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The joke was on me

Discussion in 'English Only' started by udias, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. udias Junior Member

    Brazilian Portuguese
    Dear all,

    There is a song entitled "I started a Joke" from Bee Gees which is in the movie "The fighter". The song starts with:

    I started a joke, which started the whole world crying,
    but I didn't see that the joke was on me, oh no.

    I think the subtitles was wrong, so I'm asking you what does it mean to say "The joke was on me".
     
  2. Fabulist Senior Member

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    "Song" lyrics are notoriously nonsensical.

    "The joke is on me" is a standard English phrase to mean that I am the butt, or object, of the joke—I am being made fun of.

    The joke doesn't have to be "on me." You can tell someone, "The joke's on you," or say, "He thought he was making fun of me, but really the joke was on him."
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2011
  3. macforever Senior Member

    Italian
    In other words I was the one who had to put up with their jokes.
     
  4. pob14 Senior Member

    Central Illinois
    American English
    No, it means the speaker was the target of his own joke.

    The sense of the verse (to the extent that it makes any sense at all) is:

    I told a joke, but nobody laughed; everybody cried instead. So the real joke is, that my joke wasn't funny. THAT joke - the joke I made myself, without knowing I was making it - is "on me" (that is, I am the "butt" of the joke, as Fabulist says).
     
  5. I agree with pob14, and the key phrase in his comment is "without knowing." This expression is not used with reference to deliberately self-deprecating humor.

    "The joke's on you/me/him" means that the person has unintentionally become the victim of his own "joke." I use quotation marks because "joke" in this expression is often used loosely or metaphorically to mean any sort of maneuver, scheme or remark that either backfires or has a hidden (usually negative) meaning that the person is unaware of.

    Finding out that "the joke is on me" is never a good thing.
     

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