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A woman got pulled over for speeding by a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer.

When he walked up to her window and opened his ticket book she said, "I bet you're going to sell me tickets to the Highway Patrol Ball."

He replied, "No, Ma'am, highway patrolmen don't have balls."

There followed a moment of silence while she smiled and he realized what he had said. Without saying another word, he closed his book, got back on his motorcycle and left."

Be clear and simple.

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    It's a joke: ball can mean a kind of a party and balls is a common slang term for testicles. Thus, "highway patrolmen don't have balls" can mean that they have no testicles. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 9:17
  • Can you tell the meaning of complete sentence at once? @CooperKettle Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 9:18
  • I don't know what exactly is unclear to you. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 9:19
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    He left because he was embarrased. He was embarrased because he had inadvertently said that highway patrolmen lack testicles. He realized his blunder, got embarrased and left. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 9:24
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    @CopperKettle There is a third meaning: the patrol officer has also denied that patrol officers are courageous, since anyone, male or female, who has balls, has courage. Plus the whole thing about officers dispensing two types of tickets has been part of American cultural humor since at least th 1950s, when TV popularized this notion, and this theme of humor entered into American culture. Thus, she the woman is speaking ironically and referring to this vein of humor.
    – user20792
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 18:13

2 Answers 2

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djechlin's answer here, and an interesting Snopes article explain the psychological and social dimensions of the double meaning in the punchline. But the basic situation, the underlying meaning of "buying tickets to the Policeman's Ball", rests on some cultural presuppositions which these don't explain.

From the end of the 19th century forward it became common to raise funds for the families of fallen police officers by selling tickets to an annual "Policeman's Ball", an evening of dancing and drinking.

Such tickets were of course sold by officers to residents and businesses on their individual beats; and where the police were corrupt, this became an instrument of extortion: police offered "protection" not only from criminals but also from legal prosecution in return for the purchase of tickets—and many simply pocketed the proceeds, or shared the proceeds among cooperating officers.

Eventually, when automobiles became common, this shake-down system was extended to traffic offenses: motorists could buy their way out of court appearances (and out of the associated 'points' which might lead to having their drivers licenses suspended, and would certainly lead to higher premiums for their automobile insurance) by paying the officer who stopped them, the whole being spoken of euphemistically as the innocent and indeed praiseworthy act of "buying a ticket to the Policeman's Ball."

I had seen Dad get nabbed […] when the family drove me to Cleveland to report to the Indians during my high school vacation in the summer of 1936. A cop pulled us over in Indiana for breaking the speed limit.
   He walked up to the car and asked Dad, “Would you like to buy a couple of tickets to the Policeman’s Ball?” Dad said sure. He knew what he was doing. He rather have them instead of a speeding ticket.
   Dad bought the tickets and we headed to Cleveland, hundreds of miles from the site of the Policeman’s Ball.
   —Now Pitching, Bob Feller

So when the lady says "I bet you're going to sell me tickets to the Highway Patrol Ball", she is in effect offering to bribe the patrolman.

The patrolman declines the bribe with the words "Highway patrolmen don't have balls"—meaning literally that the CHiPs don't sponsor such an annual fundraiser and figuratively that CHiPs are incorruptible.

Unfortunately (as the comments have told you) his words also bear a third sense: that highway patrolmen have no balls = "testicles". When he realizes what he has said the patrolman is so embarassed he simply closes his book (of 'tickets' or summons forms) and walks away.

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  • There is a 4th sense, that Scopes mentions, that the patrol officer is also saying that officers lack one of the primary characteristics needed for their job: courage (if somone, male or female, has balls they are courageous, as you know). I would also not prescribe that the joke (the whole thing is a joke, we know this from the woman's question) necessarily means the woman is seriously trying to bribe her way of the situation...(continued)
    – user20792
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 18:03
  • She could be speaking ironically and referring to the popular cultural joke, existing in TV shows since the 1950s, that has entered american culture as a piece of humor: the running theme that police officers dispense two types of tickets, and thus the woman's question is one of irony not bribery.
    – user20792
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 18:04
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    @NES I agree that the metaphorical sense of balls = courage, masculinity is in play; but I don't think it's nearly so funny if she isn't understood to be offering a bribe. (I've added an anecdote to support his reading - which also pushes the reading back to the 1930s.) The really interesting thing about this joke is that what is "defeated" is the officer's effort to maintain not just his masculine self-image but also his professional integrity. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 18:21
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    @NES - Thanks for the nudging. Now I've learned that I was a bit out to lunch on this. Luckily I was too lazy not to post an answer. I did not know the cultural back-story. As for "no balls = no courage", this I considered a self-evident bit. Thanks to the spread of the American culture we all know these kinds of expressions. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 18:22
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A ball is a type of fancy party, and it's common that prestigious organizations, say all Los Angeles police officers, will hold one every year. The woman was just trying to get the man to say "Highway patrol officers don't have balls." There is some sarcasm in that being a highway patrol officer is not a prestigious job. The man chose to respond to this insult literally, as the woman baited. But mostly her line is just setting the man up for the punch line. It's more similar to the joke:

A: Can you get me an updog?
B: What's updog?
A: Not much, you?

He takes the bait and says

No, Ma'am, highway patrolmen don't have balls.

"Balls" is slang for "testicles," and implies both masculinity and bravery, i.e. "to have the balls to do something (scary)".

The man felt embarrassed for saying this and rather than write her a ticket, he chose to leave. I think the joke is misogynist in the sense that it's even more embarrassing or unusual for a woman to trick a man like this than if another man did it.

It is well-known that police officers have discretion to give the pulled over person a warning, a ticket, or just ignore the situation entirely. Some perceive this as corrupt, and there are many American jokes that take advantage of the fact that the police officer can somehow be "defeated" by a display of wit.

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    I do not think the joke is mysogynist, unless one thinks that the portrayal of a woman as the stereotypical bad driver (and thus the gender who gets pulled over) is strong enough to warrant that, but I don't think so. I don't think there is any hint of saying that it is less likely for a female to stump a male. The joke would not work as well with a male driver, becaue the punch line of the joke is to emasculate a male authority figure. And if a woman is doing that, so much the better, as far as that goes.
    – user20792
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 17:55

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