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What is the pun in this joke?

Clowns divorce. Custardy battle

by Simon Munnery

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  • I believe the full quote is "Clowns divorce. Custardy battle ENSUES." The better pun would have been: "Clowns divorce, on adultery grounds. Finally realized it was a three-ring circus."
    – dwoz
    Jan 16, 2016 at 4:01

2 Answers 2

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When a couple divorce, there is often an argument over which parent gets to have their children live with them. Having responsibility for the children in this situation is called custody and hence the debate is known as a custody battle.

However, clowns (comedy circus performers) often have mock fights, in which a food substance known as custard is thrown around, often in the form of pies. Such a fight might be known as a custard-pie fight. However, a fight can be called a battle so it could also be referred to as a custard battle. You might describe the battle as 'custardy' i.e. involving custard.

So when clowns fight, you could describe it as a 'custardy battle', which is a pun on 'custody battle', which you might get when clowns divorce. 'Custardy' and 'custody' will generally sound the same when spoken.

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  • 13
    Er ... it's custody when it involves who shall be guardian (L custos) of the children. Aug 26, 2015 at 11:32
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    Thanks Stoney - I though it looked wrong when I wrote it. Someone's since edited my answer to correct.
    – Steve Ives
    Aug 27, 2015 at 7:24
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The joke is about the word: /'kʌstədi/ (British RP transcription).

When you hear the joke, this word might mean to do with custard, in other words the adjective custardy. We can make adjectives like this by adding -y to a noun. So for example, take the compound noun Stack Exchange, we can make the adverb Stack Exchangey by adding this suffix:

  • Don't you give me any of your Stack Exchangey nonsense!

Here the speaker is making a new adjective custardy from the noun custard. Custard is a dessert sauce that clowns use in their show. They throw custard pies at each other, for example.

enter image description here

However, /'kʌstədi/ might also mean custody. This is a word we use a lot in divorces. It is about who becomes the legal guardian of the children. We use the term quite loosely, though. For example, we might talk about who's going to get custody of the goldfish!

Ref: photo from: US Daily review. URL

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    Note that for people who don't totally ignore the letter R, the pun is somewhat forced. We know what was meant, but it's kind of like when you have to explain a joke: it's no longer funny.
    – Martha
    Aug 26, 2015 at 17:03
  • @Martha Agreed. I'm sure it's a British English joke - that's why I gave that transcription. Otherwise it'll be /ˈkʌs·tərdi/ versus /ˈkʌs·tə·di/ :( Aug 26, 2015 at 17:05
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    @Araucaria Yes, it's British. Specifically, it was told at the Edinburgh Festival and nominated for an award. Aug 26, 2015 at 19:15
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    I think a better example for the -y suffix would be "Wibbly wobbly timey wimey" given its origin, but I'm horribly bias.
    – Pharap
    Aug 27, 2015 at 0:09
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    @Pharap *biased. Nov 18, 2015 at 23:55

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