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!

  • 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, 2011 at 11:46
  • The question seems to have been completely answered by psmears response. Anything else would be superfluous.
    – pavium
    Jul 10, 2011 at 13:27
  • 12
    "So I'm at the Wailing Wall, standing there like a moron, with my harpoon." Jul 10, 2011 at 16:49
  • 3
    @pavium: So all questions that have been answered get closed around here???
    – vonjd
    Jul 15, 2011 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) Jul 19, 2011 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


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.

  • 6
    +1, Makes things clearer; I did not understand that joke either. Jul 10, 2011 at 8:42
  • 1
    If "Lent" had been called "Fluff", then the joke would have been clearer. Jul 10, 2011 at 9:39
  • 2
    I did not understand it either, and I'm Catholic.
    – JoseK
    Jul 11, 2011 at 5:55
  • What if someone is not Catholic, like myself. Being a non-Catholic, I would say picking my belly-button is akin to picking my nose, or twiddling my thumbs, or tapping my foot -- anything that is done semi-consciously while "killing time" waiting on someone else.
    – Rachel
    Jul 14, 2011 at 13:39
  • 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, 2011 at 13:50

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