The Name Englebert Humperdinck Is Not Funny

February 25, 2011

I doubt most people are laughing at his first name. Englebert is close enough to Bert that it’s hardly noticeable. And taken by itself, Englebert, is just not that remarkable. In other words, it might get your attention initially, but eventually you’d forget it.

Most people, then, are laughing at his last name, Humperdinck, which they then repeat slowly as “hump-her-dink.” And while “hump” and “dink” are both smirk-worthy,  the “her” in the between them makes this whole thing fall apart. “Hump her dink” is not funny. Women don’t have dinks (penises), and women who opt for them through surgical procedures rarely identify with the female gender in the first place. (This is not to say that it is unheard of for an individual with a penis to identify as a woman; it is just not as common.)

The entire premise of the humor in this last name is based on a sexual innuendo that does not exist: “hump her dink.”

Some may argue that the name Englebert Humperdinck is funny because our expectations are subverted. It’s as if we’re so used to the idea of “hump his dink” or “hump her with a dink,” that the actual phrase catches us off-guard, much like a jazz musician playing that unexpected note. This is a thin argument at best. Confusion does not make for strong, lasting humor. Once the misunderstanding has been identified, the laughter should give way to shame. No one likes to be ignorant.


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