In the book What If? there is part that the author mentions about the viscosity of fluid:

It's more like pushing your hand through a bathtub full of water than a bathtub full of honey.

And this illustration:

enter image description here

What does knob mean here? Beside the regular meaning of a round gizmo or a door knob, two other meanings are a prominent round hill (AmE), and a penis (slang), neither of which I think fit here. Some results of googling:

  • knob faucet: just the faucet handler
  • knob honey: basically nothing, except a honey dipper with a knob
  • knob fluid: fluid adjusting knob of a spray gun

If the knob here simply means the faucet knob, then I don't understand the whole illustration. What is so special about that kind of knob that he has to ask why the faucet has it?

Neither of them fits the context. So what is the knob?

  • 2
    or door KNOB: faucet KNOB. Same idea. Knob is small gizmo (usually round, but also sometimes not round, as in some modern bathroom faucet knobs) that sticks up out of (ha ha phrasal verbs) a surface and is used for turning a flow (fluid or electrical) off and on. It does not include the stem, which can be visible or invisible. And that's why a penis is called a knob. (ha ha). The common semantic trait of all knobs is that the stick out of or come up out of a surface with a "stem" and block or unblock a flow. For the slang, in the UK knob is sometimes spelled nob. – Lambie Feb 25 '17 at 14:51
  • I don't understand what you mean – Ooker Feb 25 '17 at 14:54
  • which part do you not understand? To stick up out of? – Lambie Feb 25 '17 at 14:55
  • sorry, I didn't even think that the knob can possibly mean the faucet knob. What is so special of that kind of knob that he has to ask why it has? Or you can see my comment in the answer below – Ooker Feb 25 '17 at 15:07
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    Yes, the picture shows a faucet. A faucet is made up of a stem and a knob. Leaks occur where the two are at the joint, at the washer. A faucet knob is the knob on a faucet. A faucet knob, a radio-dial knob. Etc. – Lambie Feb 25 '17 at 15:10

The knob simply refers to the faucet knob.

The illustration is in the context of a bathtub being filled with honey, with the implication that the honey came out of the faucet when a special knob was turned. Since honey is a terrible thing to take a bath in, the person on the left is asking why such a feature would ever be made available in the first place.

It's meant to be absurd.


The Free Dictionary gives these alternatives for knob (sense 2):

  • A rounded handle, as on a drawer or a door.

  • A rounded control switch or dial.

Both work. It's the handle part, the bit you turn to get the water flowing.

Merriam-Webster has a poor definition, in my opinion, because the definition of "a small rounded ornament or handle" isn't really broad enough to cover the wide variety of controls that I would call knobs. In my dialect (vaguely Southern US English) "knob" may be contrasted with "button": a knob is a control you turn, a button is a control you push.

  • A knob is not actually the handle. A handle is made of two parts: a stem and the knob. And some faucet makers have rectangular knobs or crossed-X shaped knobs. It's funny how dictionaries can't provide semantic traits. – Lambie Feb 25 '17 at 14:58
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    I'd call the whole thing the knob. I don't much care what faucet makers call it. – trentcl Feb 25 '17 at 14:59
  • By doing that, the actual meaning is not clear. Knobs are mounted on stems, as it were. Knobs on doors, radios, faucets, panels, etc.. And by extension, penises (though the stem part doesn't fit, only the sticking up out of a surface). I know, it's annoying. I sympathise. – Lambie Feb 25 '17 at 15:02
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    What is so special is this: leaks occur in faucets where a knob connects to the stem. The question in the picture is supposed to be funny. The knob is where you can turn on/turn off the water. That is why the faucet has a knob and that is where leaks occur. That's intuitive, isn't it? Well, it was to me. – Lambie Feb 25 '17 at 15:08
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    @Ooker The implication of the cartoon is that one of the knobs causes the faucet to produce honey. It's just a lighthearted joke about the improbability of obtaining a bathtub of honey, a form of surreal humor. – trentcl Feb 25 '17 at 15:10

What does "knob" mean in "Why does our faucet even have that knob?" mean?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

enter image description here

I have circled in red the mysterious knob.

I'm not very good at explaining jokes, but here we go: the person is asking about a feature of modern life that he has never understood, and which is totally tangential to the initial topic (viscosity).

  • Yes, I tried to describe it linguistically. But the joke is that honey is viscous; water is not. It is not a liquid that would come out of a bathtub's faucet. The fact is that the joke is somewhat confusing. The writer is trying to explain viscosity. – Lambie Feb 26 '17 at 15:02
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    I think you circled the wrong thing here: while that is a knob, so are both the things on either side, and the joke makes more sense if you assume he was talking about one of them. – trentcl Feb 26 '17 at 19:12
  • @trentcl - Everyone's sense of humor is different, I guess. – aparente001 Feb 27 '17 at 7:47
  • I really do not understand some downvotes. This HELPS in understanding the question. Gees. – Lambie Feb 27 '17 at 18:57
  • @Lambie - Well, thank you. I remember as a child wondering what the heck the middle knob was for in our bathtub. It was one of those mysteries of life. It didn't look exactly like the picture, but close enough that I think the picture should get the idea across. If it helps, I was born in 1955. – aparente001 Feb 28 '17 at 2:27

What does the faucet even have that knob?

The joke does not even involve knobs per se. A better version would have been:

Why does our bathtub even have that faucet?

The bathtub normally has a faucet to control the flow of water. It flows from a faucet when you turn it on. It does not have a faucet to control a flow of honey. Linguistically, the knob is not relevant to the joke. The joke is about water which is not viscous and honey which is highly viscous (and thus sticky). The use of the word knob can be confusing to a non-native speaker in this particular instance.

  • Faucet is a very dialect specific term, and the author may have chosen a more neutral word in order to be less confusing to non-North American speakers in this instance. – curiousdannii Feb 27 '17 at 12:04
  • @curiousdannii Faucet is most definitely not a dialect-specific term. The author did not choose a word order (the picture does not show word order, and the joke is based on the picture). Why does that faucet even have that knob is not a "word order" issue. – Lambie Feb 27 '17 at 15:14
  • it is dialect specific: it's not used in AusEng nor apparently BrEng. And I said word in order to... not "word order" – curiousdannii Feb 27 '17 at 15:16
  • @curiousdannii BrE and AusEng are not dialects of English. They are varieties of English. The picture shows a clawfoot tub. And the faucet is also old-fashioned. One doesn't go round seeing this normally in AmE either. You see just faucet. I doubt the X-shaped gizmo on this type of faucet, here, called a knob, would not be understood in AusEng. – Lambie Feb 27 '17 at 15:34
  • @Lambie : Ref dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/dialect & many others - "Dialect : a form of a language that is spoken in a particular part of a country or by a particular group of people and that contains some words, grammar, or pronunciations (= the ways in which words are said) that are different from the forms used in other parts or by other groups" So, yes BrE, AusEng and AmE are dialects. faucet - is a term used commonly in the US, but in UK and Aus, it's called a tap by the commonfolk. It would be understood due to TV & it may be used as jargon in the industry. – Magoo Jul 12 '17 at 20:51

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