A Joke About Avocados & Linguistics
A wife asks her husband, “Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have avocados, get 6.”
A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.
The wife asks him, “Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?”
He replies, “They had avocados.”
What makes the above joke (semi) funny is something called zero anaphora, or gapping. Zero anaphora is a linguistic term that means to refer back to a term that provides the information necessary to interpret the gap. Here’s an example: “John rode his bike to town so he wouldn’t have to worry about finding a parking spot.” In this sentence, “he” is an anaphoric expression that points back to “John,” the subject.