Quick Take
The humor in writing

The funniest mistakes in the English language are those hidden in plain sight.



Sometimes, the best mistakes are those that the writing professionals make.

I once remember reading an opinion article from a certain newspaper, whose name I conveniently don’t remember anymore. And the first line of that first paragraph has stuck with me all this time because it is extremely funny (or embarrassing, depending on who you are).

The line went: “As I write this, I’m looking at my third-grade daughter riding her bicycle through the window.” It went something like that; I read this article three or four years ago, at least. 

Some might be searching for the humor in that line, and I honestly can’t blame them, though they will be searching in vain. The humor comes only when you realize that either the author is looking at his or her daughter through the window while she is riding her bike, or the daughter is some sort of Evel Knieval prodigy gearing up for a stunt career in Hollywood.

Now granted, this type of humor isn’t intentional (most of the time, anyway). Nor is it immediately laughable, unless you’re watching clips of Jay Leno’s Headlines skits from his time on the Tonight Show. For the most part, it’s an acquired taste, something you maybe only get the hundredth time.

Here’s another example: “She collapsed on the couch covered in sweat.” Or take a look at this: “Coming through the doorway, the bacon was immediately smelled by Bob.” Try a load of this: “Chewing the pillow, the person scolded the dog.” Or how about this classic, said by the one and only Groucho Marx: “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in them, I don’t know.”

Perhaps it’s slightly sadistic – again, those who make this mistake never set out to do so – but otherwise, it’s loads of fun. It requires an active imagination and a trained eye to spot, but nothing more. After all, in my opinion, you could probably get a better laugh out of these than by, say, spending an hour on TikTok each day. 

This is truly a hidden gem in the mine of the English language. Just make sure that it’s other people that are making this mistake – and not you.