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You have two men in a room. You know for a fact that one is a physicist and the other is a plumber. Sadly both men have recently been rendered totally deaf and haven't learned sign language. This is a problem because you have to tell which one is the physicist who can bring the run-away LHC under control and which is the plumber here to unclog the toilet.

You have a piece of paper and a pen. What single word do you write down and ask them to say to determine which is which?

Anyone that says plumber or physicist shall be squashed under an irrelevant elephant.

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    $\begingroup$ Um... Erm... Are you a plumber? $\endgroup$ – warspyking Nov 13 '14 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Large Hadron Collider $\endgroup$ – JamesENL Nov 13 '14 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ "Plumber?" Just form their title as a question as if to say "Bob?" "Bob is that you?" $\endgroup$ – warspyking Nov 13 '14 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ You shall be squashed under a gazelle, as per my question edit :P $\endgroup$ – JamesENL Nov 13 '14 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesMassey, I think that what COTO means is: you have written "unionised" on a piece of paper. They read it silently without moving their lips. They glance at each other, confused. They look at you expecting clarification. Now what? It would have been much more useful to write "profession?" $\endgroup$ – tobyink Nov 13 '14 at 10:25
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"Unionized". The idea is that the physicist will pronounce according to the meaning "not ionized", while the plumber will treat it as "formed a union".

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  • $\begingroup$ Well answered Sir! $\endgroup$ – JamesENL Nov 13 '14 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately for us, our physicist just got back from a debate about employment law and the plumber is self-employed and reads about particle physics for fun. </snark> $\endgroup$ – Kevin Nov 13 '14 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ Blech. I've heard this line from a relative who thinks it's absolutely hilarious. I have even made a special point of trying it on people from various walks of life and all professions. Long story short: they all do as the plumber, because that way is simply more common. She still thinks it's funny anyway. Bleeeeecchhhhhh. $\endgroup$ – imallett Nov 13 '14 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ And here I was hoping for a super mario reference :-( $\endgroup$ – Falco Nov 13 '14 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @imallett I would pronounce it like the physicist, not like the plumber (and I'm not even a physicist). $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Nov 20 '16 at 14:35
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σ. The physicist will say "sigma", the plumber will say "huh?", assuming a non-greek plumber.

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  • $\begingroup$ And if a third person is heard to use the phrase "assuming a non-greek plumber", then this must be a mathematician :) $\endgroup$ – rumtscho Nov 13 '14 at 14:16
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TeV

The plumber will almost certainly pronounce it as the Latvian dative second person singular pronoun, whereas the particle physicist will read it as tera-electron-volt.

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Unionised: Plumber will pronounce it as the boolean operation and the physicist as not an ion but an atom

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