3

verb + pronoun + indefinite article + noun is quite commonly used in our day-to-day lives.

get me a pen ~ Kindly arrange a pen for me

But then, when it comes to 'calling a taxi', it gets funny...

Call me a taxi ~ Okay! (From now on,) I'll call you a taxi!

Is there any other way to pronounce it? By stressing or putting accent on some word? Maybe, call is stressed? So that it does not sound funny?

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    It sounds fine the way it is. – snailcar Nov 28 '14 at 8:39
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    The original joke is Marx Brothers - "Call me a cab." "OK. You're a cab" Makes the direction change in the meaning clearer. Frankly, if you said it to a native English speaker, even if they said, "You're a taxi" they'd still actually ring one for you afterwards, happy at the opportunity to roll out the old joke. – gone fishin' again. Nov 28 '14 at 9:25
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    As @Tetsujin - this kind of joke tends to be extremely harmless and wouldn't actually be confusing to the listener. They would still acquire you a taxi, and as mentioned most people love the opportunity to roll out such a bad joke. – Jon Story Nov 28 '14 at 11:12
5

If I understand this question correctly, I heard this joke recently, but in a different form:

Call me a taxi.

Response

Ok. You're a taxi.

I actually think it's funnier this way :-), but to answer your question, I don't think the initial sentence does sound funny. I don't think there's another way to pronounce it, and I don't think there's a need to pronounce it differently, since anyone you say this to will understand what you mean. When I heard the joke, I found it funny precisely because I'd never thought of the sentence as meaning anything other than "Could you call a taxi for me".

3

Firstly, it only sounds funny to people who know the joke - and they aren't likely to laugh at you for it... if someone misunderstands this sentence, it's because they have deliberately misunderstood it, for entertainment purposes.

The important thing to recognize is that it's a very harmless joke - there's no embarrassment involved, nor is it at anyone's expense, it's just silly. Anyone making the joke when you ask them to call you a taxi will certainly phone a taxi for you afterwards.

This type of wordplay is generally seen as clever and harmless, and most of it's charm comes from the fact it is completely unexpected by the person making the original (innocent) statement.

If you really want to avoid it, you can't change the sentence emphasis to emphasize/stress parts to avoid the ambiguity, because it's deliberate ambiguity. You can, however, change the "call" to another suitable word, or you can restructure it to avoid the phrase "call me a taxi"

Could you phone me a taxi, please?

Please could you call a taxi for me?

Can you get a taxi for me?

Please could you get me a taxi?

The important (well, unimportant) thing is to remove the "call me a" phrase, either by replacing "call", or by separating it from "me".


And as an aside, if you'd like to see more examples of this humour, the film Airplane is a great place to start. It's full of this kind of "using the language in an unexpected manner for humorous results"

Elaine Dickinson: You got a letter from headquarters this morning.

Ted: What is it?

Elaine: It's a big building where generals meet, but that's not important.

Or

Ted: It's an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.

Rumack, Randy: [all together] It's an entirely different kind of flying.

3

I don't think any pronunciation or accenting is going to help. It is simply an ambiguous sentence that cannot be resolved without context. This is what leads to the humorous response. A similar joke line runs:

Call me anything you want, but don't call me late for dinner.

You could change the sentence structure to

'Call a taxi for me' ~ 'Ok! I'll call a taxi for you'

but where's the fun in that?

  • You could also say "Could you phone for a taxi?" (The "for me" would be implied.) – starsplusplus Nov 28 '14 at 10:03
  • Indeed, "Phone me a taxi" would be very common in British English, although Call is widely understood and used. – Jon Story Nov 28 '14 at 11:11
  • Traditionally (read: in the versions of the joke I have seen), the proponent is making the request of a doorman at a hotel, in which case a more suitable alternative might be 'hail me a taxi'. – mcalex Dec 1 '14 at 7:03
2

Mcalex is right, but just to add on a bit, most native speakers don't even notice the humor immediately upon hearing "Could you call me a taxi?"

The reason the similar example you've given is humourous is because of that. It brings the listener in one direction (oh, that person wants a taxi), then suddenly takes a turn to suggest that the person wanted to use a more literal meaning.

So it's really not worth thinking about. If you say it naturally and disregard the humor, it will likely go over regularly. That's the default assumption if no extraordinary emphasis is added.

On the other hand, if you do want to highlight the humor, I think the best way would probably be to add slight emphasis on "me." But, again, it's ambiguous. So the best way to bring that humour out is to use an explicit follow-up, as you have in your question.

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