A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 08, 2014
“Head in the oven, feet in the freezer” (statistician joke on “averaging")

A popular joke about the statistical “average” involves the statistician who put his head in an oven and his feet in a freezer, saying, “On average, I feel fine.” The joke appears to date in print to at least 1958.

“Statistican, a person who lays with his head in a oven and his feet in a deep freeze stating, ‘On the average, I feel comfortable’” was cited in print in 1960, when it was credited to C. Bruce Grossman.


Google Books
Sugar News
Volume 34
1958
Pg. 269:
I am reminded in this connection of the story of a statistician who in criticizing his own profession told of a man who was lying across his kitchen table with his head in the oven and his feet in the deep freeze. On ihe average, the man’s temperature was about right.

Google Books
Proceedings of the Annual Convention
Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
Volumes 72-77
1958
Pg. 27:
The fact that the birthrate has been increasing ever since reminds me of the definition of a statistician: He is a person who has his head in the oven and his feet in the deep freeze and says “on the average I feel fine.”

19 January 1960, The Guthrian (Guthrie Center, IA), pg. 2, col. 4:
Two definitions from C. Bruce Grossman: Statistican, a person who lays with his head in a oven and his feet in a deep freeze stating, “On the average, I feel comfortable.”

4 February 1960, Anita (IA) Tribune, “Short Snorts,” pg. 1, col. 2:
A statistician is a person who lays with his head in an oven and his feet in a deep freeze, and says ‘on the average, I feel comfortable.’

Google Books
Systems and Simulation
By Dimitris N. Chorafas
New York, NY: Academic Press
1965
Pg. 233:
As everybody knows, but seldom cares to acknowledge, an “average” is a state of mind that makes one believe that if he puts his feet in an icebox and his head in an oven, on the average he will be most comfortable.

16 October 1975, San Deigo (CA) Union, Don Freeman (TV-Radio editor) column, pg. A-18, col. 1:
Also, on a wry note, from Leo Rosten: “According to statistics, if a man has his head in an oven and his feet in a deep-freeze, he feels pretty good on average.”

Google Books
How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians
By Robert Hooke
New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc.
1983
Pg. 46:
In the case of statisticians these jokes usually take the form of references to the statistican who had 2.3 children and 1.7 divorces, or, even more hilariously, to the statistician who placed his head in the oven and his feet in the refrigerator and reported being comfortable on the average.

Google Books
The Funny Side of Faith
BY Murray Watts
Eugene, OR: Harvest House
1992
Pg. 102:
Statistics can prove anything. If you put your head in the oven and your feet in the fridge, on average you’ll be perfectly comfortable.

Google Books
Thought and Knowledge:
An Introduction to Critical Thinking

By Diane F. Halpern
New York, NY: Psychology Press
2014
Pg. 389:
This is like the man who had his head in the oven and feet in the freezer and reports that, on the average, he is quite comfortable.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Tuesday, July 08, 2014 • Permalink