Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I understand all the individual words in the following remark, but there doesn't seem to be any connection between the first half and the second. I am left wondering whether there is an English idiom that gives a double-meaning to part of it (perhaps "picking my belly button"?), but if so it does not appear to be in any dictionary.

I'm not Catholic, but I gave up picking my belly button for lint.

Reference: The best God joke ever - and it's mine!

share|improve this question
3  
Why the downvotes and why was it closed? It was a perfectly valid language question! See psmears answer for the explanation of the pun. –  vonjd Jul 10 '11 at 11:46
    
The question seems to have been completely answered by psmears response. Anything else would be superfluous. –  pavium Jul 10 '11 at 13:27
12  
"So I'm at the Wailing Wall, standing there like a moron, with my harpoon." –  Malvolio Jul 10 '11 at 16:49
3  
@pavium: So all questions that have been answered get closed around here??? –  vonjd Jul 15 '11 at 9:23
2  
I disagree with the closing, but then I'm just a mere sub-1000 user, so I can't vote to reopen (and TPTB have decreed that jokes are (mostly) off-topic anyway) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Jul 19 '11 at 12:43
show 1 more comment

closed as off topic by MrHen, Jeff Atwood Jul 12 '11 at 17:04

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

up vote 22 down vote accepted

In Catholicism (and indeed many other branches of Christianity), the six weeks leading up to Easter are a time of contemplation and purification before the major festival. This period is known as Lent, and it is common to deny oneself something (say, sweets, chocolate, or playing computer games) as part of one's preparations (or at least it used to be — these days there is a strong trend towards doing something positive such as doing something for charity).

Thus in Catholic households, at a certain time of year, it's not uncommon to hear declarations such as "I'm giving up [chocolates] for Lent".

The joke puns on the similarity in sound between Lent and lint, a word that can be used among other things to describe the fuzzy accumulation of clothes fibres that sometimes builds up in one's navel: he's saying he's giving up picking the lint out of his bellybutton, but in such a way that it sounds like he's giving up picking his bellybutton for Lent.

For this he deserves an almighty thwack.

share|improve this answer
6  
+1, Makes things clearer; I did not understand that joke either. –  Alain Pannetier Φ Jul 10 '11 at 8:42
1  
If "Lent" had been called "Fluff", then the joke would have been clearer. –  Neil Coffey Jul 10 '11 at 9:39
2  
I did not understand it either, and I'm Catholic. –  JoseK Jul 11 '11 at 5:55
2  
+1 for "almighty thwack". –  Marthaª Jul 11 '11 at 18:37
2  
@Rachel: Right, but in this context that actually doesn't matter - there's no special double-meaning in the picking part; the joke is a weak pun on lint / lent; this explains how the first and second halves of the comment relate. (For the record, picking one's belly-button has no special significance to Catholics.) –  psmears Jul 14 '11 at 13:50
show 4 more comments

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.