of bar, though. And I think the descriptor 'joke' isn't all that appropriate. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 18 at 22:33
Not to mention that they can't even spell H₂O right. Epic fail on all accounts. –  RegDwigнt Feb 18 at 22:34
Hah! Maybe I have a terrible sense of humour, but I actually think that’s pretty damn funny. :-D –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 22:36
I agree with @Janus. Tricking the guy into ordering hydrogen peroxide is hilarious! I can't say that I got it without the explanation (but then it was REALLY funny!) –  David M Feb 18 at 22:42
Reminds me of a little rhyme our school's Chemistry master used to repeat, to emphasise the dangers of working with chemicals: Ramsbottom Minor is dead and gone, We'll see his face no more, For what he thought was H2O, Was H2SO4! –  WS2 Feb 18 at 22:45

3 Answers 3

This is an old chemistry pun. The first scientist expected the exchange to go something like

Scientist 1: I’d like some H₂O.

Scientist 2: I’d like some H₂O, too.

which would sound exactly the same as

Scientist 2: I’d like some H₂O₂.

H₂O₂ is the chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide, of which a glass would be highly toxic.

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I think it's interesting that your current highest upvoted answer is also joke-related. I'll have a bet with you that this one will overtake that one before the year is out! (Unless of course my mentioning it means that everyone who upvotes this one will follow the link and upvote the other one too! :) –  FumbleFingers Feb 19 at 1:21
Upvoted both ;) –  Krom Stern Feb 19 at 10:11
@FumbleFingers The funny thing is, I'm not very funny. –  choster Feb 19 at 15:00
That's for you to know and us to find out, as they say. Doubtless my constant attempts to post "witty" comments on ELU must get up your nose sometimes, but I now wish I'd put "I find it funny that..." in my first comment. Anyway, it looks like I'd be pretty certain to win that bet if you took me up on it - as I write this, the current answer already has 80 upvotes chasing 87 for the earlier one. I'd go further and say this may well end up being the all-time "fastest riser" in terms of votes gained in the first week for an answer on ELU. –  FumbleFingers Feb 19 at 15:44
And this is one of the infuriating things about SE. I would in fact consider none of my top-5 vote-getters as "great" answers; one consists of 9 words and barely makes the character count minimum. Meanwhile, several answers which I put a good amount of thought into, and which by any objective measure I would think are at least not "bad" answers, languish in the negatives. –  choster Feb 20 at 6:12

As choster explained, this is a modification of a chemistry joke.

I'd just like to add that this is an example of an anti-joke.

An anti-joke is typically prepared and delivered in a similar fashion to a regular joke but the climax (the punchline) is realistic, disappointing or depressing. This can still be funny because it can still shock the listener.

Another example of an anti-joke is:

A man walks into a bar. He is an alcoholic and is ruining his family.

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Reminds me of one of my favorites (SFW): youtube.com/watch?v=OopAwUaqknM -- A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, 'It’s probably not a good idea that you’re in here. You’re a very large animal and any sudden movements and you may injure somebody. I don’t know why you’re here. None of the glasses are ergonomically designed for you to drink from, so you should probably leave.' –  Jason C Feb 19 at 5:55
I totally disagree with the idea that OP's offering is an "anti-joke". It might be classed as an "in-joke", in that you need to know your chemistry to "get" it unaided. But everyone knows H2O=water (and the joke deftly reminds you of that before the punchline, even if it's at the margins of your knowledge). And most people have heard of hydrogen peroxide and know it's not good to drink it, even if they're not consciously aware of the chemical formula. Even if someone doesn't get the joke immediately, choster's final single sentence is probably all they'd need, to laugh along with the rest. –  FumbleFingers Feb 19 at 16:10
Two mathematicians walk into a bar. The third one ducks. –  Joe Z. Feb 19 at 16:33
The OP's joke is only really funny if you're familiar with the original joke, which is sort of the earmark of successful anti-jokes (only this one isn't successful IMO because it's way too verbose). "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!" is the canonical anti-joke, and I'm fond of "How many dull people does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One" and "What do you get when you cross a bridge with a car? You get to the other side," and the followup, "What do you get when you cross a bridge with a bicycle? You get to the other side with fewer toxic emissions." –  fluffy Feb 19 at 17:20
@FumbleFingers A joke is like a frog: you can dissect either one, and neither will survive. –  fluffy Feb 20 at 0:59

The reader is expected to be familiar with this joke, which has seen a lot of popularity on the Internet on sites like reddit lately:


The punchline here is that H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide, which can be poisonous if drunk.

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+1 for the joke works because you are expected to be familiar with the original punchline —  H202. But it's been scientifically proven on EL&U that a lot of people weren't. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 24 at 8:12

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 19 at 10:43

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