Here is a quote from the TV drama American Gods

The first character(A) was an ancient god from Egypt, now living in Cairo, Illinois.

What's the meaning of his last line Chicken. Egg. ?

A: My colleagues and I never thought of ourselves as African.

A: We were the people of the Nile.

B: And then you settle in a town called Cairo?

B: Seems appropriate.

A: Mm. Chicken. Egg.

1 Answer 1


There is a question, intended to provoke thought, often asked of children - "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?". The point is that there is no simple answer. Either one leads to a dilemma of causation. Thus, "chicken-and-egg" is a metaphoric adjective to describe a situation where it is not clear which of two events is the cause and which is the effect. "American Gods" is a fantasy TV drama. Your character A is Mr Ibis, who is black (so-called "African American"), and is the ancient Egyptian god Thoth. He says that he does not think of himself and his fellow Egyptian gods as "African". It is then pointed out to him that he came from Cairo in Africa to Cairo in America. He replies that it is a "chicken and egg" situation. It's a joke. Egyptian gods are expected to say mysterious things, and the TV series, which has been called "dark comedy", is derived from a book by Neil Gaiman, whose works have been described as combining horror and humour.

In case you think I have not exactly explained the cause-and-effect nature of Thoth's remark, it may be worth considering the BBC reviewer's comment about the character:

hey – it doesn’t have to totally make sense.

But who is Ancient Egyptian god Thoth?

  • 1
    Series Two was called "a shonky Game of Thrones, minus the dragons" by the Guardian. Mar 31, 2019 at 11:08
  • 1
    There is another layer to the joke, because of course the ancient Egyptians did NOT think of themselves as "Africans". The name "Africa" was invented by the Romans, several thousand years later.
    – alephzero
    Mar 31, 2019 at 18:43

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