Today, I watched the TED video "Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile".

In the video, the speaker quoted an Abe Maslow saying:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

After that, he says, "We've been fooled by our tool." In the next scene, he says, "Excuse that expression," and audience laugh.

I cannot understand why they laughed then.

2 Answers 2


They laugh because 'tool' is a slang word meaning 'penis', so the pithy phrase we've been fooled by our tool sounds like it could have a secondary sexual meaning. It's not an extremely clever joke, just a simple bit of fun.

  • thank you for answer! Is it normal slang in local? Dec 30, 2020 at 14:27
  • Yes, it's a common slang word. Many native speakers would know it.
    – legatrix
    Dec 30, 2020 at 16:51
  • 3
    Also, in Britain, the word 'tool' can be applied to a man considered to be ridiculous or foolish, with the same 'penis' meaning as 'prick', 'dick', 'knob', etc. Dec 30, 2020 at 17:07
  • @MichaelHarvey Indeed! As well as the classic, though spatially more circumscribed, 'bell-end'.
    – legatrix
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:31
  • @MichaelHarvey it's the same in the US, though I never thought there was any connection between those two meanings until now. Dec 30, 2020 at 23:48

"tool" means a mans "penis", as mentioned here in the dictionary:

  1. vulgar slang

    a man's penis.

    • a stupid, irritating, or contemptible man.
      "that guy is such a tool"

So his saying:

We've been fooled by our tool.

That's just a joke, like we've been fooled by that.

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