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So I come across this joke,which rather confuses me.

— What do you get when you play a country song backwards?
— You get your house back, your wife back, your dog back, your truck back...

I just wonder what the relationship is between a country song and all the others. Can someone show me any background knowledge about this joke?

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    Country songs are notorious for recounting bad luck. In the songs people invariably lose the things they hold dear- their wife, their dog, their truck. – Jim Sep 10 '12 at 8:02
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    Funny joke, but "Jokes that do not rely on the English language" are off topic english.stackexchange.com/faq – Urbycoz Sep 10 '12 at 8:11
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    The answer to the first line quoted lies in the second. An explanation of it is properly in the domain of ethno-music studies, not English language. Must try appropriate site. Voting to close as off-topic. – Kris Sep 10 '12 at 11:24
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    The trouble is, the question is off topic if you know the answer but until then it may well be considered on topic. – neil Sep 10 '12 at 11:33
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    @neil True, but that does not make the question less off topic. The joke does not rely on the English language except in the banal sense that it is written in English. The OP seems to be asking for help to understand a joke (explicitly off topic) and to understand the cultural reference "a country song" (too basic for the site). OP please google [ country music themes ] for lots of information about the meaning of a country song. – MetaEd Sep 10 '12 at 12:35
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In the 1960's, some music groups recorded tracks on songs that sounded like gibberish, but, if the record was played backward (remember, these were vinyl records, so you could place the record on your turntable, and the needle on the record, and turn the record with your fingertip), the gibberish would become ungarbled, and a clear message could be heard. (This is called backmasking.) Perhaps the most famous of these messages was one that said "Paul is dead" on the Beatles' song Number 9. (This example is so popular, you can still buy a T-shirt.)

Country music is known for lyrics where songwriters lament about things that are lost (lost loves who have walked away, lost fortunes that have been squandered away, etc.). David Allan Coe even made fun of this, in a way, at the end of his song You Never Even Called Me by My Name:

(spoken) Well a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
And he told me it was the perfect country and western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not the perfect country and western song
Because he hadn't said anything at all about momma or trains or trucks or prison or gettin' drunk

(still spoken) Well he sat down and wrote another verse to this song
And he sent it to me and after reading it I realized that my friend
had written the perfect country and western song
And I felt obliged to include it on this album
The last verse goes like this here

(sung) Well I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in the pick-up truck
She got runned over by a damned old train

So, put those two things together – backmasking, and recurring themes in country music – and you should be able to understand the joke.

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  • What is 'backmasking'? – Mitch Sep 10 '12 at 12:39
  • @Mitch: It's when something is "recorded backwards" on the studio mixer board, and dubbed into the recording that way. (My sentence structure got a little long; sorry if you or anyone else thought that backmasking referred to playing it back with your finger on a turntable.) – J.R. Sep 10 '12 at 14:14
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    The problem with this explanation is that the back-masked content was typically completely different than the forward-played content. Perhaps this is just a weakness in the joke, but IMHO the joke is talking about replaying the events of the song backwards, not the sounds themselves. – T.E.D. Sep 10 '12 at 16:17
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    @T.E.D.: I suppose we'll all take the joke differently, but, to me, the joke is more funny, given the dotted history of big-name artists embedding hidden messages in backmasked snippets – why else would you play the song backwards? The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Zappa and Prince all tinkered with it, according to this list. Even "Weird Al" got into the act, backmasking a parody of a backmask: Satan eats Cheese Whiz. Yas ot evah I lla staht. – J.R. Sep 10 '12 at 16:49
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    It seems to me that the joke depends upon the reader being familiar with backmasking. The explanation is a good one. – Ladlestein Aug 14 '13 at 21:53
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In country songs the subject is often woeful, at least stereotypically it is. Typically the songs lyrics revolve around losing things such as your house, your wife (or husband), your dog, your vehicle (typically a truck). If you were to play it backwards, as if time itself is rolling backwards, you stop losing all those things and gain them instead.

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Country music tends to be rather melancholy, and a stereotypical song might be "I lost my truck, I lost my dog, I lost my wife, I lost my home."

Reversing its meaning gives you it all back again.

The joke is that you cannot reverse the meaning by playing the song backwards.

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  • Reversing does? Playing the song backward would change words to their antonyms?! – Kris Sep 10 '12 at 11:21
  • Yes, of course. Have you not tried it?! :-) Alternatively, we could just reverse the meaning. – Andrew Leach Sep 10 '12 at 11:25
  • If it does, that's not the joke here. I'm afraid you're missing the whole point. – Kris Sep 10 '12 at 11:30
  • Is it better now? – Andrew Leach Sep 10 '12 at 11:32
  • Yeah, that's the joke actually. :) – Kris Sep 10 '12 at 11:35
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Many country songs especially older ones talk about things that are lost - wife, family, freedom, truck, better times, etc. Playing the song backwards gets you everything back because you un-lose them by playing it backwards. You get everything back. Un-lose. It's funny to me. I don't think there's any intention to speak to backward masking with that joke. That was a rock music thing not a country thing.

Also the relationship between country music specifically is that those themes of loss are typical of country music while not so much for rock music or other popular music forms.

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