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I took a contest entry written by Seth Brown of Williamstown, MA in 2003, and I converted it into this puzzle.

Disclaimer: Events described in this puzzle are fictional.


A White House stenographer transcribed the following conversation between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama: Who is on first?

Netanyahu: Me?

Obama: No, the guy playing first base.

Netanyahu: Me?

Obama: You're the first baseman?

Netanyahu: No, I am asking you. Me?

Obama: Who?

Netanyahu: You mean that man right there?

Obama: He's on first?

Netanyahu: What do you mean? There aren't any females on the team.

Obama: Well then who's on first?

Netanyahu: Me?

Assume that nobody on the team is named "Who", "Me", or "He". With that assumption, the conversation doesn't seem to make any sense. But it actually does make sense. Explain how.

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    $\begingroup$ Who's on first! I love that thing $\endgroup$
    – d'alar'cop
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop - Seconded. +1. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ I've been lurking this site for a bit now, I finally made an account just to upvote this. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Telestia
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ I downvoted this because most of the puzzle is simply in knowing the right information. Also, the setup honestly doesn't make much sense. It's contrived nature works for a joke, not for a puzzle where you're supposed to explain why people are doing what they are. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ @manshu et al. Since the question (especially the tags) are being edited, and this puzzle has been solved, should we add language or trivia while we're at it? $\endgroup$ Commented May 20, 2016 at 2:28

2 Answers 2

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The miscommunication is because...

Netanyahu is speaking Hebrew. (Although I don't know why - his English is very good and he spent some of his childhood years in the US).

Specifically:

Me = מי (Hebrew for 'who' or 'whom')
He = היא (Hebrew for 'she' or 'her')
Who = הוא (Hebrew for 'he' or 'him')

The Conversation, as heard by Netanyahu:

Obama: He is on first.
Netanyahu: Who?
Obama: The guy playing first base
Netanyahu: Who?
Obama: You're the first baseman?
Netanyahu: No, I am asking you. who?
Obama: Him!
Netanyahu: You mean that man right there?
Obama: She's on first.
Netanyahu: What do you mean? There aren't any females on the team.
Obama: Well then he's on first?
Netanyahu: Who?

And of course, major props to pacoverflow for dusting off one of the best comedy skits of all time.

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Language barrier.

Who is vocalised as "hu", "hu" in hebrew means "he".
- http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D7%94%D7%95%D7%90
He is vocalised as "hi", "hi" in hebrew means "she" (wacky, right?).
- http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D7%94%D7%99%D7%90
Me is vocalised as "mi", "mi" in hebrew means "who".
- http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%99

With this in mind, the conversation makes sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ The third point is incorrect. (I'm sorry for making such a blunt and non-specific answer, but I'm trying not to give a spoiler in the comments). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Bachrach44 Heh, edited it just as you answered. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 18:27

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