Is "crack a joke" old fashioned expression?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by m1517luther, Jan 13, 2016.

  1. m1517luther Member

    London
    Thai
    My friend told me this [that crack a joke is old fashioned]. Is it true?
    Should I say "say a joke"/ "tell a joke " instead?

    <Phrase in question put into the body of the post. Moderator>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2016
  2. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    Hi, MLuth. No, it is not an old-fashioned expression.

    Is your friend a native speaker of English?

    Different generations among native speakers might perceive this differently.
     
  3. m1517luther Member

    London
    Thai
    Does different generation use different expressions for ''say a joke / tell a joke / Crack a joke' ?
     
  4. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    Hmmm ... maybe. I'm about a half a century old. ;)

    I would not use "to say a joke". It's not idiomatic for me.

    "to tell a joke" is more of storytelling. You are sitting around, and someone says "I've got a joke for you". Then the person tells the joke.

    "to crack a joke" is more being witty spontaneously. You see the humor in a situation, and you "crack a joke" that makes the situation/conversation funny/witty/lively.

    I know ... it's complicated. I hope I haven't made it more confusing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  5. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    I think it's a bit out of date, at say 25 years; like 'split' [=leave]; but it's not ancient like 'skedaddle', at say 75 years.
     
  6. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    If it's spontaneous, I'd say "He made a joke" or "He came up with a joke".
    We were talking about Englishmen, Scotsmen and Irishmen, and he couldn't resist making a joke.

    Otherwise I'd use "tell".
    You know a lot of jokes, Fred; tell us the one about the Welshman and the sheep again.
     
  7. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    A little offensive, in the way of jokes (where it goes), but is "to crack a joke" just AmE, velisarius?

    (Don't make me look for it in the Washington Post.)
     
  8. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    It isn't offensive, because I didn't tell the joke. You must have a prurient imagination.

    I don't hear "crack a joke" very often, but I don't think it's restricted to AE. It is/was informal.
     
  9. dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    The standard AE term for speaking (if what is said is a joke) is "telling a joke".

    "say a joke" isn't used. "crack a joke" is somewhat out of date but not rare.
     
  10. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    From the point of view of American English, I would say that reports of 'crack's demise have been greatly exaggerated,

    When I search Google News for crack jokes and tell jokes, and click through to the last page, the last page in both cases is page 17.
    [This surveys the use of the phrases in recent news media.]

    When I check the Ngrams, for tell jokes,crack jokes,tell a joke,crack a joke
    there is at strong preference for 'tell' in recent times, but 'crack' still has a strong presence -- with just under 1/3 the frequency.

    If you switch the Ngram to British English, the preference for 'tell' is stronger. As has been mentioned elsewhere in this forum, the Ngrams search published works, and does not do a good job of differentiating between works by American authors and those by authors who speak British English.

    These returns seem consistent with the comments above that 'crack' is less formal, so is likely to appear in greater frequency in news media, and with less frequency in formal published writing.
     
  11. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think in British English we do still talk of people cracking jokes, but not as much as we used to fifty years ago.

    I hear it more in general terms (of someone cracking jokes or who likes cracking jokes) than in particular ones (he cracked a joke).
     
  12. dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    Maybe this is irrelevant, but

    "I cracked up" means "I started laughing", usually laughing hard.

    "it cracked me up" means "it (the joke, or something I saw) made me start laughing"

    so the goal of cracking a joke is cracking people up...
     
  13. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Oh dear, Doji! You can do better than that.
     
  14. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    No.
    You never "say a joke" - the verb "to say" is wrong.

    There's a difference between telling and cracking a joke that is given by perpend at #4.

    A: "John is in trouble, he cracked a joke about the boss, and the boss heard him. But it became worse: he told the joke again and the boss heard him again."
     
  15. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    I made it to page 79 which is probably as many as it will show for anything. I find in recent versions of Google Search if the number at the top changes as you page forward that it is probably a more accurate number. In this case, it stays at about 19,300 even on the last page (which is a full page of 10 hits). It does not change to 790 or display less than a full page which leads me to believe that it is just refusing to go on rather than that it has run out of results.
     
  16. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    My impression is that 'crack a joke' is around, but somewhat in decline, for example in relation to 'make a joke'.
     
  17. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    How many pages depend on how many results there are per page. I have mine set at 50/ per page, which explains why you have a higher count than I do. (My 17th page is not complete.)

    There is no way of knowing how many actual examples those larger numbers represent. They are based on Google's logahithm, and that is a trade secret. For instance, my last page for 'tell jokes' reports that it draws from 9,670 results and the final page of 'crack joke' draws from a total of 19,800, I would never use that grounds to claim that 'crack jokes' is used with twice the frequency of 'tell jokes'.

    However, I think my results support a general assumption that post forms are used, and that 'crack jokes' has not been displaced by 'tell jokes'.
     
  18. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    The frequency of crack, tell, and make jokes is controlled by the ease of doing any and the number of occasions that arrise for doing each.

    Cracking a joke is (as previously) making a spontaneous and original witticism - the number of opportunities for this is restricted by people who are practised in spontaneous humour and the recorded instances. - we do not "crack" puns or old jokes. Cracking is the most difficult and thus the least common.
    Making a joke is the creation of a joke, usually by slightly altering a set of circumstances -> we do "make" puns, but we do not "make" old jokes. In punning, we have been provided with some material and we make a slight transition towards incongruity - this is easier than "cracking".
    Telling, is just that -> recounting a joke that has been previously told. This is the easiest to achieve, all that is required is memory.
     
  19. Siavash2015

    Siavash2015 Senior Member

    Iranian-Persian
    Many thanks to everyone who contributed.
    It helped me a lot as well :)
     

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