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I've recently read this joke:

You may be right, Pythagoras, but everyone’s going to laugh if you call it a “hypotenuse”.

Does "hypotenuse" have a second meaning? What's funny about the word? Is it something about a wrong pronunciation?

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I suspect it's just that the writer thought the word sounded funny. I don't know of any other meaning in English. My dictionary says the Greek means "to stretch under", which doesn't sound particularly funny either. –  Jay Sep 7 '12 at 13:57
@Jay: I suspect if you asked a large number of native speakers to identify the "funniest" word out of motorcycle, entertainment, superstitious, constellation, hypotenuse, opposition, predatory, mandatory, etc., forced to make a choice, the vast majority would pick hypotenuse. Those are useful links, btw. –  FumbleFingers Sep 7 '12 at 19:57
"I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical, I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical, About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news – With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse." - W. S. Gilbert, Pirates of Penzance. In the version of the play that I saw, after singing "lot o' news" the actor paused and said, "Hmm, what rhymes with lot o' news ... oh ..." –  Jay Sep 8 '12 at 4:13

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'd have to see the context on the joke, but when I was a teenager in math class we'd laugh about it being "High Pot in Use".

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Context: "Frank and Ernest" Oct 15, 2006 and May 13, 1984... frankandernest.com –  GEdgar Sep 7 '12 at 16:59
That was doubtless a peculiarity of your math class or some other highly regional interpretation. I don't think there's any reason to postulate alliterative words to make hypotenuse "funny". –  FumbleFingers Sep 7 '12 at 20:03

That is because of the famous comedy duo, Key and Peele's video on "Hypotenuse" . Watch it here and you will know Key & Peele - High On Potenuse

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Some of us might not want to watch a video. Can't you just tell us why? –  curiousdannii Sep 25 at 5:27
@curiousdannii really!! In today's world where everyone loves to see visual example and youtube is the first place ppl look for information , u r saying u wouldn't want to see it? Anyways , the joke is that while teacher was teaching pythagoras theorem one guy whispers " I wish I was high on potenuse " the other guy says it loudly and the whole class finds it funny as do the teacher , now the first guy wants the credit as he said it first but no one listens , and the second guy becomes famous for this so much that president presents him an award ...and thats the whole joke's about! –  Kaify Sep 26 at 5:49
What about people reading this on their phone, or with a bad internet connection, or who need to be quiet, or who just want a quick answer on this page without having to go to another site. It's your job to summarise it for us. Now that you've done that, why not edit your answer to add it directly? :) –  curiousdannii Sep 26 at 6:31
@curiousdannii this for you and any one who agrees with you , if you want to be spoon fed , I am sorry I can't help it. One can only point you to the right direction , its your choice if you wanna follow it or not. And as a matter of fact I would rather take my chance to not consider those rare minority of people who doesn't even have access to youtube yet and leave the answer to be enjoyed by those who have!! I will give you the preference of watching the video yourself and submit the summary as your own answer.I think my job here is done!! Thank you!! –  Kaify 2 hours ago

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